• Sun. Jun 4th, 2023

Parents felt pressure from gender clinics to transition children: study


Apr 5, 2023


A newly released study found parents who took their adolescent children to gender clinics said they experienced pressure to agree to the transition process — and that their children were worse off afterward, not better.

The findings of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Parent Reports on 1655 Possible Cases,” published Wednesday in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, lent support to the theory that the surge in gender-switching adolescents is rooted in a social contagion stoked by media, peers and gender clinicians.

Of the 390 parents who said they had visited a gender clinic or specialist, 51.8% said they felt pressured to transition their child socially or medically, versus 23.6% who said they did not and 24.6% who said they were unsure.

“An especially important predictor of transition was whether a family had received a referral for a gender specialist,” said the executive summary. “Of those who had received a referral, 73% of the youths had socially transitioned, compared with 49% who had not received a referral. The respective numbers for medical transition were 11% versus 5%.”

Led by Northwestern professor Michael Bailey, the peer-reviewed study is the largest to date on “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” known as ROGD, an unofficial diagnosis proposed in 2018 by Dr. Lisa Littman to explain “the recent epidemic of gender dysphoria among adolescents and young adults.”

The results echo the concerns of whistleblower Jamie Reed, a former caseworker who accused doctors of pushing puberty blockers, hormones and even surgeries on adolescents at the Washington University at St. Louis gender clinic. The state and the university are investigating.

At least 11 red states have approved restrictions on drugs, surgeries or both for those under 18. Fighting back are gender-identity advocates and Democrats who argue that “gender-affirming care” is essential for the mental health of transgender youth and even life-saving, given their high suicide rate.

The study was based on 1,665 parents who responded to an online survey from December 2017-October 2021 about the experiences of their children ages 11-21 on the Parents of ROGD Kids website.

Mr. Bailey said the study’s primary limitation is bias. The respondents were more likely to be unhappy with their child’s transitioning experience and in favor of the idea of social contagion, but he argued that other studies focused on pro-transition families are also biased.

“It is unclear to us, however, why parents would be motivated to exaggerate their children’s problems,” said Mr. Bailey, who conducted the research with “Suzanna Diaz,” a pseudonym for a parent involved with the ROGD group. “Furthermore, our most important findings come from comparisons among families within our study, and so cannot be attributed to parental biases.”

At the same time, the parents themselves were “much more likely to be progressive than conservative” based on comments from those who provided information about their beliefs.

Asked how children’s depression, anxiety and gender dysphoria had changed after transitioning, the study found that “parents were much more likely to say that the youth had worsened than improved,” both in psychological functioning and relationships with parents.

Even before the onset of gender dysphoria, most of the adolescents had a mental-health history and 42% had a formal diagnosis. Those difficulties preceded their gender dysphoria issues by about four years.

“Youths with a history of mental health issues were especially likely to have taken steps to socially and medically transition,” the summary said. “This relationship held even after statistically adjusting for likely confounders (e.g., age). The finding is concerning because youth with mental health issues may be especially likely to lack judgment necessary to make these important, and in the case of medical transition permanent, decisions.”

More than 72% said their children experienced stressful events ahead of the onset of gender dysphoria, including family moves, relationship troubles, abuse and having someone they know commit suicide.

Girls outnumbered boys in the survey by 75% to 25%. The average age of gender dysphoria onset for girls was 15.8 years versus 14 years for boys. About 55% of the adolescents knew someone who had transitioned.

“Having friends come out as transgender contemporaneously was significantly related to the likelihood of social transition,” said the study. “Among females, 73.3% with contemporaneous transgender friends had taken steps toward social transition, compared with 54% without such friends; for males, respective figures were 39.5% and 21.7%.”

The parents estimated that prior to developing gender dysphoria, their children spent on average 4.5 hours per day on social media and the internet.
“There was evidence of immersion both in social media and in peer groups with other transgender-identifying youths,” said the study.

Adolescents seeking to transition socially — changing their names, pronouns, clothing and hair — were far more common than those undergoing medical transitions. Only 6.5% of females and 8.4% of males had used cross-sex hormones, and only 1% of males and 0.7% had undergone surgical procedures.

The study drew praise as well as pushback on social media. A “middle-aged trans lesbian” asked: “I’m really curious, is ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ the only alleged psychiatric malady that can be diagnosed exclusively by talking to the parents of the people suffering from it?”

Mr. Bailey acknowledged that the findings were likely to come under criticism, which he attributed to “ideological preferences rather than scientific rigor.”

“Google ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria,’ and you will find Dr. Littman’s important study and news articles about it,” Mr. Bailey said. “But most links are to criticisms of ROGD, often asserting that it has been debunked. Our study shows that for many families, ROGD is a troubling reality.”


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