UK: Transgender Agendas, Social Contagion, Peer Pressure, and Prevalence

Julia Serano Author of Whipping Girl (now in 2nd edition!), Outspoken (her latest book!), & Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive.

There has been a rash of anti-transgender articles published in the UK press over the last couple of weeks (I have no desire to link to them, but you can read rebuttals here and here and here). They warn readers about “transgender zealots” pushing “transgender agendas” designed to coerce young children into becoming transgender, and they are full of fear-mongering over “children sacrificed to appease trans lobby,” and claims that “transgenderism has become ‘an industry’.” These pieces, written from a politically conservative and blatantly trans-antagonistic standpoint, share something in common with their supposedly “trans-friendly” counterparts: You know, the articles that start out by acknowledging that transgender people exist and should not face persecution, but then pivot (under the guise of scientific and/or journalistic objectivity) to the possibility that some (perhaps many?!) children who socially transition may not be “really transgender.” These latter pieces will likely cite statistics about desistance, point to instances of people detransitioning, and/or raise the possibility that the apparent increase in transgender children may be due to “peer pressure” or “social contagion.”

I have critiqued these latter articles in Stop pitting detransitoners against happily transitioned people, and more thoroughly in Detransition, Desistance, and Disinformation: A Guide for Understanding Transgender Children Debates (and this follow up), so I will not be reiterating those arguments here. But one issue that I do want to address in more depth is transgender prevalence, as this seems to (mis)inform both the “transgender agenda” and “social contagion/peer pressure” charges.

It was not that long ago that trans activists constantly had to grapple with the (false) notion that being transgender was an extraordinarily rare phenomenon. When I was doing research for my book Whipping Girl in the mid-’00, the most often quoted statistics were from research carried out in the ’60s and ’70s claiming that the prevalence of transsexualism (basically, people who desire to transition) was 1 in 30,000 for those who were assigned male at birth, and 1 in 100,000 for those who were assigned female. More recent studies from the ’80s and ’90s suggested that those figures were more in the range of 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 30,000, respectively. But even these latter figures were still preposterously low; if they were true, it would mean that statistically there should only have been about 26 trans men in all of San Francisco at the time! (As someone who was active in the Bay Area’s trans communities, I can assure you that this would be a gross underestimate). Despite these inaccuracies, the cisgender majority seemed really attached to those statistics — they were cited and quoted over and over again — likely because they portrayed trans people as an extremely rare anomaly, one that could be easily discounted and readily ignored.

Part of the reason why those previous studies so greatly underestimated the trans population is that they were not counting trans people per se, but rather the number of people diagnosed with Transsexualism/GID from one of the few Gender Identity Clinics that existed at the time. Read more via Medium