Andrew Sullivan claims that “[m]any social conservatives … actually do assert that trans people do not exist. They claim that trans people are lying or are mentally ill ….” I’m not sure I’ve met such people, unless Sullivan wants to sweep in everyone who uses the DSM category “gender dysphoria.”
But then he settles in and make what I think is the most pressing point that needs study and debate:
[I]t is surely conceivable that trans identity can be, in some cases, mistaken, especially when it seems to come out of nowhere in the midst of puberty. People who detransition later on life absolutely do exist, and they are often unable to reverse permanent alteration of their bodies and endocrine systems. And if teenage trans identity suddenly surges in popularity, it’s surely possible that faddishness or other psychological issues could be at work. The language of “contagion” and “cluster” outbreaks used in the paper does rub the wrong way — because it would seem to imply that being transgender is some sort of disease. But when you think about it more deeply, you realize that the “contagion” is not being transgender but being deluded into thinking you are.
And that seems especially possible given a sharp increase in trans identity among young women, mainly lesbians:
The adolescent and young adult (AYA) children described were predominantly natal female (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 neuro-developmental disability prior to the onset of their gender dysphoria.
What you’re seeing in other words is a big chunk of these women who would previously have become adult lesbians, suddenly deciding in adolescence that they have been male all along. Immediately we are in a zero-sum game: Among these teenagers, transgender identity is replacing lesbian identity. It doesn’t surprise me that some lesbians see this as a form of lesbian and female erasure.
But what truly baffles me is why transgender activists would not want this relatively new phenomenon to be studied. Surely it’s in the interests of transgender people that the diagnosis, whether trans or cis, be accurate — especially when it can lead to permanent, irreversible changes in the physical body: removing genitalia, or flooding a teen girl’s endocrine system with testosterone.