A New Study Debunks the Myth that Kids Become Trans Through “Social Contagion”

Over the past four years, opponents of transgender rights and protections have pushed a theory called “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” or ROGD, asserting that more young people are publicly identifiying as trans due to “social contagion.” “Trans people have long known this theory to be completely false, but now, a new study has finally proven it for good.”

A study published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics is the latest to demonstrate how the numbers just don’t line up in ROGD’s favor. Scientists analyzed data from the CDC’s 2017 and 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Survey in 16 states, looking particularly at the ratio of trans and gender-diverse youth who were assigned female at birth as opposed to those assigned male. The ROGD theory posits that trans identification is exploding specifically among AFAB youth, who are being preyed upon by “gender ideology” — but this analysis of nearly 200,000 adolescents disproves that hypothesis.

Far from rising, the number of trans and gender diverse youth identified in the survey actually dropped significantly between 2017 and 2019, falling from 2.4% to 1.6%. And while the ratio of assigned-male to assigned-female trans youth did shrink, going from 1.5:1 to 1.2:1 over the two years analyzed, researchers found the numbers actually changed because there were fewer transfeminine youth in the latter survey, not more transmascs.

Proponents of ROGD, including J.K. Rowling and Joe Rogan, have also claimed that transness is a “social contagion” because young people are using trans identification as a way to escape homophobic bullying. There’s a lot of misconceptions to unpack in that one sentence, but the Pediatrics study addresses the most vital one: once again, it was found, bullying and suicidal ideation rates were both higher among trans youth than their cis-identified peers, making the ROGD claim nonsensical.

“The hypothesis that transgender and gender diverse youth assigned female at birth identify as transgender due to social contagion does not hold up to scrutiny and should not be used to argue against the provision of gender-affirming medical care for adolescents,” Dr. Alex S. Keuroghlian, one of the study’s senior authors, said in a statement. Lead author Dr. Jack Turban concurred, calling the idea that trans youth transition to escape social stigma “absurd.”


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