The same old tired, fear-based rhetoric from anti-trans lobbyists and politicians about a “tidal wave” of people identifying as transgender. (fueled, they claim, by the all-powerful propagator of “social contagion”) got a massive reality check recently.
Of course, facts rarely get in the way of a good drama. A sensationalist New York Times article on a “steep climb” in young trans people and Senator Tom McGillvray in Montana both tried to fan the flames. Even the US Congress got an earful from Dr. Jennifer Bauwens representing the Christian Family Research Council, who insisted there was a “skyrocketing” increase in trans individuals. And the cause? Oh, that omnipresent scapegoat, social media.
But surprise, surprise, a recent Swedish study contradicts this wild and baseless narrative. They point out the rather less dramatic reality: gender transition rates appear to have hit a plateau. (https://ssrn.com/abstract=4427508)
The “social contagion” theory would have us believe in a “tsunami” of people suddenly identifying as trans because they’re “catching” it from one another. But, let’s face it, those of us on the ground know it’s not that simple. Most trans people experience gender dysphoria long before making their identity known. The only thing that’s truly contagious is acceptance.
The research, published upfront on the Social Science Research Network, looked at over 7,500 legal gender changes and dysphoria diagnoses in Sweden, showing rates stabilizing after a peak in 2018. The same trend is reflected in the Youth Risk Behavior Social Survey, which also reported a decrease in trans identification after 2018 in the United States.
Does that sound like an “explosive explosion” to you? (Take note, anti-trans activists).
Oddly enough, it seems that history repeats itself. We’re seeing a similar trend to what happened when society gradually accepted left-handedness. Remember those days when left-handed people were seen as strange, and their trait was discouraged? The rise in left-handed individuals wasn’t due to a contagious case of sinistrality sweeping the population but increased societal acceptance.
Drawing parallels, it’s fair to conclude that the increase in transgender individuals coming out in recent years is likely due to diminishing societal barriers. As these barriers continue to thin, we can expect a peak in gender transition rates, followed by stabilization. Hey, that sounds just like that Swedish study!
But let’s be clear–the study is not perfect. It only focuses on legal gender changes and dysphoria diagnoses, overlooks many individuals who might not get a dysphoria diagnosis, and the cultural inclinations may differ from those of the US. Not everyone under the transgender umbrella seeks to medically transition, get a dysphoria diagnosis, or change their legal gender markers.
So, let’s celebrate this validation rather than spreading fear. We’re not seeing an “explosive spread” of “rapid onset gender dysphoria and social contagion” among transgender people. Just an increase in societal acceptance that allows more transgender individuals to come out. We’ve been saying this all along, haven’t we?