Prior to 2012, in fact, there was no scientific literature on gender dysphoria arising in teenage girls. Dr. Lisa Littman, then a Brown University public health researcher, used the phrase “rapid onset gender dysphoria” to refer to the subsequent sudden spike in transgender identification among teenage girls with no childhood history of gender dysphoria.
This spike is not unique to America—we see it across the Western world. To offer just one statistic, there has been a decade-to-decade increase of over 4,400 percent in the number of teenage girls seeking treatment at the United Kingdom’s national gender clinic. Across the West, teen girls are now the leading demographic claiming to have gender dysphoria.
What is behind this is social contagion—the spread of ideas, emotions, and behaviors through peer influence, one more instance of teenage girls sharing and spreading their pain. There is a long history of social contagion with this demographic—anorexia and bulimia are also spread this way. And we know that teen girls today are in the midst of the worst mental health crisis on record, with the highest rates of anxiety, self-harm, and clinical depression.
The teen girls susceptible to this social contagion are the same high-anxiety, depressive girls who struggle socially in adolescence and tend to hate their bodies. Add to that a school environment where you can achieve status and popularity by declaring a trans identity. Add to that the teenage temptation to stick it to mom. Also add the intoxicating influence of social media, where trans activists push the idea that identifying as trans and starting a course of testosterone will cure a girl’s problems. Put those together, and you have a fast-spreading social phenomenon.