A new study of social contagion raises important clinical and ethical questions.
Psychology Today, 2018
“In general, cis-gendered people are considered evil and unsupportive, regardless of their actual views on the topic. To be heterosexual, comfortable with the gender you were assigned at birth, and non-minority places you in the ‘most evil’ of categories with this group of friends. Statement of opinions by the evil cis-gendered population are consider phobic and discriminatory and are generally discounted as unenlightened.”
Parents further reported being derogatorily called “breeders” by their children, or being routinely harassed by children who played “pronoun-police.” The observation that they no longer recognized their child’s voice came up time and again in parental reports. In turn, the eerie similarity between the youth’s discourse and trans-positive online content was repeatedly emphasized. Youth were described as “sounding scripted,” “reading from a script,” “wooden,” “like a form letter,” “verbatim,” “word for word,” or “practically copy and paste.”
Littman raises cautions about encouraging young people’s desire to transition in all instances. From the cases reviewed in her study, she concluded that what she terms “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) appears to be a novel condition that emerges from cohort and contagion effects and novel social pressures. From this perspective, ROGD likely exhibits an aetiology and epidemiology that is distinct from the “classical” cases of gender dysphoria documented in the DSM.
Littman hypothesizes that ROGD can be cast as a maladaptive coping mechanism for other underlying mental health issues such as trauma or social maladjustment, but also for other exceptional traits like high IQ and giftedness. The peer support, prestige, and identity leveraged by the youth who proudly come out as trans certainly appears to be protective in their circles. As Littman’s study shows, this social signaling strategy also comes with strong disadvantages, particularly as it increases conflict between trans youth and the “cis” majority of the population, which, tellingly, includes a majority of the LGBT community…