Dan Zadra once wrote, “worry is a misuse of the imagination.” In January of this year, after coming across a particularly worrying piece in the Atlantic, I misused my imagination. Sorry, Mr. Zadra.
Titled “Young Trans Children Know Who They Are,” the piece focused on transgender children — those of whom identify as a different gender from the one they were assigned at birth. Ed Yang, the author of the piece, argues that, from an early age, children already have a strong sense of identity. He contends that some children as young as three already have a strong sense of their identity. If a three-year-old boy tells his parents that he identifies as a girl, Mommy and Daddy shouldn’t just listen, they should consider gender reassignment surgery. After all, although he is only three, the boy clearly knows what he wants.
Rather worryingly, an increasing number of parents appear to be listening, and acquiescing, to such ludicrous demands. According to a 2018 paper by Nic Rider, a University of Minnesota postdoctoral fellow who studies transgender health, the number of U.S. teens and pre-teens identifying themselves using other nontraditional gender terms is on the rise. The paper appeared in Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed medical journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
In an accompanying opinion article, Dr. Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, complimented Rider’s findings. Shumer also stated that the study echoes other research suggesting that earlier counts of the trans population “have been underestimated by orders of magnitude. Youth are rejecting this binary thinking and are asking adults to keep up.”
To keep up with what, exactly, Dr. Shumer?
According to a 2018 piece in the Federalist, doctors have been accepting cases of underage girls who identify as males for quite some time; even performing double mastectomies on them to avoid the “trauma” of developing breasts. Citing findings from a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the piece reads, “Some physicians in the United States are performing double mastectomies on healthy 13-year-old girls. The justification is gender dysphoria (‘transgenderism’) — the girls now identify as boys and therefore want to look like boys.”
Referencing the aforementioned study, the author writes:
Using a novel measure of chest dysphoria, this cohort study at a large, urban, hospital-affiliated ambulatory clinic specializing in transgender youth care collected survey data about testosterone use and chest distress among transmasculine youth and young adults. Additional information about regret and adverse effects was collected from those who had undergone surgery. Eligible youth were 13 to 25 years old, had been assigned female at birth, and had an identified gender as something other than female. Recruitment occurred during clinical visits and via telephone between June 2016 and December 2016.
The article finishes on an ominous note: “Reasonable people would be mystified, if not repelled, by the statements and actions of a leading researcher into transgender treatment.”
Of course, the United States doesn’t have a monopoly on madness.
Across the pond in the UK, the number of young people referred for “gender treatment” increased from 97 in 2009 to 2,510 in 2017-2018. This translates to a 4,000 percent increase in 10 years.
Has the promotion of transgender issues in schools sown seeds of confusion in children’s minds? The answer appears to be a resounding yes. Dr. Joanna Williams, author of the book Women vs. Feminism, believes that schools are encouraging even the youngest children to question whether they are really a boy or a girl. In 2017, 800 dysphoric children in the UK were injected with puberty-blocking drugs, including some as young as 10 years old.
The Contagion Effect
Why, on a global scale, has there been such an increase in young people identifying as transgender? Of course, times change. What was considered abnormal, even abhorrent, a few decades ago may be widely accepted today. After all, up until the 1960s, some therapists employed aversion therapy of the kind featured in A Clockwork Orange to “cure” male homosexuality. Up until 1973, the DSM listed homosexuality as a mental disorder. In 1973, the APA asked all members attending its annual convention to vote on whether they believed homosexuality to be a mental disorder. Of the some 9,600 psychiatrists present, 5,854 voted to remove homosexuality from the DSM.
When it comes to the increased number of people identifying as transgender, greater social acceptance of a previously stigmatized condition clearly plays a role in this process. Nevertheless, the rates at which young people are identifying as transgender are soaring at an alarming rate.
A 2018 study carried out by Lisa Littman, a physician and professor of behavioral science at Brown University, found that the vast majority of the youth in her sample who identified as trans all had one thing in common: They had been directly exposed to one or more peers who had recently “come out” as trans. Furthermore, these children, according to their parents, had exhibited a noticeable increase in internet and social media consumption. Transgenederism, it appears, was trending.
Recent studies suggest media coverage of transgenderism play a role in what is called the “media contagion effect.” The glorification and normalization of the increase in transgender activity by the media has clearly influenced the malleable masses.
In social psychology, behavioral “contagion” refers the tendency for certain behaviors demonstrated by one person to be imitated by observers. Exposure doesn’t have to happen in person — it can happen through a television, computer, or on the big screen.
