Culture

The Tragic Transgender Contagion

(Dejan Krsmanovic/Dreamstime)
Anguished parents note that entire peer groups seem determined to ‘transition’ together.

When thinking about transgender issues, you can choose to believe either the Left’s comforting lie or the messy — and sometimes quite sad and scary — truth. Here’s the comforting lie: that there are a certain class of people who live in “a state of emotional distress” because their sex “assigned at birth” conflicts with their “gender identity.” For these people it is the height of cruelty to ask them to live according to their “assigned” sex. So, when even children demonstrate the allegedly objective criteria of “consistence, insistence, and persistence,” then they can and often should begin the process of transitioning to a new gender.

It’s all science, you see. And denying that science not only makes you a Neanderthal, it makes you a bigot.

According to this lie, parents should rejoice when their children finally identify as transgender. After all, it’s the first step to becoming their “true selves.” According to this lie, there is nothing to fear except discrimination itself. Once individuals embrace their true identity, only intolerance can destroy their lives. Thus the fury at dissenters. Thus the academic censorship. Because of high suicide rates in transgender populations, endorsing ideological conformity becomes a matter of life and death.

The truth, however, is stubborn. Human experience simply doesn’t conform to ideological models, and the far worse damage is done when we try to impose radical ideology onto the complexities of individual, troubled lives. In reality, people are far more vulnerable to suggestion and fashion than the Left lets on. Rather than affirming an immutable identity, our culture is ratifying and rendering permanent what often amounts to little more than a troubled youthful phase — one that is subject to all the whims of fashion that mark any other cultural trend.

RELATED: A Sad Video Highlights the Contradictions and Tragedy of the Transgender Moment

Let’s be clear: The vast majority of kids who experience a period of discomfort with their biological sexual identity eventually desist. Indeed, the number may well be over 90 percent. In other words, kids who are growing and learning about life and themselves sometimes endure a period of confusion. This should shock exactly no one. What is shocking, however, is the insistence that this period of confusion should be treated as a period of confirmation — and that medical intervention is the logical and tolerant next course.

Indeed, transgender diagnoses have become so fashionable that doctors are sometimes stampeding to prescribe life-altering drugs even to kids — and then later, when the kids grow up, recommending mutilating surgery. In other words, doctors aren’t necessarily waiting for evidence of “consistence, insistence, and persistence.”

Watch this searing YouTube from a young woman who “de-transitioned” in her early twenties and describes herself as “a real, live, 22-year-old woman with a scarred chest and a broken voice and a five-o-clock shadow because I couldn’t face the idea of growing up to be a woman.”

Are the diagnoses truly objective? The woman in the first video relates how she was prescribed testosterone after a mere “three or four” visits to a therapist. She asks:

How many other medical conditions are there where you can walk into the doctor’s office, tell them you have a certain condition which has no objective test, which can be caused by trauma or mental-health issues or societal factors, and just receive life-altering medications on your say-so? Does that sound like gatekeeping?

Indeed, gatekeeping has been replaced by cheerleading. In the U.K., where records are easier to obtain, clinics are facing an explosion in demand for “gender-identity treatment.” As the Guardian reports: “Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal increases in the number of referrals to all of the UK’s 14 gender identity clinics (GICs) in recent years, with a number of clinics experiencing increases of several hundred percent.”

At one major clinic, referrals quadrupled. At another, they increased 20-fold in ten years. At still another, referrals increased a jaw-dropping 28-fold in eight years. Clinics for children were seeing staggering annual increases: “The Tavistock clinic, the only centre for children and adolescents in England, has seen referral increases of about 50% a year since 2010–11. In the past year it has had an unexpected and unprecedented increase of 100%, up from 697 to 1,398 referrals.” The Guardian — because it’s the Guardian — laments that demand for gender-identity treatment is outstripping the available supply of practitioners, noting that the resulting shortfall is “leaving vulnerable people waiting years for a specialist appointment.”

#share#Here in the United States, the evidence is more anecdotal, but the anecdotes are disturbing. Rod Dreher’s blog at The American Conservative has become something of a clearinghouse for concerns from anguished parents, many of whom note that entire peer groups seem determined to transition together. This letter was particularly poignant:

As a parent living the nightmare of having a teen who suddenly announces she’s transgender, I can tell you there are NO doctors who will do anything but agree. There is NO science behind this. There is NO way to medically “diagnose” her. Her therapist knows that she is not transgender but fears there’s no way we can stop her. Three of her closest friends have already had full transition, paid for by their parents, so it is difficult for her to understand why we won’t do the same. It is no different than having your child captured by a cult, only this time the cult is a societal bandwagon which wants to do permanent physical harm to her perfectly healthy female body, all in the name of “love”.

