On Abigail Shrier and So-Called “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”

I watched a speech delivered earlier this year at Hillsdale College by Abigail Shrier, author of Irreversible Damage. I haven’t read the book but it’s been recommended to me by people challenging my pro-transgender views. I must say I found Shrier’s talk very disturbing. She openly identifies as “conservative” though I would characterize her as a “right-wing ideologue.” I concede that she made a few points I consider potentially valid and worthy of consideration, but overall her I see her positions as reactionary. During the Q&A after her talk, several approving members of the audience characterized support systems for transgender people as the embodiment of evil or as part of a planned Marxist totalitarianism. Cleary these people see something they like in Shrier’s position.

Those opposing transgender people — or at least “transgenderism,” which to me is one and the same — place great emphasis on science. I would expect Shrier to do the same. Yet she quickly moves to sweeping conclusions that aren’t based on any empirical data. She speaks of “rapid onset gender dysphoria” among teenagers, claiming it’s caused by pressures in social media to be transgender. I guess if you want to be cool and fit in, you’ve got to be transgender. She doesn’t quote any studies supporting this and I suspect she would dismiss findings by the CDC that “43% of transgender youth have been bullied on school property, compared to 18% of cisgender youth.” Shrier also speaks quite disparagingly of the medical community and its support of transgender people. Makes me wonder how she feels about hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID.

I have another explanation for the increase in people identifying as transgender: it’s more an option now. Not that long ago it simply wasn’t.

In my high school 50 years ago, being gay wasn’t an option. Things were a little better in college but not yet for transgender people. Today is different. More people identify today as gay because the path has now cleared to do so with fewer repercussions. Fifty years ago many or most gays chose to marry heterosexually and live out their lives in the closet. The Pew Research Center found in 2013 that “younger gay men and lesbians are more likely to have disclosed their sexual orientation somewhat earlier in life than have their older counterparts. Some of this difference may be attributable to changing social norms” they report. To this point, the perceptions reflected in this chart would have been unthinkable 50 years ago:

The challenge facing transgender people today in 2021 is two-fold:

  1. In many ways, politically they’re back where gays and lesbians were when I came out in the 70s. Survey findings vary, but the percentage of people who report personally knowing someone transgender ranges from 20% to 42%. In 2016 the percentage of people knowing someone gay was significantly higher at 87%. In this case, lack of familiarity breeds contempt.
  2. Those opposed to LGBT rights have largely abandoned their fight against gays and same-sex marriage as a lost cause. Now they’re focusing their attention instead on the transgender community. They see them as a weaker, more vulnerable target.

All comments are welcome. I only ask that we remain civil and respectful of one another. If you clicked over from Facebook, please comment here rather than back there.

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