Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council. This article appeared in The Stream on September 5, 2018.
Brown University, perhaps the quirkiest of the Ivy League schools, recently removed from its website information about a peer-reviewed study on gender confusion.
The study is called “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults.” It looks at hundreds of cases of young people with a condition that appears during or after puberty in individuals who have not previously experienced gender dysphoria.
Why the censorship?
University officials couldn’t point fingers at the source. The peer-reviewed descriptive study was done by Lisa Littman, a faculty member in Brown’s own School of Public Health. It recently appeared published in the well-respected scientific journal PLOS ONE.
They pointed fingers at the content, which did not, it seems, sufficiently support the transgender cause.
Dean of the School of Public Health Bess H. Marcus defended its removal. She said in a statement that some at Brown believed the study’s conclusions “could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”
But the study deserves attention, even at Brown. After all, there’s an alarming trend of adolescents suddenly announcing they’re in the wrong body. We should all want to know why.
Trauma and Peer Pressure
According the study, trauma and psychiatric distress can play a part. But gender specialists do not seem interested in exploring these influences. In one case, a 16-year-old was described as a happy girl before she was raped, but withdrawn and fearful afterwards. Months later, she announced to her parents that she was transgender and needed to transition.
The most eye-opening part of the study is its focus on peer pressure and “social contagion.”
The study says social and peer contagion can initiate and magnify mistaken beliefs. For example, beliefs that normal puberty stressors are proof of being transgender, or that “the only path to happiness is transition,” or that anyone who disagrees with “the plan for transition is transphobic, abusive, and should be cut out of one’s life.”
In one case, a 14-year-old girl and three of her friends spent “much of their time talking about gender and sexuality.” The three friends all announced they were trans boys and chose similar boy names. Then the 14-year-old announced that she was a trans boy too.
Another 14-year-old girl and her friends were taking group lessons together with a very popular coach. The coach came out as transgender. Within a year, all the girls in the group announced they were transgender too.
A 12-year-old girl who was bullied for going through puberty early told her parents that “she felt fat and hated her breasts.” She learned online that hating your breasts is a sign of being transgender.
Littman surveyed only parents, not children, an acknowledged limitation of the study. But the main problem is that too many clinicians accept everything the young patient tells them at face value, never seeking the parents’ perspective. That, Littman warns, does not result in a “fully informed diagnosis.”
As part of the study, parents were asked to name the sources they thought influenced their child’s gender dysphoric feelings. The top results were YouTube transition videos (63.6%), Tumblr (61.7%), a group of personal friends (44.5%), and a group of people that they met online (42.9%).
Online “advice” is worse than you might think. According to the study, it goes far beyond “maybe you’re transgender.” Children are actually instructed on “how to deceive parents, doctors, and therapists to obtain hormones quickly.”
Speaking of hormones, when families sought help from healthcare providers, the results were shocking.
The main problem is that too many clinicians accept everything the young patient tells them at face value, never seeking the parents’ perspective.
One-third of parents said their children saw some sort of medical professional, such as a gender psychologist, pediatrician, or social worker. In 70% of those cases, the clinician did not bother exploring possible alternative causes. Mental health and previous trauma were not explored. Medical records were not requested.
Nevertheless, a quarter of the children (23.8%) were offered prescriptions for puberty blockers and/or cross-sex hormones at their first visit.
Could It be a Coping Mechanism?
The study also suggests that rapid onset gender dysphoria could be a “maladaptive coping mechanism.” Such mechanisms, formed in response to a stressor, might temporarily relieve symptoms. But they fail to address the root of the problem, thus causing new ones.
To the anorexic patient, writes Littman, losing weight is considered to be the solution to her problems, and not part of the problem. Similarly, the “drive to transition” may be a way “to avoid feeling other strong or negative emotions.”
This new study reveals trouble in transgender paradise. Activists don’t want people to read it, and neither does Brown University. But all parents should.