Parents have no idea how to respond, especially when doctors permit no dissent. Here’s another letter to Dreher:

My own daughter professes to be a boy. It is a nightmare. It came out of nowhere at age 15 — this is not a case of a girl who always wanted to be a boy, or always acted like a boy. This is a girl who was proud to be a girl until she developed physically and boys and men started treating her like a piece of meat and a second class citizen. The nightmare is that doctors and therapists are not allowed to question why she wants to be a boy. The “cult of trans” dictates that her word must be taken or they can lose their professional standing. SO they are ready to prescribe testosterone shots and a double mastectomy despite the fact that she is a minor. These physical “medical treatments” for her psychological problem are permanent and barbaric. It is against “ethics” for professionals to provide any other treatment. It is a mother’s nightmare.

To read sites like Transgender Trend (a mainly U.K.-based site that is “concerned about the current trend to diagnose “gender non-conforming” children as transgender) or 4thWaveNow (a blog launched by a “mother of a teenage girl who suddenly announced she was a ‘trans man’ after a few weeks of total immersion in YouTube transition vlogs”) is to go through the looking-glass — where troubled teens in groups will announce their intention to transition, typically with the enthusiastic (and smug) support of school guidance counselors and other educational professionals.

4thWaveNow is launching its own survey of what it calls “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” seeking input from parents whose children “experienced sudden or rapid development of gender dysphoria beginning between the ages of 10 and 21.”

RELATED: Making Sense of Transgenderism

Naturally, the Left is furious. Nothing and no one can be permitted to contradict the narrative. Indeed, some on the Left respond to the women in the videos above by claiming that they’re still actually “trans.” To accomplish this trick, they do what the Left so often does — redefine common terms. To prominent trans journalist Julia Serano, “transgender” means people who “defy societal expectations regarding gender.”

But this makes no sense. By that definition, every female but Barbie herself is transgender because no girl has a personality that conforms in all ways to classical, stereotypical femininity. By that definition, Barbie’s boyfriend Ken is thoroughly transgender. What’s “manly” about him?

People who identify as trans need help. Many are suffering from deep and profound traumas.

Moreover, for activists, “discrimination” is the catch-all answer for every inconvenient fact. Why did fewer people come forward to transition even a few short years ago? More discrimination. Why do so many more come forward now? Less discrimination. Why are they still so troubled? Discrimination is still terrible. In other words, our society is accepting enough that people are “transitioning” in record numbers, but it’s still such a discriminatory hellhole that all problems within the trans community can be laid at the feet of bigots.

Yet anyone who spends times with teens — and isn’t drinking the ideological Kool-Aid — knows that these explanations are complete bunk. There are always nonconforming subcultures of teens. Some of these subcultures are deeply troubled (often for good reasons) and can act out in extraordinarily destructive ways, intentionally defying perceived societal norms. Even self-harm can be a fad. Cutting? Suicide clusters?

But we live in a world where if a troubled girl wants to become a man — to begin immediate hormone treatment that will dramatically alter her physiology, with the immediate hope of undergoing painful, life-altering surgery – she is encouraged, even celebrated. In this world, education professionals will stand by her side against reluctant parents. (Some parents have encountered teachers who simply refuse to call their child by her given name.)

RELATED: Transgender Activism Has Poduced a Legal Absurdity

And in this world, when even celebrated, troubled teens remain so troubled that they take their own lives, the smugness never abates. After all, being sexual revolutionary means never taking responsibility for your own beliefs. It means that every bad outcome is a bigot’s fault.

We’re not far from the day when a child will be taken from a loving home simply because the parents refuse to believe that their little girl is actually a little boy. We’re already living in the days when telling your girl child that she shouldn’t undergo treatments that will render her infertile and painfully mutilated is deemed to be intolerant. And we refuse to believe that such behaviors are at all influenced by peer groups or social trends. Instead, your daughter is simply “trans,” just as she is either black or white.

#related#People who identify as trans need help. Many are suffering from deep and profound traumas. Others are beset by a myriad of mental disorders at rates far exceeding those for comparable “cis” populations. These are people who should receive the utmost compassion and care. They are not, however, trapped in the wrong body. And the extent to which we celebrate their painful malady is the extent to which, culturally, we have lost our way.

Our youth may or may not be in the midst of a “transgender contagion” — the data will ultimately tell the tale — but moral blindness is epidemic. It turns out that the science doesn’t say what the Left wants, and our responsibility is to deal with people as they are, not as identity politics defines them. A boy is still a boy, even if he wants to be called Sue, and to claim otherwise is nothing short of cruel.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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