Birds of a feather flock together goes the adage, but friends influence each other as much as they choose to spend time with others like them.
According to a new study from the Public Library of Science, parents report that most teenagers who experience gender dysphoria or transgenderism do so in peer groups of others who also identify as transgender.
The peer-reviewed study found that 87 percent of young adults spent more time on social media and the internet before coming out as transgender and 60.7 percent received a boost in popularity among their friend group, reported parents.
“AYAs [Adolescents and young adults] expressed a range of behaviors that included: expressing distrust of non-transgender people (22.7%); stopping spending time with non-transgender friends (25.0%); trying to isolate themselves from their families (49.4%); and only trusting information about gender dysphoria from transgender sources (46.6%).” – Lisa Littman, study author and assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University
These findings are significant, claim the study, because they indicate “clusters of gender dysphoria outbreaks occurring in pre-existing friend groups with multiple or even all members of a friend group becoming gender dysphoric and transgender-identified.”
The results of this study have been heavily criticized by LGBT activists and pro-trans psychologists, who tend to believe that transgenderism is determined at birth, not by peer pressure or social inclination. Brown University, the college which originally published the findings, even removed the study after outcry from activists.
Dr. Bess Marcus, the Dean of the school, issued a statement apologizing for the report, claiming that “the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”
Brown University also touts their “long-standing support for members of the trans community” as they are “among the first universities to include medical care for gender reassignment in its student health plan.”
This policy of censoring viewpoints which disagree with the liberal status quo is common among college campuses, even when regarding peer-reviewed scientific studies. As the Western Journal notes, “squashing research that you disagree with based wholly on feelings is the very antithesis of the scientific method.”
However controversial, the study does help to validate a condition known as “rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD),”characterized by the study as a “phenomenon where the development of gender dysphoria is observed to begin suddenly during or after puberty in an adolescent or young adult who would not have met criteria for gender dysphoria in childhood.”
Social psychologists have been researching the effects that social systems have on individuals for many decades. In their 2009 book Connected, social psychologists Nicholas Christakis, PhD, and James Fowler, PhD explain how the thoughts and emotions of your friends affect you.
As explained in the book, facial expressions were used in primitive times primarily to indicate danger. This idea of shared influence is the basis of social psychology, but as humans evolved, the scope of that which we can communicate did as well.
Everything from friendships, political ideas, smoking and diet habits, mass hysteria, and even sexually transmitted diseases are spread through social contagion, which is why many psychologists are skeptical of the idea that transgenderism is somehow immune to such contagion.
Although the study did not claim that all transgender individuals experience gender dysphoria because of social pressure, critics of the study argue that the study offers no evidence for the existence of ROGD at all, but instead invalidates transgender experience.
“What’s ‘rapid’ about ROGD is parents’ sudden awareness and assessment of their child’s gender dysphoria [as opposed to the children’s experience],” says Julia Serano, a California-based “transgender writer and former developmental biologist.”
“I would have rejected this manuscript outright for its methodological flaws and also its bias,” claims director of mental health for the Child and Adolescent Gender Center Clinic Diane Ehrensaft, who argues that gender dysphoria is not “simply a fad whipped up by peer influence… [that idea] negates the experience of many transgender youth.”
“Like all first descriptive studies, additional studies will be needed to replicate the findings,” says Littman.
Outspoken opponents of the study appear to believe that all transgender individuals have been so from birth while some advocate for the removal of studies indicating otherwise, whereas others believe that rapid-onset gender dysphoria is something which needs to be investigated more deeply, potentially to help young adults overcome a difficult and confusing portion of their lives without causing long-term damage from hormone therapy and surgeries they may later regret.
Phillip Schneider is a student, runner, and lover of liberty and healthy living. A staff writer for the Waking Times since 2015, he also publishes to his own blog and is an occasional contributor to the Activist Post.