For those who aren’t familiar with the latest anti-transgender pseudoscience being spread in the news and on social media please check out these articles before for continuing:
For anyone familiar with my previous breakdown of anti-trans “science” you’ll remember that I covered the American College of Pediatrics piece “Gender Identity Harms Children” in a video series over on YouTube (part 8 got taken down by a claim unfortunately) where I pointed out that children aren’t being given hormones, gender dysphoria for children requires several criteria to be met (including symptoms lasting over 6 months), and the treatment for those prior to puberty is observation and once they reach puberty it is a case by case basis based on the child whether or not to use things such as hormone blockers and other therapies. Almost all of the points made by the group of doctors who broke from the known hate group were not only easily debunked, but the points required intentional conflation of terms and outdated/debunked information.
So this isn’t the first time anti-trans people have attempted to use “science” to push the narrative that allowing a child to figure out their gender in a safe and controlled manner is somehow abusive or harmful.
Now one of the main points in the DSM-V for gender dysphoria in children is that not only must the child meet six out of eight points on the list with the first point on the list being required to be met, but that the marked incongruence between the child’s gender and assigned gender must have lasted at least 6 months. Now I’m no expert, but when I think rapid I think under a month at the longest, and multiple articles have pointed this out including one of the articles I listed above.
The website Transgender Trend is the provider of the information on the so-called new phenomenon, and does try its best to appear as a reputable source that wants to help trans youth and their parents, including providing materials for schools and parents. I went through the “resources” they provided, and could not find the source of the studies they claim prove their point, so if one of my readers can find it, please let me know in the comments below. For more technical aspects of why rapid onset is bullshit I will suggest reading the above articles and sources, what I’m going to discuss is what I dealt with personally as a child discovering their gender wasn’t matching up with their assigned gender.
One of the main points I noticed was that they claim that the condition is affecting mostly teenage girls, which seems to go along with what I am finding on the hashtag #FtMSurge (which itself is anti-trans attacks on trans men and claims that need their own article to cover). Now, I was assigned the gender of female at birth due to the observation of my genitals as most kids are. Looking at pictures of me in my childhood you can see a baby in various cute feminine outfits, even a young girl wearing dresses and smiling at the camera. What isn’t shown though, is that around the age of eight I started noticing something was…off.
My parents were wonderful in that they didn’t try to force traditional gender norms on me as much as most, allowing me to be a “tom boy” and to play with toys generally associated with boys such as Ninja Turtles. Instead of an easy bake oven, I got a science kit (and turned part of my bedroom’s carpet blue), I got books on all sorts of subjects, I was allowed to explore who I was in a relatively safe manner. Looking back I can see that prior to puberty I saw myself as the same as my brother and many of my cousins, just I had an “innie” while they had an “outie” for their privates. I knew I was a boy, and my child mind gave a reasonable explanation for why I looked a little different.
Boys aren’t supposed to have periods! Only fat boys have breasts and they don’t look like what I have!
Around second grade is when I also started pushing for more masculine aspects of myself and being treated like I was a boy, though it was often met with pushback so over time I had to learn to be more subtle about it. We had to learn a dance for the Cinco de Mayo celebration every year in elementary school, and the class had more girls than boys, so some girls would have to be “boys” in the dance. In both second and third grade I jumped at the opportunity to be a boy, because that is what I was. I would get to dress, act, and learn the “boy” parts of the dance and this was a major validation for me even though people just assumed it was because I didn’t like dresses (yes, that had already started by this point).
Things went completely pear shaped for me when I started my period and my breasts began to grow. Boys aren’t supposed to have periods! Only fat boys have breasts and they don’t look like what I have! I remember being so angry about my body betraying me that I wanted to hurt myself to make it stop. While a child today could talk with their parents about what was going on and could get help with dealing with whether or not they were actually transgender or not, when I was a kid that just didn’t happen. We were still in the middle to tail end of the AIDS epidemic, so it was bad enough if you were LGB let alone T.
The DSM-IV wasn’t due out until 1994 (when I was 12) so if I tried to discuss my gender issues with someone medical professionals would have referred to the DSM-III which listed not only Transsexualism (302.5x) as the diagnosis but also included a category called “Transvestic Fetishism”. Gender Identity Disorder (which would later be renamed and reassessed as Gender Dysphoria) was listed under “Psychosexual Disorders” in the DSM-III and broken into multiple parts, included questions about one’s sexuality (the x portion of the part of the transsexualism diagnosis code), put both transvestism and transsexualism under the same umbrella (we no know this is incorrect), and the section on Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood used terms like, “boys who cross-dress” and lists under complications, “In a small number of cases, the disorder becomes continuous with Transsexualism.”
These were the criteria for diagnoses (If you wish to read the entire section I posted the link to the DSM-III above):
I would have been labeled even more mentally ill than I already was (I was diagnosed with depression at the age of 6 and have been in and out of therapy and off and on medications since then), which would have led to more bullying at school from not just the girls, but also the boys. I was already being physically bullied by the time I hit puberty by various students, and had learned to keep quiet about a vast number of things. I would never have felt safe coming out back then, even if it had been an option.
