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Experts slam ‘stigmatising’ rapid-onset gender dysphoria concept

More international expert organisations have signed a statement condemning the concept of ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria’ (ROGD).

ROGD is a spurious ‘phenomenon’ that is not medically recognised but sometimes used to support transphobic rhetoric.

It refers to apparently sudden gender dysphoria in trans and gender diverse young people and is used to undermine the legitimacy of their gender and deny transition, particularly for trans boys. 

However, the concept of ROGD is based on a single, biased 2018 research paper that was later corrected by the journal PLoS One

‘No evidence’

The Coalition for the Advancement & Application of Psychological Science (CAAPS) this week released a position statement on ROGD, signed by three dozen member organisations including the American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, and Society for Research in Child Development. 

The group “supports eliminating the use of ROGD and similar concepts for clinical and diagnostic application given the lack of rigorous empirical support for its existence”.

“There are no sound empirical studies of ROGD and it has not been subjected to rigorous peer-review processes that are standard for clinical science,” the statement reads. 

“Further, there is no evidence that ROGD aligns with the lived experiences of transgender children and adolescents.”

CAAPS states that the concept of ROGD has “significant potential for creating harm”.

Following a review of the single paper on ROGD, the 2019 correction in PLoS One clarified that the study had relied only on reports from parents and did not “validate the phenomenon”.

ROGD is not a diagnosis and is not recognised by any medical body or classification publication.

The CAAPS statement notes the importance of addressing misinformation given the transphobic climate affecting gender diverse people, with “over 100 bills under consideration in legislative bodies across the [US] that seek to limit the rights of transgender adolescents, many of which are predicated on the unsupported claims advanced by ROGD”.

“Terms, such as ROGD, that further stigmatise and limit access to gender-affirming and evidence-based care violate the principles upon which CAAPS was founded and public trust in clinical science,” the statement reads.

More condemnation of ROGD

Expert bodies on trans health have previously spoken out against the idea of ROGD.

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) decried ROGD in 2018, stating that “it constitutes nothing more than an acronym created to describe a proposed clinical phenomenon that may or may not warrant further peer-reviewed scientific investigation”.

“WPATH also urges restraint from the use of any term – whether or not formally recognised as a medical entity – to instil fear about the possibility that an adolescent may or may not be transgender with the a priori goal of limiting consideration of all appropriate treatment options,” the organisation stated.

The Australian Professional Association for Trans Health (AusPATH) in 2019 similarly stated that ROGD failed to meet “high levels of scientific scrutiny of the evidence-based literature”.

“Whilst many have a clear picture of their gender from a very early age, for others the journey towards understanding their gender is more prolonged,” the AusPATH statement read. 

“The timing of when an individual discloses their gender to others is a separate consideration and does not necessarily reflect the development of their experienced gender. 

“Many do not disclose their identity, rather hiding it for fear of negative reactions from others, including family rejection, discrimination, stigmatisation and social exclusion. 

“The term ROGD is not, and has never been, a diagnosis or health condition but has been used in a single report describing parental perception of their adolescent’s gender identity without exploration of the gender identity and experiences of the adolescents themselves.”

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