Dr. Erica Anderson: Social contagion at work

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Para la version en espanol, vaya aqui.

In her January 4, 2022 opinion piece in the San Francisco Examiner, former USPATH president and WPATH board member, prominent gender psychologist, and transwoman Dr. Erica Anderson continues in the vein of her blockbuster Washington Post piece cowritten with Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper, saying “we are in danger of losing our way” when it comes to how we as a society help our gender-questioning youth.

In a nod to i-Gen researcher Dr. Jean Twenge, Dr. Anderson first notes how the pandemic has forced young people online in what is clearly becoming a “massive, unplanned social experiment. Even the tech giants have conceded in their own research that there is a new kind of addiction/attraction to certain content and a kind of contagion among select groups, especially adolescent girls.” [emphasis throughout this piece mine]

She then writes: “For example, some content on YouTube and TikTok includes ‘influencers,’ who themselves are barely out of puberty. They dispense advice to other young people, specifically encouraging them to explore their gender identity freely.”

Then, without explicitly noting the groundbreaking research of Dr. Lisa Littman, Dr. Anderson points out a key tenet of rapid-onset gender dysphoria: social influence.

Some influencers are literally encouraging the idea that one’s psychological distress may be because a young person is trans and is suffering from gender dysphoria. The remedy, they say, is to come out as trans or non-binary, which the influencers advise will alleviate their suffering. Welcomed into the company of other trans and gender creative persons, such young people may have found acceptance — though virtual acceptance, since much of this rapport is online.

-Dr. Erica Anderson

Of particular note to Genspect readers who have very much lived this experience, Dr. Erica makes the following assertion:

They also may be coached on how to navigate and/or control these issues with their parents, who they are told may not “get it.” Among the advice from these influencers is to make a quick social and gender transition, which may include a new chosen name and pronoun and access to gender-affirming hormones. Many of these influencers are literally dispensing medical advice.

-Dr. Erica Anderson

Dr. Anderson then underscores the fact that parents who have recently contacted her about their suddenly trans-identifying child “cannot recall any significant suggestion of gender creativity by their child prior to recent events, though many parents report previous psychological problems with their child.” She also notes the unprecedented rate at which she is being contacted by these parents, who are being advised by many therapists to immediately affirm the identity and go to a gender clinic, which in all likelihood will fast-track these kids to medicalization.

While minors still need parental consent for puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and surgeries, providers themselves are increasingly, in the words of Dr. Anderson “challeng[ing] parents and fuel[ing] adolescent rebellion.”

She points out that such activism on the part of providers is causing damage to families:

Often by the time I get involved, there has been set up a pitched battle between a youth whose interest is to hurdle toward life-changing decisions with enduring consequences and parents who are bereft and torn between the acceptance and affirmation they want to give their child and their terror about consenting to medical interventions they fear are not right for their child at this time or at all. Ominously, such parents are worried that the child will later regret such decisions and blame parents for allowing it.

-Dr. Erica Anderson

She then makes a pronouncement that has been blindingly obvious to parents for the last several years but consistently ignored by the research establishment: “Unfortunately, we find the research on trans youth has not kept up with what is happening….Some deny the reality of peer influence upon identity formation. Others decry the methodological approach necessary and consistent with best practices.”

Dr. Anderson concludes the piece with much-needed questions: “Why is this phenomenon distinctly different from previous ones? How is it possible that gender identity formation constitutes the only area of development in adolescence that is immune from peer influence?

Indeed, we await the answers with bated breath.

In the meanwhile, we thank Dr. Erica Anderson for her piece.

Image credit: SHVETS production, Pexels

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