In my freshly published book, Across the Kitchen Table, my very first endnote cites the most recent follow up on anxious young girls spontaneously going trans along with their friends, a phenomenon characterized these days with the somewhat misleading label, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.” I now see that this referenced study has swiftly become, for want of a better word, disgraced.
The reference is: Suzanna Diaz and J. Michael Bailey, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Parent Reports on 1655 Possible Cases,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 52 (2023):1031–1043. This was a nice piece of survey work, published March 29, 2023. The paper is as boring as any sociology paper ever written, including Lisa Littman’s, but I was happy when it came out. Because it highlighted how trans id is really kind of fishy when large groups of vulnerable young women, in the throes of adolescence, simultaneously get the same idea: assuming a boy identity will solve their body discomfort and physical shape fears.
Trans might be cool in your teen’s high school, but it is not cool among adults to talk about it. It doesn’t matter what kind of credentials the adults may have. It doesn’t matter how boring the article is. That explains why “Suzanna Diaz” is not the first author’s real name. She felt compelled to use a pseudonym.
In response to lobbyists, Springers Nature Group yanked the paper on June 14, citing “non-compliance.” Yes, non-compliance was the long and short of it. The publisher thus dubbed the 13 page research the latest survey-study-which-should-not-be-studied. The second author, Michael Bailey at Northwestern tells the story with justifiable outrage. He has been a professor for over 30 years, published over 100 academic articles and is well-respected in his field. No one has ever retracted a paper of his before. This article about the article is far more interesting to read.
The bizarre thing is that researchers have studied the power of co-rumination to cause disorders for many years. Co-rumination just means extensive and frequent discussion, speculation, and focus on negative feelings related to personal problems with close friends. Doctors assume it now in discussing the spread of anorexia and bulimia. Rebecca A. Schwartz-Mette and Amanda J. Rose, for example, give a good overview in “Co-Rumination Mediates Contagion of Internalizing Symptoms Within Youth Friendships,” Developmental Psychology 2012 Sep; 48(5):1355-65. Consider the statement this paper casually makes (minus all the references):
Considerable research supports peer socialization in adolescence. Peer contagion has been documented for deviancy, self-injury, and internal states such as body image. Moreover, there is a strong conceptual basis for predicting contagion of internalizing symptoms in youths’ friendships. Coyne’s interpersonal theory of depression (1976) posits that a risk factor for depression is contact with a depressed person. In fact, among adults, depression contagion has been documented between strangers, roommates, spouses, and friends.
In other words, diagnosable disorders often spread through peer groups by focused communication about it, especially in youth. Schwartz-Mette and Rose go on to document anxiety contagion in friendships. But activists don’t get publishers to retract papers like this. So, it is cool to study social contagion, except when it involves gender dysphoria.
As I explain in the book, the Bible gives us a fuller answer to the shame that these youth are experiencing. The social scientists that are poking around that answer, and getting close to it, receive sharp slaps on the wrist.
But there is only so long one can keep parents desperate for answers from naming the problem that must not be named.