According to a study, “social contagion” is no longer leading to transgender youth

According to a study, “social contagion” is no longer leading to transgender youth

According to a study, “social contagion” is no longer leading to transgender youth

The “social contagion” is not driving a growing number of teens to declare themselves transgender, according to a new study published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics.

The study also found that the percentage of adolescents who were assigned a woman at birth and who declared themselves transgender did not increase, which contradicts claims that adolescents whose sex at birth is female are more susceptible. to this so-called external influence.

“The hypothesis that transgender and gender-diverse youth assigned to women at birth identify as transgender due to social contagion does not stand up to scrutiny and should not be used to argue against the provision of gender-affirming medical care for adolescents. “studies senior author Dr. Alex S. Keuroghlian, director of the National LGBTQIA + Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute and the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Gender Identity Program, said in a statement.

The theory of “social contagion” can be traced back to a 2018 article published in the journal PLOS One. Dr. Lisa Littman, who at the time was a professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, coined the term “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” which she described as adolescents experiencing a conflict between sex at birth and the identity of gender “suddenly during or after puberty.” These adolescents, she wrote, “would not meet the criteria for gender dysphoria in childhood” and are experiencing dysphoria due to social influence.

Littman also speculated that teens who were assigned a girl at birth are more likely to be affected by the social contagion and, as a result, are overrepresented in gender dysphoria groups of teens than those who were assigned. a boy at birth.

After intense debate and criticism, PLOS One conducted a post-publication reassessment of the article and issued a correction that included changing the title to clarify that Littman did not interview transgender or gender-diverse youth, but actually interviewed the their parents. The correction also noted that “rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) is not a formal mental health diagnosis at this time.”

To test the social contagion theory, the researchers used data from the 2017 and 2019 Biennial Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which collected data on gender identity across 16 states of age between 12 and 18 years. In 2017, 2.4%, or 2,161 of the 91,937 adolescents surveyed, identified as trans or of a different gender. In 2019, that percentage dropped slightly to 1.6%, or 1,640 out of 105,437 teenagers surveyed.

The researchers concluded that the decrease in the overall percentage of adolescents who identify as trans or of a different gender “is inconsistent with the hypothesis (hypothesis of rapid onset gender dysphoria) that postulates social contagion”.

The study also found that the number of transgender teens who were assigned a boy at birth was more numerous than those assigned to a girl at birth in both 2017 and 2019, providing further evidence against a “notion of social contagion with susceptibility. unique “among those assigned to the female at birth.

The social contagion hypothesis, assuming young people come out, for example, because their friends are, states that there is a certain social desirability in being trans. Some proponents of the theory, according to the study, also believe that younger people identify as trans or of a different gender because those identities are less stigmatized than cisgender sexual minority identities, or those who identify with their birth sex and are lesbian. , bisexual, gay or queer, among other sexual identities.

To evaluate these claims, the researchers looked at rates of bullying among teens who identified as trans and of a different gender and those who did not.

They found that, consistent with other surveys, trans and gender-diverse youth were significantly more likely to be bullied in school (at 38.7% in 2017 and 45.4% in 2019) than young lesbian cisgenders. gay and bisexual (at 30.5% in 2017 and 28.7% in 2019) and cisgender, young heterosexuals (at 17.1% in 2017 and 16.6% in 2019).

“The idea that attempts to escape the stigma of sexual minorities lead teenagers to declare themselves transgender is absurd, especially for those of us who provide care to [transgender and gender diverse] The study’s lead author, Dr. Jack Turban, assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement. of transgender and gender-diverse youth cannot be underestimated. We hope that doctors, policy makers, journalists and anyone else contributing to health policy will review these findings. “

They wrote that, despite methodological flaws in Littman’s study, the concept of rapid-onset gender dysphoria “has been used in recent legislative debates to support and subsequently adopt policies that prohibit gender-affirming medical care” for trans adolescents. and of a different kind.

For example, in June, the Florida Health Care Agency released guidance against gender-affirming care for minors, including social transition, which involves changing the name, pronouns, dress and / or a child’s hairstyle. The guide linked to reports that cited Littman’s article.

A growing number of states have also sought to ban or restrict young trans youth’s access to gender-affirming medical care through legislation. According to an analysis by NBC News, the number of bills aiming to limit health care to establish gender for transgender youth has grown from one in 2018 to 36 this year. Governors of three states – Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee – have successfully signed these restrictions into law, although judges have prevented such measures from taking effect in Alabama and Arkansas.

The study lists several limitations, including the fact that the data was collected through a school survey and, consequently, young people not attending school were not represented. He also noticed that young people were asked, “What is your gender?” and that response options were limited to women and men. It did not ask about the respondents’ “assigned sex at birth” and did not include an additional question about their “gender identity”, which is an established search method for asking about gender identity. But the researchers have credited several studies that found that trans and gender-diverse young people are aware of the differences between their sex assigned at birth and gender identity.

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