The anti-trans lobby is using bad science to attack vulnerable young people
Sun 21 Oct 2018
If you were to understand two facts about transgender people, I’d want it to be these: 1) that we have always existed, and 2) that we have always been under attack for existing.
Despite our many footholds throughout history, especially outside of the western colonial gaze, the narrative that we are a new phenomenon has been widely peddled as a tool to discredit and disqualify us from public life and push us out of view.
The latest in this line-up is a fast-growing conversation about “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (or ROGD), which seeks to sate the observations of a number of parents that their children came out as transgender not only suddenly but from within a context of trans peers, groups and social media, and who are worried about the potential effects of online influence and peer pressure.
Except, like so many of the spurious ideas thrown at us, ROGD is not a real condition and never has been. The one paper on the subject, published in PLOS One – a journal that reviews only the technical aspects of the papers published, rather than the interpretation of the results – endorses the “condition” based upon the claims of 164 parent responses that met study criteria. This sample was based on online survey results sourced from three blogs that all have a strong anti-transgender history, with no testimony from any neutral or pro-transgender online spaces, or from the transgender children themselves – the people who best would be able to describe their experiences.
The World Professional Association for Transgender Health released a statement on the phenomenon, stating: “The term ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD)’ is not a medical entity recognised by any major professional association … therefore, it constitutes nothing more than an acronym created to describe a proposed clinical phenomenon that may or may not warrant further peer-reviewed scientific investigation.”
Dr Julia Serano, a researcher with almost two decades of experience in developmental and evolutionary biology, explores this further. Citing the far more well-researched history of gender dysphoria and client-supportive transition care, she writes “what’s ‘rapid’ about ROGD is parents’ sudden awareness and assessment of their child’s gender dysphoria (which, from the child’s standpoint, may be longstanding and thoughtfully considered)”.
When a young person comes out as trans, especially when a parent feels like it is out of the blue, it can feel like a rug is being pulled out from under one’s feet. For a parent who is struggling, the idea that some external influence is at fault can be an appealing one – but to fall back on bad science is not the solution. As Serano writes, “this is not a new type of gender dysphoria but rather a new name for a recurring parental dynamic”.
Despite this, the study has garnered a great deal of support from those in the UK and US, under the guise of “protecting” against diagnoses and treatments that are compared to a contagion.