Babylon aber, Bisexuality, Bryan Caplan, C. Bradley Thompson, Celibacy, Cisgender, Closeting, Critical Gender Theory, Critical Race Theory, Critical Theory, Disney, Emilie Kao, Feminism, Gallup, GayBCs, Gender Dysphoria, Gender Identity, Gender Support Plans, Gender Unicorn, Gender-Affirming Therapy, Generation Z, Grooming, Heritability, Larpers, Laurence S. Mayer, LGBTQ, Libs of TikTok, Marxism, Millenials, Misgender, My Princess Boy, Paul R. McHugh, Paul W. Hruz, Precocious Puberty, Puberty Blockers, Recruitment, Religiosity, Sexual Liberation, Sexual Preference, Social Justice, Socialization, Transgenderism, Transition, Transition Closet, Victimhood
The growing influence of critical gender theory (CGT) in schools is unacceptable to many parents, especially at early grade levels. In fact, it’s been coming from certain areas of pediatric medicine for some time. Like critical race theory, CGT is another branch of critical theory, which was developed by a set of European social thinkers in the 1930s. CT is fundamentally a Marxist construct, and it lies at the heart of nearly all appeals to “social justice”. C. Bradley Thompson offers this concise perspective on critical theory:
“The principal aim of Critical Theory was and is, first, to deconstruct the forms of domination and hierarchy (i.e., the power relations) found in traditional or bourgeois societies, and, second, to reconstruct society toward what it calls ‘real’ or ‘true’ democracy, which is a neologism for socialism. Critical theory seeks to liberate any and all ‘victim’ groups based on their inferior and subjugated social status in capitalist societies (e.g., non-whites, women, and LGBTQ+ persons, etc.).”
It’s fair to ask whether exposure to CGT in schools has any influence on the sexual orientation and preferences of students as they mature. That can be true only to the extent that these preferences reflect socialization, rather than other environmental factors or heredity. Apparently, most LGBTQ+ individuals are disposed to claim that their sexual preference is genetic. However, the claim that sexual preference is heritable to the exclusion of social influences is dubious. And there are other non-genetic, environmental influences that play a strong role as well.
Bryan Caplan discusses some fascinating generational differences in sexual orientation / identification revealed by a recent Gallup survey. Here, I reproduce the table shown in Caplan’s post. The sum of these categories (not shown) is taken as the LGBTQ+ share of each generation.
Taken at face value, those are extremely large increases over five generations… or even over two generations from millennials to GenZs, the gay proportion being the only category in which millennials and GenZs are reasonably close in 2022.
Another important wrinkle is that the share of older generations identifying as LGBTQ+ has been stable since the last survey conducted by Gallup in 2017, as shown by the Gallup chart below:
Millennials have increased by more than a third, and the LGBTQ+ share among Gen Zs has roughly doubled to 20.8%. Gen Zs surveyed in 2017 ranged from roughly 18 – 20 years of age, but that range was roughly 18 – 24 years of age in the latest survey. Therefore, the 2022 survey might capture a greater share of GenZs having “matured” into acceptance of specific sexual identities. Nevertheless, the levels and changes in these two generations are striking.
Caplan wonders how these increases would be possible if sexual orientation was predominantly heritable, especially given that these groups are unlikely to produce offspring at the same rate as the general population. The shrinking genotype / expanding phenotype paradox leads him to conclude that heightened LGBTQ+ socialization is generally responsible for the dramatic increases.
A number of Caplan’s commenters questioned his conclusions for one or several of these categories. At the risk of missing some of the nuance in the comments, I’ll attempt to summarize a few common threads: First, as Caplan himself notes, closeting is much less common than in the past. Therefore, increases in the reported shares of these categories might be illusory. Less closeting has brought little change in the responses of the older generations, however, and perhaps that’s because they tend to associate primarily within their own age cohorts.
Second, there could be environmental influences that have led to a smaller share of cis-gender males and females, as well as more “mis-genders” at birth. For example, anything that changes the flow of testosterone to a fetus in the womb might change a child’s sexual orientation, but whether some force has induced systematic changes in those flows over time, and across the population, is another matter.
