Emotional or mental health problems and traumatic events are factors – The researchers noted that the AYAs represented didn’t appear to be gender dysphoric as younger children. Yet, they did experience other mental health problems and difficulty handling their emotions in a healthy way. Additionally, many AYAs had recently experienced a traumatic event such as parents divorcing, sexual assault, the death of a loved one, etc.
Peer groups have a profound effect – To illustrate this point, the researchers gave this information: “The expected prevalence of transgender young adult individuals is 0.7 percent. Yet, more than a third of the friendship groups described in this study had 50 percent or more of the AYAs in the group becoming transgender-identified in a similar time frame, a localized increase to more than 70 times the expected prevalence rate.” The research also indicated that AYAs who don’t identify as transgender are also often subject to bullying from their transgender-sympathetic peer group.
Social media also has a significant effect – When parents were asked which sources they believe affected their child’s decision to come out as transgender the most, they listed: YouTube transition videos (63.6 percent); Tumblr (61.7 percent); a group of friends they know in person (44.5 percent); a community/group of people that they met online (42.9 percent); a person they know in-person (not online) 41.7 percent.
The researchers are calling for more studies to be done and, specifically, for clinicians to exercise a great deal of caution when deciding whether to administer transition-inducing hormones or surgery to young people. “When AYAs diagnose their own symptoms based on what they read on the internet and hear from their friends, it is quite possible for them to reach incorrect conclusions,” the study authors write.
While some of these findings might not be news for those of us working with children and young people, it is good to note the trends in transgenderism and gender dysphoria to better equip ourselves to be able to help. For many of us, we know a child’s peers and the media he or she consumes can have profound effects on him or her. Perhaps what we didn’t know is how insidious and misguided those messages coming from peers and social media can be.