In 2019, when I began writing Irreversible Damage, the transgender craze quietly ravaging teenage girls for nearly a decade burst into an uncontrolled, destructive burn.
The previous year, a public health researcher then at Brown University, Dr. Lisa Littman, had stuck her neck out. In an academic paper, she hypothesized that the sudden spike in transgender identification among teen girls was the result not of typical gender dysphoria (severe discomfort in one’s biological sex, normally beginning in early childhood) but of social contagion. Trans identification, Littman argued, had become the newest vector by which teenage girls experiencing some very real emotional difficulties talked themselves into illness and coaxed each other to self-harm. Analogous to eating disorders, transgender identification had become a maladaptive coping mechanism for untold thousands of anxious and depressed teen girls.
Within academic circles, Littman’s study caused an uproar. Although it would eventually find corroboration in other academic papers, fierce opposition came from activists who can be counted on to blow their tops. Littman was fired from a job she loved. But apart from some reporting on the controversy, the media spent little effort investigating her theory. Families continued to suffer, having no idea that their daughters’ sudden trans identification was likely part of a teen girl contagion racing across the Western world.
In 2019, no one knew how pervasive the phenomenon of teen trans-identification really was. And only the parents whose daughters had fallen into this well had any clue that schools, adolescent therapists, social media influencers, and even doctors were encouraging and facilitating social and medical transition among teen girls. Few knew how easily a teen girl could obtain irreversible hormone treatments and surgeries without a psychiatric diagnosis or her parents’ permission. Covered by many university plans, the hormones were dirt cheap, the surgeries readily available, and the social push to undergo them: relentless.
But the epidemic was real: Between 2016 and 2017, the number of gender surgeries among biological females in the U.S. quadrupled. In 2019 alone, double mastectomies for “gender dysphoria” rose 15 percent, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Right now, GoFundMe alone hosts tens of thousands of fundraisers for “top surgery” so that young women can afford to remove healthy breasts. By every account of physicians and plastic surgeons, the majority of those requesting these surgeries were adolescent girls.
With incessant lies, activists had succeeded in stirring a fog around the medical and therapeutic issues related to the trans teen trend. Activists had created new language, “gender-affirming care” and “gender-affirming surgery,” as if girls were being treated only with mild interventions that simply supported young women in who they really were. In fact, the treatments were grisly, risky, dangerous, and based on the flimsiest evidence of any mental health benefits. The shifting goals of the treatments and the lies on which they were based often made them seem more like witchcraft. Only the doctors pressing them on teens weren’t crackpots on the margins of society but graduates of our prestigious med schools. They advertised to youth on TikTok, they attacked other doctors on Twitter, they evinced the reckless bravado of gangsters.
So many of the experts who urged their daughters toward transition were, at best, reckless.
To uncover their corruption, I needed to dispel a slew of myths: No, this wasn’t primarily happening to girls from troubled families. Neither divorce nor childhood trauma nor parent homophobia had created this epidemic. This was happening to liberal, two-parent families. It captivated the brightest daughters of highly educated parents — people of means who sprung for calculus tutors and tennis lessons. This was happening to girls — in other words — just like yours.
And I needed parents to know that so many of the experts who urged their daughters toward transition were, at best, reckless. At worst, they were inebriates, drunk on a gender ideology until they could hardly recall that old Hippocratic Oath. Saints of Social Justice, conquistadors on behalf of a popular and celebrated cause, they had all but forgotten their patients. When I asked gender surgeons how they could justify removing the breasts of a girl who said she was “gender fluid” — i.e., someone whose gender pendulum was in mid-swing — they demurred as if I just wasn’t getting it.
But I was getting it, and soon, so were the parents.
Six months after I published Irreversible Damage in June of 2020, the High Court of Justice in England heard the testimony of doctors I had interviewed in my book and declared that a young woman, Keira Bell, had been subject to a hasty, reckless medical transition she began at age 16 with grossly inadequate medical oversight. More than 50 bills have been proposed in state legislatures to curtail or end medical transition for minors. For the first time in a decade, an actual debate is occurring over the appropriateness and salubriousness of gender treatments for minors. For the first time, parents whose daughter suddenly decides she is “trans” are no longer blindsided by the epiphany. Schools who encourage minors to adopt a new name and gender identity and actively conceal that identity from parents are now on notice that the days of such schoolwide conspiracies to deceive caring parents are numbered.
The attempts to censor my book have been legion. I fought every one — in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, in Quillette, on Tucker Carlson Tonight, and on Twitter. I continue to receive documents charting the ways Big Tech censors my work. Pity for them, the truth is already out there.
Abigail Shrier is a writer living in Los Angeles and author of Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters.