Transgender activists love to talk about the “validity” of “lived experience” and complain that questioning in any way that sacred thing is an attempt to “erase” them, to “deny their existence” – yes, even to “kill them”.
Well, we parents have some “lived experience” to convey to these activists.
ROGD is real.
ROGD (Rapid onset gender dysphoria) is the term which has come into common usage for a new type of gender distress which was first formally identified and named by researcher and clinician Dr Lisa Littman, in her seminal 2018 study on the new trend of teens, without childhood gender dysphoria, identifying as transgender around the time of puberty. The phenomenon has since been discussed further by journalist Abigail Shrier, in her best selling book “Irreversible Damage”. It manifests for the first time in adolescence or early adulthood, and typically occurs in association with mental health issues, trauma, autism, and/or same sex attraction. It is much more common in girls (unlike classical gender dysphoria which presents most often in prepubescent boys), although boys are also being affected. It seems to be spread by social contagion among friendships groups and online. It is a new phenomenon, and it is rapidly increasing in prevalence in Western countries.
The experiences described in the work of Littman and Shrier ring true with thousands of parents in our support groups around the world. Over the last year or so, we have begun to speak out publicly about this in increasing numbers. Read the constant flow of parent essays on the PITT Substack - almost fifty have been published in the three months since it was set up. Peruse the parent stories on the website of new parent support and advocacy organization, Genspect. Listen to the parent interviews – there are more being released all the time. Listen to or read the moving testimonies of increasing numbers of detransitioners who eloquently describe the role social contagion played in their trans identification.
However activists, including many activist clinicians, are fond of denying the existence of ROGD. They are quite happy to erase us – to deny our lived experiences. The explosive increases in numbers of teens presenting to gender clinics are implausibly and without evidence attributed to “increased acceptance”, which completely fails to explain the reversal of the sex ratio. Parents are derided as bigots by activists, society at large, and even in some cases by family and friends for raising concerns about social contagion, and about the advisability of rapid medical interventions in the presence of autism, mental health issues or trauma.
The hypocrisy of activists is one of the most galling features of this whole debate. The lived experience of a 13 year old girl is enough to justify the removal of her breasts. The lived experience of a “nonbinary” 11 year old is enough for clinicians to seriously consider making an (entirely experimental) attempt to maintain her body in a prepubertal state for the rest of her life.
But the lived experience of thousands of loving, committed and well-informed parents? That is derided as denial or “antitransbigotry” by activists who, I warrant, have never spoken to one parent who is experiencing this phenomenon in their own family. (One a side note, this activist critique of the concept of ROGD is ably rebutted by psychiatrist Dr Roberto D’Angelo.
Sexologist James Cantor ably summarises the important issues with regard to the ROGD concept in this piece. He also points out that CAAPS (Coalition for the Advancement and Application of Psychological Science), despite the fact that it is “an umbrella organization of other psychology associations with the expressed purpose of promoting evidence-based practice” has entirely missed the point in it’s call for the term to be eliminated. This is just one example of many where medical societies, as well as activists, attempt to dismiss this very real phenomenon.
Make no mistake we do care about our kids’ experiences – but unlike the activist clinicians, we care about all of them. For in their other act of supreme hypocrisy, the affirmers will attend only to the part of our kids’ lived experiences that fits their narrative. They will ignore the mental illness, the autism, or the history of trauma and abuse which may be behind the trans identity. So, they erase our kids as well. We, as their parents who love and know them best, want them seen as whole, living, breathing people not as “identities”.
It also seems that even the lived experience of trans people is only considered valid if it fits the preferred narrative. As mentioned above, two prominent gender clinicians, Erica Anderson and Marci Bowers, have recently spoken out to express concerns about paediatric gender medicine. This included comments about the validity of the concept of social contagion, and their belief that adolescent onset gender dysphoria can be complicated by underlying mental health conditions. These people are both trans women. Yet just days later WPATH (World Professional Association of Transgender Health) released a statement condemning any discussion of these issue in the media. Coincidence? I think not.
One favourite tactic of activists – including self-styled “expert” activist clinician groups - is to claim that there is “insufficient peer-reviewed scientific evidence” for this “proposed phenomenon”. They will conveniently forget to mention that researcher Lisa Littman was crucified on social media following publication of her ROGD study, experienced little support from her University, and even lost her job. This leads one to wonder what researcher in their right mind would go anywhere near this topic after witnessing these events?
This situation then allows these same clinicians to smugly claim to support “continued scientific exploration within a culture of academic freedom, not censorship”, whilst knowing perfectly well that activists will create all the censorship that is needed to ensure that no more study of ROGD is allowed to occur.
Well, we parents are not having it. ROGD is real. We need no more studies to tell us what we are seeing with our own eyes. These are our lived experiences. Unlike activists, we do not histrionically accuse our detractors of trying to deny our existence or to kill us. However, we do expect to be listened to and taken seriously so that our kids can receive proper care and avoid unnecessary harm – and we will not stop screaming from the rooftops until this happens.
If you would like to know more about ROGD, consider registering for the Genspect ROGD webinar, happening on the 20th of November.