December 10, 2020

It is difficult to measure the impact of culture on identity, especially sexual identity.  This review by Neil Shevni covering Abigail Shier’s 2020 book, Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing our Daughters, explores the impact social media is having on very young women and sounding an alarm.  In her book advertisement on Amazon Shier writes:

“Until just a few years ago, gender dysphoria—severe discomfort in one’s biological sex—was vanishingly rare. It was typically found in less than .01 percent of the population, emerged in early childhood, and afflicted males almost exclusively.

But today whole groups of female friends in colleges, high schools, and even middle schools across the country are coming out as “transgender.” These are girls who had never experienced any discomfort in their biological sex until they heard a coming-out story from a speaker at a school assembly or discovered the internet community of trans “influencers.”

Unsuspecting parents are awakening to find their daughters in thrall to hip trans YouTube stars and “gender-affirming” educators and therapists who push life-changing interventions on young girls—including medically unnecessary double mastectomies and puberty blockers that can cause permanent infertility.”



“Do we want to be loving? Or do we want to be perceived as loving? When our beliefs about what is right force us to push against the culture, what will we do? Will we follow the evidence and consider alternative hypotheses even if we see them heading in an unpopular direction?

These questions should haunt anyone who reads Abigail Shrier’s Irreversible Damage and encounters story after story of troubled teenage girls who embrace transgender ideology, pursing a course of social transitioning, hormone therapy, and even surgery. Many of these narratives follow a similar pattern: a normal girlhood with little discomfort, an awkward adolescence, difficulty making friends, the discovery of the online trans community, the announcement of a non-binary gender identity, increasing mental health problems, anger and misery, collapsing grades, and alienation from family. Some of the stories lead to total estrangement; others have happier endings. Butall of them embody a parent’s worst nightmare: a child falling deeper and deeper into chaos in spite of the desperate efforts of her family.

The Onset

The typical response to these stories is to suggest that the child lacked affirmation and a supportive environment. Yet the parents interviewed by Shrier make it difficult to sustain this claim. The majority of them were progressives who went along with the affirmation-only mandate of therapists and medical professionals. One set of parents was a lesbian couple. Another mom was a leader in PFLAG (the “first and largest organization for… LGBTQ+ people” according to their website). None of them seem to have had moral or religious objections to transgender and Shrier repeatedly states that she has no objections to adults transitioning. What Shrier and all of these parents have in common is a concern over the way in which gender transition in children is being affirmed, normalized, and lionized within our culture. We’re told that teenagers, elementary schoolers and even kindergardeners just know they are trans. But are we sure that’s the whole story?

One of the researchers who openly questions this claim is Dr. Lisa Littman, whose peer-reviewed PLoS One article on “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” (ROGD) created tremendous controversy when it was first published in 2018. Dr. Littman was trying to understand why countries “across the Western world… were reporting a sudden spike in gender dysphoria–the medical condition associated with the social designation ‘transgender.’ Between 2016 and 2017 the number of gender surgeries for natal females in the U.S. quadrupled… In 2018, the UK reported a 4,400 percent rise over the previous decade in teenage gender treatments” (p. 25-26). Dr. Littman investigated this phenomenon by interviewing hundreds of parents, 85 percent of whom “identified as supporting LGBTQ rights” (p. 28). Shrier writes:

Two patterns stood out: First, the clear majority (65 percent) of the adolescent girls who had discovered transgender identity in adolescence –“out of the blue”– had done so after a period of prolonged social media immersion. Second, the prevalence of transgender identification within some of the girls’ friend groups was more than seventy times the expected rate…The atypical nature of this dysphoria–occurring in adolescents with no childhood history of it–nudged Dr. Littman towards a hypothesis everyone else had overlooked: peer contagion. (p. 26-27)’…

The Cultural Current

“I want you to know that it’s okay to walk away from unsupportive or disrespectful or even abusive parents…I want to give you hope that you can find what we call your ‘glitter family,’ your ‘queer family.’ We are out there, and the relationships that we make in our glitter families are just as real, just as meaningful as our blood families” (p. 51).

These are the chilling words of 35-year-old transgender cyclist Rachel McKinnon from a YouTube video posted on Mother’s Day 2017. In her research, Shrier discovered an entire online community dedicated to encouraging, instructing, and guiding youth who are exploring whether they are transgender. She lists several mantras she heard repeated by numerous popular figures:

  1. “If you think you might be trans, you are.” (p. 44)
  2. “Trying out trans? [Breast] Binders are a great way to start.” (p. 46)
  3. “Testosterone, or ‘T,’ is amazing. It may just solve all of your problems.” (p. 48)
  4. “If your parents loved you, they would support your trans identity.” (p. 49)
  5. “If you’re not supported in your trans identity, you’ll probably kill yourself.” (p. 51)
  6. “Deceiving parents and doctors is justified if it helps transition” (p. 52)
  7. “You don’t have to identify as the opposite sex to be ‘trans’” (p. 53)

Videos making theses claims have tens of millions of views and trans personalities like Chase Ross and Ty Turner have hundreds of thousands of followers. Teenagers questioning their gender can quickly be sucked down an algorithm-generated rabbit hole into a Wonderland populated by colorful, charismatic stars all echoing the joys of finding their “true selves.” Yet some of this advice should strike parents as eerie if not outright alarming. Should YouTube personalities with no medical training be extolling the virtues of a Schedule III drug like testosterone or telling kids that if their parents don’t unequivocally support their identity, they’ll be driven to suicide?

Other social factors may also play a role in the transgender phenomenon. In Dr. Littman’s paper, over 90 percent of the girls who experience rapid-onset gender dysphoria were white…”

To read the entire review click here.