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Texas’ Sex Change Surgery Decision Is a Small Win for Nine-Year-Old James Younger

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott speaking at FreePac, hosted by FreedomWorks, in Phoenix, Arizona. CC by 2.0 James Younger poses for the camera.

The state of Texas has declared it is child abuse to conduct surgery that changes the sex of a minor. While some LGBTQ advocates are arguing that this decision is irrelevant to most minors, it does offer some protection for nine-year-old James Younger, whose mother has been fighting for several years to transition James to a girl.

“Genital mutilation of a child through reassignment surgery is child abuse, subject to all rules and procedures pertaining to child abuse,” said Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) Commissioner Jaime Masters. In an Aug. 11 letter to Texas governor Greg Abbott, Masters said, “Such mutilation may cause a ‘genuine threat of substantial harm from physical injury to the child’…Generally, children in the care and custody of a parent lack the legal capacity to consent to surgical treatments, making them more vulnerable.”

James Younger’s Lengthy Battle

Masters wrote her letter in response to a request from Abbott that she “determine whether genital mutilation of a child for the purposes of gender transitioning through reassignment surgery constitutes child abuse pursuant to state law.” The short answer, according to Masters, is yes.

There are situations in which sex reassignment surgery could be “medically necessary” for minors, according to the DFPS Commissioner. She said,

It may be warranted for the following conditions including, but not limited to, a child whose body parts have been affected by illness or trauma; who is born with a medically verifiable genetic disorder of sex development, such as the presence of both ovarian and testicular tissue; or who does not have the normal sex chromosome structure for male or female as determined through genetic testing.

Professionals (such as teachers, doctors, and day care workers) who have reason to believe that a child could be subjected to sex reassignment surgery are legally required to report that knowledge just a they would report knowledge of child abuse. “If it is shown that the professional intentionally concealed the abuse,” said Masters, “then the offense is a state jail felony.”

In a news release about Masters’ findings, Abbott’s office said that authorities would investigate any allegations that a child is being subjected to a sex change surgery and that they would then take “appropriate actions.” 

“Failure to report this abuse is considered a Class A misdemeanor and punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine, or both. The intentional concealment of such abuse [is] a state jail felony,” said Abbott’s office. “The determination and subsequent enforcement are effective immediately.”

The question of whether or not minors should transition to another gender has become highly politicized. It is not unusual for advocates to frame anyone who opposes transitioning as denying children essential health care. Some critics of Texas’ decision argue it is irrelevant because it is rare for minors to seek surgery and that minors are far more likely to pursue social transitioning, puberty blockers, and hormone therapy.

“There is a false and widespread belief that parents are forcing gender-affirming surgery on children in elementary school—which Abbott and Masters both appear to believe themselves—so it’s not difficult to imagine how Masters’s letter could lead to harassment for the families of trans youth,” said LGBTQ Nation.

However, what LGBTQ Nation labels a “false and widespread belief” is precisely what appears to be at stake in the case of James Younger, a nine-year-old boy from Texas. Younger’s mother, pediatrician Dr. Anne Georgulas, has been pushing to transition her son for years after claiming she saw him exhibit female behavior, as ChurchLeaders reported in October 2019. At the time, James’ father and Georgulas’ ex-husband, Jeff Younger, claimed that Georgulas went so far as to consider “cutting the penis off my son.”