So instead, I repressed it. I told myself I was a girl even though I could feel myself screaming, “LIAR!” every time I did so. This was around the time when I was being expected to be more ladylike and feminine, with sitting with my legs crossed at the ankles, not sitting with my legs apart if they weren’t crossed, not acting in a non-ladylike manner (no belching, no acting like a man, all sorts of fun stuff). So my dysphoria only grew as I grew older and more expectations of being a woman were put on me. My dysphoria had symptoms that got associated with other illnesses ranging from depression to ADHD to defiance issues. I started becoming more violent in response to emotional and stressful triggers in my environment, which landed me in more therapy.
I tried dressing as masculine as I could while still being feminine, my own way of trying to deal with the issue, but that tended to get me teased even more, being referred to as “Terminator” in the yearbook one year and being the punchline of all sorts of jokes and pranks that were highly inappropriate for any age.
I continued to repress who I was for over two decades, my dysphoria symptoms growing worse the more I repressed myself, until one day after a breast cancer scare I turned to look at my husband while I was driving home and it all just came rushing out.
“I should have been born a man, I’m not a woman.”
I came out publicly on July 20, 2014 to my parents, my viewers, everyone. While some people weren’t surprised by it, many felt it was “sudden” because they saw a woman who had three children, a loving husband, and who by most assumptions was a happy neurodivergent female. Even my therapist at the time questioned if I was actually trans or if I was just dealing with the cancer scare in an unhealthy way.
Imagine what would have happened if I’d come out at eight or even ten and been asked if I was just “faking it” or if I actually had dysphoria.
Now I’m sure you’re all thinking, “What does any of that have to do with rapid onset?” Well I’m glad you asked. In the article Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria and Other Myths there is a screenshot of part of the explanation of rapid onset, which includes this piece right here::
See, I didn’t “show signs” of dysphoria for much of my pre-puberty childhood, and my dysphoria from an outside view would have appeared rapid onset. One day I was fine, the next everything was wrong and I was highly dysphoric and distressed. My dysphoria technically started with the start of puberty because I’d found a way to rationalize my body to myself prior to that.
Unlike the youth today, who have access to the internet and to resources to do their own searching on what they’re feeling and experiencing, I would have been forced to go to my parents, and while they are supportive and loving of me regardless of my gender and sexuality (I’m asexual), at the time I felt that I would just wind up in more therapy and that I was broken.
I hid who I was because I didn’t want to be seen as even more broken than I already was.
Today we have youth being able to express their gender at an earlier age and thus catching things such as gender dysphoria at a much younger age than the start of puberty, we have youth who are able to do some research on their own to figure out what is going on before talking to their parents and working it out from there. We have resources for youths who don’t have a family that would be supportive of them, allowing them to get support for dealing with their dysphoria safely while not being punished or harmed by their parents. There are multiple communities online that help trans people work out who they are, where to get help, and many other things, even sometimes just needing people to send them pictures of cute animals because they’re feeling especially dysphoric that day and that helps them.
What we’re seeing isn’t a sudden rise in rapid onset gender dysphoria. We’re not seeing a sudden #FtMSurge of trans men popping up out of the woodwork due to sites like Tumblr and DeviantArt. What we’re seeing is trans youth feeling safe enough to come out early on instead of holding it in until they are past the point where things such as puberty blockers could have helped them while they dealt with coming to terms with their gender. We are seeing trans youth and non binary youth feeling able to come out due to having a pretty good feeling thanks to research as to what is going on with them so they can better explain it to their parents.
This is not a “new phenomenom”, puberty tends to be a massive trigger for gender dysphoria and symptoms of dysphoria for trans individuals such as myself.
We are not seeing a sudden surge in trans men because they’re learning about being trans from online groups or social media sites, what we’re seeing is trans men finally being listened to and properly treated and helped instead of just telling them they’re more masculine than other girls or that they’re just a “tom boy” and that they’ll grow out of it. The so-called surge is nothing more than people finally listening to trans men and their needs starting to be met with more frequency instead of sweeping them under the rug while focusing on trans women due to society’s obsession with women and the desire to either silence trans women or hold them under the same microscope cis women are held under, waiting for the tiniest of flaws to show up so that people have something to use to attack the trans woman in question.
Because trans men were for so long viewed as just butch women or tom boys or essentially just masculine women, it is understandable that trans men finally being listened to and heard is going to look like some sort of surge. The thing is that we’ve always been here, we’ve just gone unnoticed by the vast majority of society and often ignored by medical professionals due to biases aimed towards women who don’t conform to expectations of gender.
Per the guidelines of rapid onset gender dysphoria, my dysphoria was rapid onset, yet it continued for over twenty years until it finally was treated when I started hormones on April 7, 2017 and when I had my top surgery on December 15, 2017. It took over 20 years to finally deal with and for the most part cure my dysphoria, yet per the guidelines set forth by the anti-trans group Transgender Trend, it was a rapid onset.
Perhaps…perhaps the pseudoscientific lies being put forth are not some sort of new trend or happening, but something that is finally being examined in a way that others can see it? Or perhaps we’ve always been there, dealing with these issues, and this is just another way to attempt to silence trans and non-binary youth and force them to conform to outdated expectations of gender just like what was done to LGB youth back when the DSM-II listed homosexuality as a mental disorder?
Perhaps the same “science” being used to invalidate trans youth is the same sort of “science” that was used to justify conversion therapy.
What are your thoughts?