The journal Pediatrics has published a study with findings that “rapid onset gender dysphoria” in young women who transition to male is a myth.
The study of data from the 2017 and 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey debunks the hypothesis that adolescent teens who identify as male but were assigned female at birth come out as transgender and seek treatment due to peer pressure.
The study comes as representatives of some pediatric gender clinics reported an increase in transgender and gender diverse adolescents presenting for treatment who were assigned female sex at birth relative to those assigned male sex at birth. The data has given rise to a mostly conservative belief that more young women are transitioning to male because of “social contagion,” a theory that is leading to the criminalization of gender-affirming medical care in several U.S. states such as Florida.
The study shows that the sex assigned at birth ratio of transgender and gender diverse adolescents in the United States does not appear to favor those young people assigned female at birth and should not be used to argue against the provision of gender-affirming medical care for adolescents.
The hypothesis, known as “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” has also been called “peer contagion” by researchers such as Brown University public health researcher Lisa Littman, who is 2016 was scrolling through social media when she noticed that a friend group of teen girls from her small town in Rhode Island had come out as transgender. Littman began to study the ‘phenomenon’ and in 2018 published the results hypothesizing that transgender identification had become one more peer pressure among adolescent girls, replacing other disorders such as eating disorders and cutting. Now these girls were self-treating their depression and anxiety with chest-binding, taking testosterone and getting voluntary double mastectomies. Her argument received backlash and a statement from Brown.
Brown’s hypothesis has been cited as a basis for Florida’s new legislation to prohibit the use of Medicaid funds for gender affirming care of adolescents. It has also provided fuel for social media pundits and authors, from J.K. Rowling to Abigail Shrier, who wrote the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.
The authors of the Pediatrics study write: “Our findings from a national sample of adolescents across 16 states reveal that the sex assigned at birth ratio of transgender adolescents does not favor transgender adolescents assigned female sex at birth.”
Read the full study here.