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How the concept of a “transgender contagion” went viral—and triggered untold hurt


The ROGD paper was not funded by anti-trans zealots. But it arrived at precisely the time individuals with unhealthy intentions have been in search of science to buoy their opinions.

The outcomes have been according to what one would possibly count on given these sources: 76.5% of fogeys surveyed “believed their baby was incorrect of their perception of being transgender.” More than 85% mentioned their baby had elevated their web use and/or had trans buddies earlier than figuring out as trans. The youths themselves had no say within the examine, and there’s no telling if that they had merely stored their dad and mom at midnight for months or years earlier than popping out. (Littman acknowledges that “parent-child battle may clarify a few of the findings.”) 

Arjee Restar, now an assistant professor of epidemiology on the University of Washington, didn’t mince phrases in her 2020 methodological critique of the paper. Restar famous that Littman selected to explain the “social and peer contagion” speculation within the consent doc she shared with dad and mom, opening the door for biases in who selected to reply to the survey and the way they did so. She additionally highlighted that Littman requested dad and mom to supply “diagnoses” of their baby’s gender dysphoria, which they have been unqualified to do with out skilled coaching. It’s even attainable that Littman’s knowledge might comprise a number of responses from the identical dad or mum, Restar wrote. Littman informed MIT Technology Review that “focused recruitment [to studies] is a extremely frequent apply.” She additionally referred to as consideration to the corrected ROGD paper, which notes {that a} pro-gender-­affirming dad and mom’ Facebook group with 8,000 members posted the examine’s recruitment info on its web page—though Littman’s examine was not designed to have the ability to discern whether or not any of them responded.

But politics is blind to nuances in methodology. And the paper was shortly seized by those that have been already pushing again in opposition to growing acceptance of trans individuals. In 2014, a number of years earlier than Littman printed her ROGD paper, Time journal had put Laverne Cox, the trans actress from Orange Is the New Black, on its cowl and declared a “transgender tipping level.” By 2016, payments throughout the nation that aimed to bar trans individuals from loos that match their gender id failed, and one which succeeded, in North Carolina, value its Republican governor, Pat McCrory, his job.  

Yet by 2018 a renewed backlash was effectively underway—one which zeroed in on trans youth. The debate about trans youth competing in sports activities went national, as did a heavily publicized Texas custody battle between a mom who supported her trans baby and a father who didn’t. Groups working to additional marginalize trans individuals, just like the Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, started “printing off payments and introducing them to state legislators,” says Gillian Branstetter, a communications strategist on the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ROGD paper was not funded by anti-trans zealots. But it arrived at precisely the time individuals with unhealthy intentions have been in search of science to buoy their opinions. The paper “laundered what had beforehand been the rantings of on-line conspiracy theorists and gave it the resemblance of significant scientific examine,” Branstetter says. She believes that if Littman’s paper had not been printed, the same argument would have been made by another person. Despite its limitations, it has turn out to be an important weapon within the battle in opposition to trans individuals, largely by on-line dissemination. “It is astonishing that such a blatantly bad-faith effort has been taken so critically,” Branstetter says.

Littman plainly rejects that characterization, saying her purpose was merely to “discover out what’s occurring.” “This was a really good-faith try,” she says. “As an individual I’m liberal; I’m pro-LGBT. I noticed a phenomenon with my very own eyes and I investigated, discovered that it was totally different than what was within the scientific literature.” 

One purpose for the success of Littman’s paper is that it validates the concept trans children are new. But Jules Gill-Peterson, an affiliate professor of historical past at Johns Hopkins and writer of Histories of the Transgender Child, says that’s “empirically unfaithful.” Trans kids have solely lately began to be mentioned in mainstream media, so individuals assume they weren’t round earlier than, she says, however “there have been kids transitioning for so long as there was transition-related medical know-how,” and youngsters have been socially transitioning—dwelling as a special gender with none medical or authorized interventions—lengthy earlier than that.

Many trans persons are younger kids after they first observe a dissonance between how they’re recognized and the way they determine. The means of transitioning is rarely easy, however the clarification of their id is perhaps.

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