Interestingly, 2018 saw a record growth in trans roles on television.
GLAAD, an American non-governmental media monitoring organization founded by LGBT people in the media, counted 26 trans characters on TV, which is nine more than 2017. A significant percentage of that progress was driven by Ryan Murphy’s latest series Pose on FX, which has no less than five trans characters.
For better or worse, celebrities have a powerful impact on how impressionable youths view themselves and how they view the world. Of course, celebrities can have a positive influence on youth.
However, famous singers, actors, and other celebrities can also serve to spread nefarious beliefs. The parenting practices of celebrities are particularly notable, as such practices may serve to influence both youngsters and the parents of youngsters.
In a recent interview with the Daily Mail, Charlize Theron, the Oscar Award winning actress, revealed that her eldest child, Jackson, 7, is transgender.
According to the South African born actress, Jackson was assigned male at birth but, at the age of three, “knew” that she was a girl.“Yes, I thought she was a boy, too,” Theron told the outlet. “She looked at me when she was three years old and said: ‘I am not a boy!’”When asked why she decided to raise Jackson as a female, the 43-year-old stated that it was not her decision to make; it was her child’s. Really, as a parent of a three-year-old, it is not your job to make life-changing decisions? Would you let your three-year-old pick out a mortgage plan for you? Of course not. This is a decision that requires adult thinking.
When it comes to a significant increase in rates of gender reassignment, access to online content and specific forums appears to play a significant role. With the advancement of technological applications consistently being used to modify communication, we have never had greater access to information. With the proliferation of various social media outlets, the masses can share questionable content that profoundly shapes and molds the mentality of the most impressionable — children and teenagers.
Online, quite often, we find ourselves immersed in echo chambers and restricted bubbles. Both are constructed in ways that serve to omit particular sources of information. Both work in unison, and both help to foster very specific ideologies. A restricted bubble involves blocking out dissenting opinions or unfavorable data. An echo chamber is an enclosed space where sound reverberates, an environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.
Both the bubble and the chamber tie in with selective exposure theory, where individuals tend to favor information which reinforces their pre-existing views. At the same time, these individuals avoid unsavory, often contradictory, information. Individuals then select specific aspects of exposed information which they integrate into their mindset. Basically, as at a buffet, people can pick and choose information they are exposed to, selecting favorable evidence, while disregarding the unfavorable
The bubble and chamber combine to work in a cult-like manner. Human beings are — under the right conditions — extremely vulnerable. This is how cult members target likely candidates and use proven techniques to recruit and indoctrinate new members. Even though cults can have wildly different beliefs, the ways in which they recruit and retain members tends to follow a prescribed pattern.A cult isolates its members by actively alienating them from any outside sources. Those outside are actively labeled as malevolent and unreliable.
This is how insidious ideologies take hold. Without other distractions, the cult can focus on implementing a very specific set of beliefs. Research consistently shows that the people who are the most susceptible to recruitment are anxious and emotionally vulnerable. Research also shows that those most likely to transition sex are also highly anxious and emotionally vulnerable.
There is a reason we don’t let children vote, get married, drink, or drive a car before a certain age. As wonderful as most children and teens are, they are not necessarily renowned for judgment and wisdom, nor are they renowned for their depth of life experience.
Your average teen obsesses about being personally popular and accepted by their peers, finding girlfriends and/or boyfriends, getting good grades and getting into college. Busy experimenting with their sexuality, losing their virginity, and trying legal and illegal substances, this is a time in life where it’s acceptable to make a few poor decisions, ones that – in the long run – won’t have serious repercussions.
But something like gender reassignment surgery is serious business, not the sort of stuff to be taken lightly. After all, the human brain is a complex entity whose development is shaped not only by genetics but also by the environment that we are exposed to, including social media. Children’s brains are far more impressionable than adult brains; they are both more open to learning and to being shaped by outside factors.
Executive functioning, which controls aspects like impulse control, judgment, problem solving, attention, addictive behaviors, inhibition, memory, and decision-making, is heavily molded by the environment in which we are exposed to as children.
A child’s prefrontal cortex is highly malleable, developing accordingly with its association to the area of the brain linked to emotion and impulse. Essentially, children and teens base their decision-making ability and judgments upon the way they feel, which is clearly problematic. There is a distinct difference between thinking and feeling, something parents should keep in mind if their child says “they feel” like the opposite sex.
