Order of the T

Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our DaughtersAbigail ShrierRegnery, 2019; 287 pages, $21.99 An acquaintance of mine grew up in a 1950s Roman Catholic milieu with the understanding that there were three sexes: men, women, and nuns. Religious sisters were less scarce in those days, and before Vatican II, their appearance was more distinctive. The habit communicated otherness (and unavailability) simply by virtue of its being worn. It also veiled many features of the wearer. That a child would look on such a person and feel that neither male nor female quite described her appearance is understandable. Children are still likely to encounter individuals of indeterminate sex at restaurants, parks, stores, and schools. These are people whose hair, build, clothing, and mien do not add up with the typical clarity. Most adults will mentally categorize these people under the “T” of LGBT for ease, if not strict accuracy. But what is the deal with these Ts, and where did they come from? According to Abigail Schrier’s Irreversible Damage, the last ten years have seen a 1,000% increase in their numbers in the U.S. And there is another departure from ages past: historically, most gender dysphoric people were males whose sexual confusion began in early childhood. The recent precipitous rise in the T population is largely due to an unprecedented number of adolescent girls. Whatever the true nature of transgender identity, its novel spike in occurrence among teen girls is bewildering. Schrier distinguishes this group from Desmond is Amazing and Caitlin Jenner types of Ts—as does the scientific record. Prior to 2012, Schrier finds, there was no research at all on gender dysphoria in females between 11 and 21. “Gender identity disorder,” as it was previously known, was measured in only .01% of the population, nearly all male. It also self-resolved in 70% of cases. But the year 2016 saw a quadrupling of sex reassignment surgeries among females, and the first time more women than men underwent them. Schrier’s investigation leans on the research of Lisa Littman, a physician and researcher at Brown University. Some years back, a rash of announcements of transgender identity among teens in Littman’s town caught her attention. She conducted a study of parent reports from families with a trans-identifying adolescent and found two curiosities. First, most girls claiming transgender identity made the announcement after spending a lot of time on social media. Second, there was an astronomically higher rate of transgender identification within friend groups than in the general population. Littman concluded that the newly female and adolescent incidence of transgender identification looked more like peer contagion than anything else. “Littman never suggested that gender dysphoria doesn’t exist or that these girls didn’t have it,” Schrier writes. “What she hypothesized was that these adolescents’ gender dysphoria had
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