Appearing on Steve Bannon’s podcast War Room: Pandemic, anti-trans activist Terry Schilling of the American Principles Project cited the years-long, right-wing media frenzy over a custody battle involving a trans kid as a major impetus for dangerous anti-trans policies that could remove trans youth from supportive parents.
The father in that custody battle, Jeff Younger, is now running for office and has frequently appeared in right-wing media over the years to talk about his child and fearmonger about health care for trans kids.
Schilling falsely claimed that the recent order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to investigate trans-affirming parents and medical providers for child abuse was a necessary response to Younger losing custody of his child for refusing to affirm her “sex transitions.” In reality, Younger was initially granted joint custody of his children before losing it in 2021 for failing to pay child support. Schilling also credited conspiracy theorist and former Rep. Allen West (R-FL) for pushing the governor to act.
In a move that sent shockwaves through the LGBTQ community, Abbott declared in February that safe and necessary transition care recommended by medical professionals is child abuse. Since his announcement, the state has launched several investigations into parents, and the state Department of Family and Protective Services has begun contacting teachers to ask about trans kids. One parent under investigation filed suit, winning a temporary stay in her individual case. But Texas officials have appealed the decision, and more parents have reported investigations. In a statement, President Joe Biden condemned the action, calling it “government overreach at its worst” that “callously threaten[s] to harm children and their families just to score political points.”
Younger originally became a hero of the right-wing media by publicly refusing to affirm his trans child, dragging her into the national spotlight. In just one week in October 2019, just two right-wing outlets – The Daily Wire and LifeSiteNews – published more than two dozen stories about the custody battle and earned millions of Facebook interactions on them. Politicians including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Abbott weighed in, alleging that accepting a trans child was child abuse.Younger is now attempting to leverage his media profile into political power, launching a run for Texas House.
Appearing on Bannon’s podcast War Room: Pandemic, Schilling described the Texas order as a response to Younger losing custody of his child for refusing “to support these sex transitions” and credited West and another recent GOP gubernatorial candidate, Don Huffines, for pushing Abbott more to the right. Moreover, his recent appearances appear to violate a court-imposed gag order which he told the National Review bars him from speaking to the press about his children or gender identity. Younger previously violated the court order by appearing on the right-wing conspiracy theory network One America News and in several other places.
(In accordance with the Trans Journalists Association style guide, Media Matters has replaced incorrect references to Younger’s daughters’ gender and name in brackets in the transcript below. For example, if a transcript incorrectly refers to someone as a “man” we change that language to say "[woman]."
The American Principles Project (APP) is an organization dedicated to stoking voter anxiety about trans people as a way to elect more Republicans. APP previously came under fire for running misleadeing anti-trans Facebook ads, some of which were removed. Schilling, who leads the organization, has been criticized for his anti-gay and anti-trans speech in the past, such as when he wrote, “Am I really a snowflake for not wanting to explain butt sex to my kids?” and asking, “Why do trans people pick the dumbest names after they transition?”
In an earlier appearance on Bannon’s show, Schilling claimed to have raised $750,000 to pressure Abbott to adopt this order. His invocation of West’s influence shows the way in which right-wing bigots have linked hands to attack trans children. West, a former congressman from Florida and an anti-vaxxer recently hospitalized from COVID, previously suggested that Texas secede in response to the certification of Biden’s election. In the past he’s posted memes about “exterminat[ing]” Muslims and accused Democratic members of Congress of being communists. West ran an unsuccessful campaign against Abbott in the Republican gubernatorial primary this year.