Okay, okay: “Gene-environment interactions” is a topic that comes in many flavors — including behavioral traits (phenotypes). It seems clear that “genetic susceptility” (genotype or, more genereally, ‘genetic architecture’) renders some persons more prone than others to be affected by social media (i.e. constant bombardment of environmental signals). Some of us in academia have discussed this remarkable “shift” (seen almost exclusively among Western cultures) in mindset that has been observed in “children of ages 10 to 30” over the past 10-20 years. Clearly, the internet — and subsequently the “instantaneous exchange of ideas and opinions” among young people wh have much more leisure time on their hands — represents an underlying cause of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) that is being seen in high schools, colleges, and young adults. Instead of simply “male” or “female”, some colleges now offer their students up to eight or ten “categories” of “what you feel like calling yourself, this semester.”
ROGD [see attached 2-page editorial] summarizes this trait — a “sudden unease, among teenagers and young adults, with the gender they were assigned at birth”. An incendiary publication about ROGD appeared in Aug 2o18 PLoS ONE [abstract pasted below], written by physician-scientist Lisa Littman of Brown University; her publication has infuriated transgender activists — leading to a debate about “academic freedom”, calling it “a flawed study that reflects an anti-transgender agenda.”
The study remains freely available, but last week, PLoS ONE announced it is conducting a post-publication investigation of its methodology and analysis. “This is not about suppressing academic freedom or scientific research. This is about the scientific content itself — whether there is anything that needs to be looked into or corrected,” PLoS ONE Editor-in-Chief Joerg Heber said. In order to appear “politically correct” (PC), Brown University officials decided to remove the university’s press release, highlighting this publication, from its website. It seems that many universities these days do not wish to offend their students, or the parents, rather than choosing to deal with any issue in an objective manner. And that is unfortunate. 🙁
Science 7 Sept 2o18; 361: 958–959
PLoS ONE 2018 Aug 16;13(8):e0202330.
Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports.
In on-line forums, parents have been reporting that their children are experiencing what is described here as “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” appearing for the first time during puberty or even after its completion. The onset of gender dysphoria seemed to occur in the context of belonging to a peer group where one, multiple, or even all of the friends have become gender dysphoric and transgender-identified during the same timeframe. Parents also report that their children exhibited an increase in social media/internet use prior to disclosure of a transgender identity. The purpose of this study was to document and explore these observations and describe the resulting presentation of gender dysphoria, which is inconsistent with existing research literature.
Recruitment information with a link to a 90-question survey, consisting of multiple-choice, Likert-type and open-ended questions, was placed on three websites where parents had reported rapid onsets of gender dysphoria. Website moderators and potential participants were encouraged to share the recruitment information and link to the survey with any individuals or communities that they thought might include eligible participants to expand the reach of the project through snowball sampling techniques. Data were collected anonymously via SurveyMonkey. Quantitative findings are presented as frequencies, percentages, ranges, means and/or medians. Open-ended responses from two questions were targeted for qualitative analysis of themes.
There were 256 parent-completed surveys that met study criteria. The adolescent and young adult (AYA) children described were predominantly female sex at birth (82.8%) with a mean age of 16.4 years. Forty-one percent of the AYAs had expressed a non-heterosexual sexual orientation before identifying as transgender. Many (62.5%) of the AYAs had been diagnosed with at least one mental health disorder or neurodevelopmental disability prior to the onset of their gender dysphoria (range of the number of pre-existing diagnoses 0-7). In 36.8% of the friendship groups described, the majority of the members became transgender-identified. The most likely outcomes were that AYA mental well-being and parent-child relationships became worse since AYAs “came out”. AYAs expressed a range of behaviors that included: expressing distrust of non-transgender people (22.7%); stopping spending time with non-transgender friends (25.0%); trying to isolate themselves from their families (49.4%), and only trusting information about gender dysphoria from transgender sources (46.6%).
Rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) describes a phenomenon where the development of gender dysphoria is observed to begin suddenly during or after puberty in an adolescent or young adult who would not have met criteria for gender dysphoria in childhood. ROGD appears to represent an entity that is distinct from the gender dysphoria observed in individuals who have previously been described as transgender. The worsening of mental well-being and parent-child relationships and behaviors that isolate AYAs from their parents, families, non-transgender friends and mainstream sources of information are particularly concerning. More research is needed to better understand this phenomenon, its implications and scope.
Or turning to religion. Or believing in AT LEAST SOMETHING.
Interesting email. Thanks for sending it. If you’re interested in a detailed discussion about the subjects (gender as well as academic freedom) I highly recommend the following book:
Galileo’s Middle Finger is a 2015 book about the ethics of medical research by Alice Dreger, an American bioethicist and author. Dreger explores the relationship between science and social justice by discussing a number of scientific controversies. These include the debates surrounding intersex genital surgery, autogynephilia, and anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon’s work.
Sent: Tuesday, October 08, 2018 10:21 AM
This is a topic that should be discussed while drinking beer. Personally, I think we put way too much emphasis on our plumbing, and the current onset of transgender is just one more rejection of limitations and labels.
In the end, why should we care which pronouns you prefer?