This essay is a plea for researchers to investigate the new and rapidly growing cohort of teen and young adult boys/men who are suddenly identifying as transgirls/women. The standard models of autogynephilia (AGP) and homosexual transexuals (HSTS) (e.g., Blanchard, 1989) as explaining all male gender identity issues must be re-evaluated and new hypotheses and models explored to explain this brand new presentation. As the parent of one of these boys, I can tell you he does not fit the standard descriptions of either AGP or HSTS that are exclusively relied upon by scientists and often used to stifle further questioning these days.
My son declared a trans identity at the age of 15, after only “feeling this way” for about a month prior and having no wish or desire to be a girl while a child—by his own admission. Like the other boys in this situation, he is brilliant, sensitive, has sensory issues, may be on the autism spectrum, but is undiagnosed, has spent too much time online, along with a long list of other similarities described in Angus Fox’s 2021 Quillette article on the recent surge in trans identified boys. He is extremely leftist in his politics, admires Marx, and professes to be a communist. Also like many other boys, the type of woman he seems to want to portray is essentially an anime character. He does not want to look like a real woman, he wants to look like an anime doll. For these boys, the acronym AGP really means “Anime Girl Philia”.
I am a research scientist in academia with more than two decades experience writing grant proposals and peer-reviewed journal articles. Even though my expertise is in a subject very far removed from the science and psychology of gender identity issues, I know science and I am very frustrated that our boys are being written off as “just AGP”. I would like to propose a new hypothesis of my own in the hopes that someone with the right credentials might actually take a risk and try to help our sons who are getting far too little attention regarding inappropriate medicalization. I think that there is compelling evidence that many of our boys do not fit the AGP or HSTS models well, if at all. Instead, I believe they are becoming radicalized into believing they are transgender through a perfect storm of influences, both online and off.
Hypothesis 1: The ROGD boys are just another type of autogynephilia. Autogynephilia is the only explanation given for any non-homosexual gender dysphoria in most of the ongoing discussions of male gender distress these days (for example). I am not ruling this out in my son’s case, although I have many doubts because of what I have observed in the cohort of teen and young adult boys and men declaring out of the blue trans identities during or after puberty. At least, we should be asking more questions:
Why is it that these boys are often declaring a trans identity before they show an interest in cross dressing or displaying any other signs of autogynephilia? Are they “trans” because they like those things or do they like those things because they are “trans”? I have heard both of these conflicting statements from my son. They both cannot be simultaneously true.
Why are they laser-focused on taking hormones? Why do they insist on taking hormones first before they socially transition?
Why are they suddenly coming out later after not having experienced any sort of gender distress in childhood?
Why are their ideas and speech about gender identity and trans issues stilted, scripted, and formulaic? My son can’t tell you what or why he feels, he only repeats what sounds to me like shallow propaganda.
Why is it that gender dysphoria is markedly worse after prolonged time online? Why does it appear to lessen, or even resolve when our boys are unplugged, or go traveling?
Hypothesis 2: Our boys are radicalized into believing they are trans through a perfect storm of online and offline influences. This is my preferred hypothesis for several reasons. Warning signs parents are given to spot radicalization in children are identical to what we have experienced with our son. The following list comes from this website: “Isolating themselves from friends and family; talking as if using a scripted speech; An unwillingness or inability to discuss their views (or be questioned); A sudden disrespectful attitude towards others; Increased levels of anger; Increased secretiveness especially around internet use.” The website also adds “Children who are at risk of radicalisation may have low self-esteem, or be victims of bullying or discrimination. Extremists might target them and tell them they can be part of something special, later brainwashing them into cutting themselves off from their friends and family.”
To parents like me, these are all too familiar observations. Many of us have observed ALL of these symptoms regularly in their kids. Is it that much of a stretch to believe that sensitive young men can be indoctrinated online to believe truly outlandish and destructive ideals? My lovely, sweet but awkward and nerdy son is now part of something special! He is a one of a kind unicorn and a specially privileged person who everyone applauds and praises as brave. He is completely closed off to anything that does not align with what trans activists say. He falls apart at the mere mention that there are detransitioned people who have a different story to tell than the one he is fed online. He gets really angry and claims to be hurt when anyone says anything that provides a valid counterpoint to his own ideas and beliefs. He talks down to us and is disrespectful when we attempt to gently ask questions. No one outside of his affirming friends or his online trans echo chamber can reach him. He is secretive about his activities online and offline. He is 100% unwilling to discuss or consider anything that opposes his entrenched trans beliefs.
How is this radicalization taking place? The perfect storm is raging in society, bombarding our boys from all directions:
Transgenderism is loudly promoted in all sectors of our society and country as a progressive, civil rights issue. My son fell into trans by way of supporting his friends, according to what his therapist told us. He cares a lot about solving our societal problems, and is empathetic to the plight of the underdog. Articles by Angus Fox and discussions on the Gender: A Wider Lens podcast about boys describe how these traits may predispose some boys into gender identity issues. Perhaps our sensitive boys don’t want to be associated with hyper masculinity as portrayed in our culture. If this sensitivity gets crosswise with an extreme form of feminism that portrays most or all men as essentially violent predators, who can blame our boys for wanting to opt out? This new ROGD in boys often starts around puberty and the start of sexual feelings towards girls, and perhaps the seeds of internalized misandry take root then by way of not wanting to be perceived as a “toxic” masculine predator. Could they be trying to escape manhood as a way to help solve societal problems that they may feel helpless about?
