Many young teens come to the realization that they are transgender through watching videos online, particularly on YouTube. There has been a dramatic increase in young people being referred for treatment because they are transgender. The increase is so large that many people, especially parents of young trans people, are beginning to ask the question if we are witnessing the phenomenon of social contagion.
This graph comes from an article about the rise of gender identity related referrals in the UK:
Source: The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Many parents of young people tell similar stories about kids who go on YouTube binges, and end up identifying as transgender, and then go on to wanting to transition medically. This is especially common for girls. So what are they being told in these YouTube videos? Let us have a look at one example:
[1:09]: Do you feel uncomfortable with yourself in some way? (…) There must be some sort of discomfort with yourself currently. Look inside yourself and think about the times where you may have felt discomfort from hearing your birth name, from being referred as though your assigned sex, or simply feeling discomfort on wearing the clothes off your back. Those are just general examples but really look inside yourself and think back on to the past of situations that really should have been taken as no big deal but they were taken as such and you never really knew why.
[1:42]: Have you tried experimenting outside your assigned sex? Maybe if you have an inkling that you’re trans, but you don’t know where to go from here. Try experimenting by wearing things that are not typical of your assigned sex, you know like wear T-shirts if you’ve been used to wearing dresses or something like that. (…)
[3:43]: Have you seen or are familiar with other stories of transgender people? If (…) you’re still somewhat on the fence, ah, I would definitely check out some other people’s narratives or stories, and find if you’re, if there are some that are relatable to you. Find like you identify, or you’re finding like, similar struggles with other people who are going through somewhat the same, similar struggles as you. (…) They will definitely be helpful to you, to help you figure out whether or not you are trans
There are three points about this video that should give you pause. One, viewers are urged to comb through their memories for any discomfort they recollect, and such memories are to be taken as signs of trans-ness. No other options are even acknowledged. Two, superficial preferences like clothing are taken as proof of trans-ness. Feeling comfortable in a T-shirt is a diagnostic sign. Three, the viewer is encouraged to delve into the stories of people with “similar struggles” to find experiences that are similar to their own. The video goes on to mention the video blogs of other trans people. This means that the viewer is encouraged to seek only confirming evidence. What if there are stories by people who felt the same way but were not actually trans? Such people certainly exist, as seen here, here and here (just a few examples), but these stories never come up in the types of videos shown here.
These YouTubers are giving young people bad advice. They mean well, but the results have chilling consequences when young people go on to medically transition based on the type of advice presented here.