The number of young Americans who describe themselves as “transgender” has exploded over the past decade, increasing by a factor of 20 to 40, according to gender clinic referral data and a recent Williams Institute report based on surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Why?
author of the report, calls that a “bewildering question.” Clinical psychologist
tweeted that the surge “defies explanation. . . . Something is going on that we don’t yet understand.”
The two leading explanations are greater social acceptance and social contagion. Both are likely contributing factors, but I think the main reason is simpler. It comes down to a change in terminology.
Until recently, the term “transsexual” referred to people with a cross-sex identity, a desire to be the opposite sex or even a diagnosis of gender dysphoria. “Transgender,” the favored term now, is far broader. It encompasses mere nonconformity with rigid traditional sex roles. If you’re a tomboy or a feminine boy—if your expression or behavior is different from what is “typically associated” with your sex based on “traditional expectations”—you’re transgender. No wonder so many young people think they need medical help to “correct” their sex.
This idea is propagated by important scientific and medical organizations:
• Planned Parenthood provides services to transgender patients at all its locations, and in 2020 described itself as America’s “second largest provider of gender affirming hormone care.” Its website defines “gender” as “a social and legal status, and set of expectations from society, about behaviors, characteristics, and thoughts” and asserts that “it’s more about how you’re expected to act, because of your sex.” The “gender binary” is defined as “the idea that gender is strictly an either/or option of male/men/masculine or female/woman/feminine based on sex assigned at birth,” and “nonbinary” as a “rejection of the gender binary’s assumption that gender is strictly an either/or option of male/man/masculine or female/woman/feminine based on sex assigned at birth.”
• The American Psychological Association, which establishes the norms for clinical practice in the U.S., defines “transgender” as “an umbrella term for…