Trendy to be Transgender: Child Psychologist Says Many Kids Confused on Gender Identity

To some children, being transgender "is the new black."

Jazz Jennings, a young teen who was born a boy and identifies as a girl, participates in the New York City Pride parade in 2016. Jennings is one of the youngest U.S. transgender icons, regularly seen on television and YouTube. An Australian child psychologist recently said many children are identifying as transgender despite not having actual gender dysphoria. A recent academic study supports this, partly attributing a rise in transgender youth to "social contagion." 

By Liberty McArtor Published on April 11, 2017

An Australian child psychologist said that to some children, being transgender “is the new black.”

Many of the children Stephen Stathis sees in his gender clinic are actually confused about their sexuality. They could also be desiring to stand out, Heatstreet reported Monday.

Stathis runs his gender clinic at the Lady of Cilento Children’s Hospital in the state of Queensland, Australia. It began after Stathis received so many referrals for gender issues that his appointment waiting list jumped to two years.

Gender “Variant,” Not Dysphoric

Stathis has diagnosed children as genuinely transgender — including a 3-year-old boy (now 9) who identifies as a girl. But he says not all his patients are actually gender dysphoric.

In a recent interview with Brisbane Times, Stathis said many children are “getting their sexual identity mixed up with their gender identity.” Others are “gender variant.” This means they enjoy activities associated with the other gender, but don’t identify with it.

This is especially common among boys, he said. Girls who enjoy masculine toys or activities are usually considered tomboys. Boys “put on a pink tutu and you’re off to see the doctor.”

Some girls who had been sexually abused told Stathis they wanted to transition. They thought they wouldn’t have been abused as a boy.

“It became really, really complex,” he admitted.

Social Contagion

In 2016 the American College of Pediatricians released a study of gender dysphoria in children. It confirmed Stathis’ experiences.

According to the study, many children “self-diagnose” as transgender after social media “binges.” “This suggests that social contagion may be at play,” the study says. “In many schools and communities, there are entire peer groups ‘coming out’ as trans at the same time.”

The study further suggests that factors like parental abuse and social reinforcement influence a child mentally. These factors can “contribute to the development and/or persistence” of gender dysphoria.

After Puberty, Nevermind

Stathis supports giving puberty blockers to children entering puberty. (Blockers stall the development of sex-specific characteristics.) He says they help children who identify as transgender avoid depression.

He’s seen many children attempt to cut off body parts or avoid regular hygiene because they are ashamed of their genitalia, he told the Times. But he’s also seen children who aren’t really “gender dysphoric” obtain hormones illegally.

“There may be other issues going on and that needs to be worked through,” he said.

Stathis requires prepubescent children to live transgender for six months before taking puberty blockers. At 16 they can choose to start cross-sex hormone treatment. But most of them don’t.

“About 75 per cent of boys and girls who present with gender variant interests and behaviours” don’t follow through, Stathis told the Times. (The American College of Pediatricians says 80-95 percent of gender-disphoric children without “social affirmation” come out of puberty fine.) He continued:

You might get a six or seven-year-old girl wanting to dress as a boy. She may even say she wants to be a boy. When she hits puberty, she says ‘no, I’m just a girl who likes to do boy things’.

A 2008 study concluded the same thing. It noted that “most children with gender dysphoria will not remain gender dysphoric after puberty.”

Dangers of Blockers and Cross-Sex Hormones

The full effects of puberty blockers are unknown, but they are generally considered safe. Even so, the American College of Pediatricians warns against their use. The study claims that over 40 gender clinics in the U.S. support the use of blockers and even cross-sex hormones. Cross-sex hormones present a myriad of known health risks. They can also irreversibly damage one’s fertility.

PBS reported in 2015 that some children in the U.S. started cross-sex hormone treatment as young as 13-years-old. Official guidelines suggest 16 as the minimum age. This is despite the fact that there is no “single large, randomized, controlled study that documents the alleged benefits and potential harms,” the American College of Pediatricians finds.

“This should give everyone pause,” the study says.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Comments ()
The Stream encourages comments, whether in agreement with the article or not. However, comments that violate our commenting rules or terms of use will be removed. Any commenter who repeatedly violates these rules and terms of use will be blocked from commenting. Comments on The Stream are hosted by Disqus, with logins available through Disqus, Facebook, Twitter or G+ accounts. You must log in to comment. Please flag any comments you see breaking the rules. More detail is available here.
Inspiration
On Hasty Decisions in Tense Times
John Mark Reynolds
More from The Stream
Connect with Us