The growing poison of the ROGD myth
I hesitate to weigh in on this subject because a lot of people (including the usual suspects) are doing great work addressing the substance of the subject but sometimes perhaps I err in assuming that all of us are aware of and follow the same sources. So if I’m to attempt to add my voice, let me do so as sort of an overview of our story so far.
There are, you are surely aware, a number of sites created by and for Trens Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) who intend to shanghai modern feminism onto a trans-denying track based on biological essentialism. If you are underinformed on this I recommend some quality time with The Transadvocate. One of their popular recent strategies to that end is concern-trolling for unaccepting parents of trans kids. Sites like TrangenderTrend are designed to prey on and amplify the fears and anxieties of parents who find it difficult to accept that they may have a trans child. Often these are “astroturf” in that many of the regular denizens are not individuals at all but sock-puppet accounts operated by one or two people. 4thWaveNow for example is little more that the one individual who created it, and those innocents she has been able to seduce.
What these hateful people are doing is promoting an entirely fictional psedo-scientific term designed to sound like a legitimate diagnosis – “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”. Like Blanchard’s discredited (but still occasionally cited by anti-trans activists) “autogynophilia” garbage, ROGD is not science but rather a post-hoc rationalization for an observed phenomena that confirms the biases of the observer rather than seeks to account for the actual reason the phenomena occurred. Sadly, two Canadian reporters writing for different publications drug this quaint bit of quackary out of the dark corners of the internet and gave it “respectability” with articles in Canadian newspapers.
Like the prominent anti-gay rhetoric of the 70’s, the notion relies heavily on the idea of a “contagion” that must be guarded against. “Nothing against the ‘real’ ones” they profess (if any there be) “but we’re just worried about kids getting “sucked in” to thinking they are something they are not.” it’s an obvious bait and switch because if they can ever once legitimize the idea that someone can be deceived into thinking they are trans when they aren’t, then probably everyone who thinks they are trans isn’t either and, anyway, how could anyone be sure which was which?
The basic thesis is that where we see a rise in young people identifying as trans (which sane people figure out almost immediately has to do with reducing the social stigma of being trans) and particularly, an elevation in the number of cases where the child is already in the midst of, or beyond, puberty that many if not most of these kids are “contaminated” by exposure to trans peers, or the availability of trans-positive messaging online. They would have you believe that, even though they themselves cannot imagine any force in heaven or earth convincing them, personally, that they are the “other sex” that these, apparently weak minded and gullible kids will happily take on the burden of being rejected by their family, mocked socially, and treated as a pariah by the culture because…it’s the cool trendy thing to do.
Now of course, we understand that we spent, some of us, decades of our lives closeted out of fear. I did not have a “sudden onset” of dysphoria after I was in my 40’s just because I saw it online, I had experienced it for 35 years. Rather, once outside of the redneck Baptist bubble I was raised in and I could see a future for myself post-transition. It has been noted that at one point in history, being left handed was considered evil (the word “sinister” originate from a term for evil left-handedness) and as that stigma faded, suddenly there were a lot more left handed people. Not because people thought it was “cool” but because they were less likely to be accused of being a witch. Even so for these trans kids. They are blessed to live in a culture that is moving in the direction of acceptance, and one that’s interconnected enough to allow them to see beyond the bubble their parents (and typically their church) attempt to keep them in. There are not in any sense more trans people, there are more OUT trans people, naturally.
Now along comes what will surely be cited for the next decade or more by the theocrats and the TERFs as the “Littman Study” which is a study in name only. Lisa Littman is an assistant professor at Brown University and she purported to take a look at the reported incidence of this new phenomena. But she committed a fatal flaw in the very conception of her model. In order to find her data she sought out those who had commented on those TERF blogs which catered specifically to anti-trans bias and concerns. By even the most basic scientific standards this biased her sample irreparably. It would be useless for me to report to you what she claimed to have found since it’s the worst sort of junk “science” but it amounts to an amalgamation of a opinions of parents who think that since their child repressed any gender-nonconformity that they would have flagged as a “sign” prior to puberty, any profession of dysphoria thereafter MUST be suspect. In short, “help me rationalize my desire to reject my child’s gender profession.”
The telling point is that over 80% of the children referenced by the survey replies were assumed female at birth, despite the adult out-trans population being nearly equal in number. Why is this telling? Because parents tend to ignore or dismiss gender non-conformity in pre-pubescent girls to a much higher degree than for assumed boys. There’s a reason why “tomboy” is considered a friendly descriptor and “sissy” is considered an insult and demeaning. These parents are potentially people who did not flag their child’s gender non-conformity as worthy of notice rather than parents of a child who displayed none.
The results were initially published in an academic journal with Brown’s tacit approval. Now both the university and the journal are reviewing that decision after the study was heavily, and rightly, criticized on methodology. But it’s out there now, and the crowd of religiously motivated critics (and TERFs) have added it to the arsenal. These folks say “but SCIENCE, yo! See this study right here!” while citing bad work, or misrepresenting sound work – yet at the same time ignore mountains of scientific data which doesn’t support their bigotry. Just this morning I heard noted scientific scholars and masters of profound reasoning “Rick and Bubba” riff on this study for an entire segment and how horrible it was that people were trying to “repress” science because it undermined our politics. It was nauseating because that sort of presentation pours this information into the ill-informed brains of “common folk” who’ll never be exposed to the insanity of 4thWaveNow directly. And somewhere out there some child will trustingly come out to their parent and be crushingly rejected because these two bozos propagated bullshit bred from a toxic mix of sloppy “science” and bigoted assumptions – and there’s nothing directly you can do to scrape that garbage out of the brain pan of those listeners.
Which is why it’s vital work to swiftly and forcefully shut down the propaganda before it spreads.
Photo by: JD Hancock