Erica Anderson — a 71-year-old transgender clinical psychologist who specializes in counseling transgender youth — has helped hundreds of teens gender-transition, the
Los Angeles Times reported.
But Anderson also has been outspoken in questioning the noticeably rapid rise in teenagers over the last several years who insist they’re transgender, the paper said.
What are the details?
Anderson told the Times that some trans-identified kids are falling under the influence of their friends and social media — and added that some in the medical field are failing to give teens rigorous mental health evaluations before recommending hormones or surgeries.
“I think it’s gone too far,” Anderson told the paper. “For a while, we were all happy that society was becoming more accepting and more families than ever were embracing children that were gender variant. Now it’s got to the point where there are kids presenting at clinics whose parents say, ‘This just doesn’t make sense.’”
Anderson — who began male-to-female hormone treatments at age 58 after decades of gender struggles — wondered several years ago if the rise in transgender youth really was just about disappearing social stigmas, the Times said.
“I think a fair number of kids are getting into it because it’s trendy,” Anderson noted to the
Washington Post in 2018, adding that “I’m not sure it’s always really trans. I think in our haste to be supportive, we’re missing that element. Kids are all about being accepted by their peers. It’s trendy for professionals, too.”
Noticing that some teens jumped from gender-questioning to trans to nonbinary to gay — and many battled anxiety, depression, autism, bipolar disorder, and other mental health issues before desiring to transition — Anderson believed something else was going on, the paper added.
Then the pandemic happened.
More from the Times:
As millions of teenagers across the U.S. went into quarantine in 2020, Anderson found herself meeting more and more parents who were startled when their children came out as trans. The UC San Francisco adolescent gender center where she worked saw a total of 373 new patients last year — up from 162 in 2019.
The teens tended to tell similar stories: They were in online school, had a lot of time on their hands and were spending more time on social media. TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, and even video games, allowed teens to craft virtual identities that they could then try out in the real world.
Online, a stream of transgender influencers and activists told teens that if they felt uncomfortable with their bodies, or didn’t fit in, maybe they were trans. Some coached kids on how to bind their breasts, how to change their name and pronouns at school, how to push their parents for testosterone.
“To flatly say there couldn’t be any social influence in formation of gender identity flies in the face of reality,” Anderson added to the Times. “Teenagers influence each other.”
Last fall Anderson granted an interview to Abigail Shrier, author of the controversial 2020 book “Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters,” the paper said, adding that Anderson told Shrier too many doctors were rushing teens into medicalization and that “sloppy healthcare work” would result in “more young adults who will regret having gone through this process.”
Many in medicine don’t agree with Anderson and say teens are capable of deciding what their gender should be without psychological assessments gumming up the works.
“Being trans or gender diverse is not a mental illness, and compulsory psychotherapy is not the standard of care in the gender-affirming medical model,” Dr. AJ Eckert — medical director of the Gender and Life-Affirming Medicine Program at the Anchor Health Initiative in Stamford, Conn. — told the Times.
Eckert — the state’s first out nonbinary trans doctor — added to the paper that “forcing transgender and gender diverse youth through extensive assessments while their cis peers are affirmed in their identity without question conveys to [them] that they are not ‘normal.’”
Eckert also told the Times that peer pressure isn’t behind the spike in youths saying they’re transgender: “Is it trendy to be one of the most marginalized and vulnerable groups?”
Patients in Eckert’s program aren’t required to go through therapy, the paper added.
“Giving over to hormones on demand will result in many more cases of poor outcomes and many more disappointed kids and parents who somehow came to believe that giving kids hormones would cure their other psychological problems,” Anderson told the Times. “It won’t.”
Here’s a video of Anderson arguing against the notion that any form of psychological counseling for teens who saying they’re transgender represents an attempt to change their minds:
Is Gender Therapy Conversion Therapy? With Dr. Erica