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What is rapid-onset gender dysphoria?

Posted by / December 1, 2018

In the past several decade or so, Americans have struggled to understand what transgender identity, formerly called “transgenderism” is and where it comes from. Recently, some have observed that transgender identities have been rising––or seem to have been rising––at an exponential rate. One possible answer to why that might be is a fancy-sounding concept: Rapid-onset gender dysphoria.

Beneath the veneer of scientific language, though, lies much controversy. The term became more popular after the study above suggested that “‘social contagion’ may be a key driver of the purportedly rapid onset dysphoria.” In other words, rapid-onset gender dysphoria is not true gender dysphoria, but really a social phenomenon. Some psychological professionals have taken this concept serious.

Trans activists and authors, on the other hand, categorically reject it. This Medium post, for example, is extremely thoughtful and thorough. In brief, critics like this believe that rapid-onset gender dysphoria is a way of marginalizing trans people, turning transgender identity into a contagious condition, and justifying the rejection of trans people:

Transgender kids exist. They don’t have magical powers of persuasion to “turn” your child transgender. (If trans people did possess such powers, I can assure you that way more than 0.7% of the population would be transgender by now!) And if your child tells you that they are experiencing gender dysphoria, it isn’t because they’ve been “turned trans” by other children, or because it’s “trendy” (because seriously, it’s not — if it was, way more than 0.7% of the population would be transgender). Far and away, the most likely explanation is that they are simply experiencing regular old gender dysphoria. I encourage you to take them at their word, and give them the space to explore their gender and figure out who they are for themselves.


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