The results of a recent gender identity study have a lot of people scratching their heads in disbelief.
According to a statewide survey that polled around 81,000 ninth and 11th graders in Minnesota, nearly 3 percent of respondents did not entirely identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
The findings show that almost 2,200 students involved in the survey identified as transgender or gender nonconforming — a much higher number than anticipated.
The results also come as a sharp contrast to a UCLA study released last year that indicated only 0.7 percent of youths — or around 150,000 in total — aged 13 to 17 identify as transgender in the U.S. It also concluded that only 0.6 percent (1.4 million) of adults identity as transgender.
The Minnesota study was first published in Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Many analysts believe the findings in the study are a result of a more trans-friendly climate in the U.S. that allows teens and young adults to more freely identify with the gender of their choice.
“With growing trans visibility in the United States, some youth might find it safer to come out and talk about gender exploration,” said Nic Rider, a University of Minnesota postdoctoral fellow who serves as an expert on transgender health, according to The Associated Press.
Rider argued that gender dysphoria has always been more prevalent than expected, but only now are more people who identify as such coming out of the woodwork.
In an opinion article in Pediatrics that accompanied the study, Dr. Daniel Shumer, a specialist in transgender medicine at the University of Michigan, argued that the survey’s findings prove that the transgender population has “been underestimated by orders of magnitude.” He believes the survey should serve to encourage physicians and schools to abandon conventional views on gender.
However, not all experts have reached the same conclusions.
Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council who focuses on human sexuality and gender identity, blames a culture that is too quick to point to gender dysphoria as the cause of common gender identity issues.
“People may struggle with their gender identity, but I think the transgender movement has confused people because everyone struggles with their gender identity to a certain extent,” Sprigg in an interview with The Western Journal.
“You struggle with relationships and with: what do I need to do to be a man, and what do I need to do to be a woman? What is the best way to express my gender and my sexuality? I think we have a situation now where kids who feel like they don’t fit in with the other guys or the other girls, or something, think: maybe I’m really transgender.”
“I suspect the politically correct answer for the transgender activists would be — they were there all along and they’ve been suppressing their true identity and now they feel more free to express themselves,” he added.
Sprigg disagrees with this assessment, arguing that culture plays a vital role in how teens perceive themselves and how they rebel.
“I don’t believe that explanation. I believe that this shows that people are influenced by the culture around them and dramatically so. I think you have a situation where — and I don’t mean to be flippant about this — kids who may be in a previous generation would have rebelled by getting a tattoo or a body piercing, now are rebelling by changing their gender identity. I think it really comes down to that.”
Sprigg also pointed to evolving reactions from parents who witness their children seemingly behaving opposite of their gender identity. In the past, parents who saw their young boy play with dolls may have not come to such a sharp reaction, but now, he argues, parents may be more inclined to believe their child is transgender.
“I think we are moving toward the idea that parents could actually be accused of abusing their child by not affirming their gender identity which is in conflict with their biological sex,” Sprigg said. “I think we are at a dangerous moment actually in our culture.”
Other findings in the Minnesota survey have sparked differing conclusions in the transgender debate. Echoing results in previous studies, the survey found that students who did not identify with conventional gender identities were much more likely to report other mental and physical health issues.
Rider pointed to discrimination of the transgender community as a likely reason for this, but Sprigg argues there are other factors at play.
“The transgender activists will say ‘oh this is all the result of persecution and discrimination.’ I think that this shows they are deeply troubled individuals who need help and we are doing exactly the opposite,” he said.
“We need to encourage them to be gender conforming if we want them to have better health. That seems to me the logical response, but that’s not the way transgender activists read that.”
Jason Hopkins is The Western Journal’s Washington, D.C., correspondent.
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