The prefrontal cortex is especially susceptible to being shaped by life’s experiences in adolescence, such as stress and peer pressure. The “rational part” of an individual’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until around the age of 25. This is something that needs to be emphasized. A 12-year-old child should not be allowed to undergo treatment like gender re-assignment, and any parent that helps facilitate such drastic surgery should be questioned by relevant authorities.
Even the notion of “reassignment” is a misnomer. Anyone with a basic understanding of the human anatomy knows that it’s impossible to physically “reassign” someone’s sex physically, and attempting to do so doesn’t produce good outcomes psychosocially. The idea that a transgender man becomes a woman, or that a transgender woman becomes a man is as foolish as it is pernicious. Only the most naïve would look at someone like Bruce Jenner and assume that she is a natural, biological woman. At best, transgender men become feminized men and transgender women become masculinized women. This may sound harsh, even crude, but in the eyes of broader society, many transgender individuals are considered impressionists, merely mimicking the sex with which they identify. This is problematic on many levels.
According to Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon Senior Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, gender reassignment surgery simply doesn’t work. In an article for the Heritage Foundation, Anderson notes: “The most thorough follow-up of sex-reassigned people — extending over 30 years and conducted in Sweden, where the culture is strongly supportive of the transgendered — documents their lifelong mental unrest. Ten to 15 years after surgical reassignment, the suicide rate of those who had undergone sex-reassignment surgery rose to 20 times that of comparable peers.”
Every decision has a consequence. And the decision to transition at an early age can have dire consequences. Research carried out by Russell B. Toomey at the University of Arizona shows that gender identity (one’s own understanding of being male, female, neither, or both) strongly influences the likelihood a teen will attempt suicide.
Nearly 14% of teens who participated in a 2018 survey carried out by Toomey and colleagues reported trying to kill themselves, with transgender teens reporting the highest rates of suicide attempts. Among female to male teens, the language Toomey and colleagues used for transgender male teens, more than half (50.8%) said they’d attempted to take their lives.
Last year, the World Health Organization announced that “gender incongruence” — the organization’s term for people whose gender identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth — should be moved out of the mental disorders chapter and into the organization’s sexual health chapter. However, the change will not go into effect on January 1, 2022.Though the WHO said the change is expected to improve social acceptance among transgender people, while still making important health resources available, the research shows that the dysphoria associated with a lack of identity comes with a host of psychological difficulties.
A 2018 study suggests that, compared with individuals whose gender identity matches their assigned gender at birth, transgender and gender non-conforming children and adolescents may be more likely to develop depression and other mental health conditions.
The research, carried out by Tracy A. Becerra-Culqui, Ph.D., and colleagues at the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation in Pasadena, found that the risk of developing a mental health condition was three to 13 times higher for transgender and gender non-conforming youth than youth whose gender identity corresponded with their assigned gender at birth.
Diagnoses of depression and attention deficit disorder were the most common mental health conditions among children and teenagers who were transgender and gender non-conforming, the researchers report. In fact, according to paper (which was published in the journal Pediatrics) the risk of attention deficit disorder was three to seven times greater among these individuals, compared with those who were cisgender (gender identity matches their assigned gender at birth); moreover, the risk of depression was four to seven times greater.
For the vast majority of us, our sense of being male or female aligns with what’s listed on our birth certificates. Nevertheless, a smaller proportion of the population identifies as transgender, which includes people whose internal sense of gender identity is not consistent with their gender at birth. In turn, some look to surgery for answers. But surgery and cross-sex hormones can’t magically change us into the opposite sex. Aesthetically, perhaps. Surgery can, of course, alter appearance. But surgery can’t magically or biologically transform us into something we are not.
Though you may find the following words harsh, they need to be said — scientifically speaking, transgender men are not biological men and transgender women are not biological women. Any claims to the contrary are ignorant of scientific evidence. As Princeton philosopher Robert P. George once put it, “Changing sexes is a metaphysical impossibility because it is a biological impossibility.”
Like Germaine Greer, Linda Bellos, Sheila Jeffreys, and Camille Paglia, I am critical of trans ideology. I take issue with the fact that so many people have been swept up in this transgender wave. The dangers of trying to treat mental ill-health by transitioning from one sex to another cannot be overstated. When every ounce of unhappiness is consolidated into the gender issue, society enters dangerous territory. These are not the words of a bigot or a transphobe. These are the words of someone critically questioning a particularly nefarious cultural trend.
Please note that John Glynn misrepresented his credentials and is no longer a contributor to our website. We have corrected his author biography and appended this disclaimer to all his articles.