Our boys are computer and tech savvy and spend lots of time online. There is a fascinating Nature article that shows how opposite gender body dysmorphia can be triggered mentally through a virtual reality like experience. Could our boys be experiencing a form of internet induced online body dysmorphia? The immersion in anime and the presentation as anime characters seems to provide some anecdotal evidence that this may be true. Add to that the addictiveness of the many varieties of porn that are so easy to access online and it's possible that the body dysmorphia is amped up and sexualized making it hard to distinguish from true autogynephilia. Why can’t more research be done to see if this is a form of pseudo-autogynephilia triggered through internet-induced body dysmorphia?
QAnon and other well known forms of internet and social media triggered radicalization arise from online echo-chamber communities. Reddit forums, Twitter, transgender Discord communities, and even chat during online gaming are rife with gender indoctrination. Trans activists and older trans women are often the source of the information our boys get online about all things trans. Older trans women coach younger boys online into taking hormones as young as possible so that they pass, and stay youthful and childlike in appearance. Our boys are told slogans, and are taught to not question or believe anything contrary to the ideology. These people tell our boys that detransitioned people are evil. They tell our children to run away from home and join glitter families because parents are abusive transphobes for even questioning what is going on. They tell our sons that the only solution to their problems is to medically transition. These influencers steep our sons in trans ideology and create a system of online indoctrination that is not that different from any other form of radicalization happening today. If you don’t believe me or think I am exaggerating, I suggest that you visit a few sub Reddits like r/MtF, r/asktransgender, or just find the twitter account of a trans activist or two and you will quickly see what I mean.
Schools are embracing gender ideology and are keeping secrets from parents about their kids' trans identities. Schools are telling our kids many things that are not scientific about sex and gender and are introducing the idea of transgenderism, or helping keep it going by keeping secrets from parents. This serves to plant and water the seeds of gender ideology as well as to help further split apart the family unit. If our boys experience online indoctrination and pressure to disavow “transphobic” parents and then go to school where the teacher says that it is dangerous to tell the parents about the trans identity, the seeds of radicalization are watered. Imagine if QAnon beliefs were being fed or reinforced to our kids in school? Let that sink in a moment.
The medical community is colluding by undermining parental authority and providing easy access to medical interventions, essentially on demand, often to underage teens. There are a number of physicians and therapists that are practicing based on activist doctrines, and the medical-pharmaceutical industry stands to profit hugely. I also think that there are many medical professionals who are really just trying to help our clearly distressed kids, but they are causing harm because they have bought into the poor science that the affirmation only model sells. These professionals often affirm the child against the parents wishes on the first or second visit. Or, they shut down parents who simply want to know more about the risks and ask questions. This is often done in front of the child, effectively undermining the parental authority.
The times we are now living in are extremely different than the late 1980s to early 2000s when Bailey and Blanchard pioneered the autogynephilia model. Back then there was no internet for kids to access easily, there was no social media or smart phones, gender ideology was not being taught in schools, there was no realistic online gaming using female avatars, online porn was not ubiquitous and easy to access, Planned Parenthood was not dispensing transgender hormones, there was no pandemic, online school, or lockdowns with isolation. This is a confluence of massive forces we face today and each one alone is a big deal to our vulnerable youth. These rapid changes are ripping the whole fabric of our society apart. The world our boys are living in is entirely different and more closely resembles a dystopian realm than two decades ago. As a scientist, it is abundantly clear that the pre-social media era conclusions about transgender identifying male teens and young adults does not apply to our kids today. If we are to have any hope of addressing these large societal issues, it’s time to reevaluate our theories and build a new body of scientifc research that is relevant to today’s cohort of boys.
As the numbers of detransitioned people grows, there is a bittersweet feeling that maybe the madness will end someday soon and the next generation of kids will grow up free from the miasma of gender. The closure of Tavistock Clinic in the UK should be a warning to gender medical professionals in the US. The lawsuits are coming, but unfortunately they only happen after people have already been terribly hurt by gross scientific and medical malpractice and negligence.
It's a difficult situation for parents now. What in the 90s would have been mild occurrences of autogynephilia, which would have otherwise gone unobserved, is now going to be amplified into a "trans" identity.
I am not surprised that parents and counsellors are reluctant to consider whether their son has autogynephilia, given there now exists such a stigma around it. I have written about this issue here: https://since2010.substack.com/p/part-7-rogd-rapid-onset-gender-dysphoria
I think it remains a good idea to encourage boys to spend less time online, away from stimulus such as niche pornography and "gender identity" ideology, which can magnify autogynephilia into a disorder, occupying a larger role in a male's life than it otherwise would have done in the past.
Of course, there may also be a minority who would have always found autogynephilia difficult to deal with, even in the past.
I still think the best short article for parents trying to understand their sons is: https://4thwavenow.com/2017/12/07/gender-dysphoria-is-not-one-thing/
Having read your article I find it ironic you think your child has been "radicalized" into a QAnon-esque situation, when it's clear from reading this that you were the one radicalized by stuff you found on the internet. I understand it's scary and new to hear feelings like that but you need to be understanding. You got sucked down the rabbit hole, it's okay to come back up for air and clarity.