Finally, the bulk of those claiming status as LGBTQ+ among millennials and Gen Zs are bisexual. For those who are otherwise heterosexual, identification as bisexual might be fairly “costless”. That suggests a possibility that the bisexual share may be influenced by status-seeking among GenZs, especially females. One joke goes “How can you tell if a girl is bi-sexual? … Don’t worry, she’ll tell you!” Thus, some commenters viewed the large increase in reported bisexuality as inflated by status seeking among what amounts to a kind of “larper” set. There might be so much emphasis on being open-minded about sexual experimentation among younger cohorts that minor incidents from childhood or adolescence are subsequently exaggerated into claims of bisexuality.
Obviously the reduction in closeting leads to greater social exposure of non-traditional sexual preferences, including exposure to the nation’s youth. That’s a powerful social change, and it creates an atmosphere increasingly conducive to further socialization of these preferences, if not recruitment. Like many trends, this one feeds on itself: this 2021 study found a positive association between men “coming out” as gay and state legalization of same-sex marriage, the presence of gay communities, and positive attitudes toward gays. Moreover, there are definite signs of social contagion, as demonstrated by this clique of teenagers who, one and all, suddenly decided they were trans!
What forces led to the cascade in LGBTQ+ identification among more recent age cohorts? As a group, the full LGBTQ+ coalition has greater visibility, political power in asserting “victimhood”, and potential for socializing the general population to alternative lifestyles. However, there might not be any single trigger spanning LGBTQ+ identities that can explain the trend’s genesis. Perhaps the trends were set in motion by the sexual liberation of the 1960s and 70s which, as a libertarian, is not otherwise something I find objectionable.
The rise of radical feminism might have provided a basis for some females to reject males as a source of sexual gratification (and companionship), or as an exclusive source thereof, at any rate. There’s a likelihood that this contributed to the rise in lesbianism as well as female bisexuality. Feminism also served as a pretext for identity politics, which relies on claims of victimhood and is therefore fertile ground for critical theorists.
Critical theory first gained significant ground in the U.S. at universities along dimensions of race, but gender and sexual preference weren’t far behind. This “social justice” perspective filtered its way into departments of education, where academic standards are exceptionally forgiving. This, in turn, led to more fertile ground for critical theory in elementary and high school education.
CGT promotes the idea that gender is a social construct. If an individual feels that he or she is not well-suited to their biological sex, then CGT holds that they should identify as members of the opposite sex and pursue any medical paths to transition as might be available. This view has increasingly been applied to younger individuals.
Paul W. Hruz, Laurence S. Mayer, and Paul R. McHugh (HMM) discuss the 1980s development of certain pharmaceuticals prescribed today to many children suffering from gender dysphoria. One might suspect that these drugs helped to set some of these trends in motion, together with so-called “gender-affirming” therapies that are now widely practiced. The latter involve therapists who accept and support the gender identity with which a patient feels most comfortable. Needless to say, this approach is likely to encourage a gender dysphoric youth to continue their exploration of a change in gender.
Synthetic hormonal “puberty blockers” became available in the early 1990s as a treatment for early puberty (so-called “precocious puberty”). At about the same time, the treatment was tested to stop production of sex hormones in adult males identifying as females. In the 1990s, the treatment was first used to suppress puberty in children with gender dysphoria, but the effects are supposedly reversible. Advancing to a full “transition” protocol involves the subsequent use of cross-sex hormones and ultimately surgical reassignment. Today, puberty suppression techniques are widely used on children with gender dysphoria because it is viewed as a safe choice that might “buy time” while other forms of maturation proceed. Here are HMM on this point:
“The use of puberty suppression and cross-sex hormones for minors is a radical step that presumes a great deal of knowledge and competence on the part of the children assenting to these procedures, on the part of the parents or guardians being asked to give legal consent to them, and on the part of the scientists and physicians who are developing and administering them. We frequently hear from neuroscientists that the adolescent brain is too immature to make reliably rational decisions, but we are supposed to expect emotionally troubled adolescents to make decisions about their gender identities and about serious medical treatments at the age of 12 or younger. And we are supposed to expect parents and physicIans to evaluate the risks and benefits of puberty suppression, despite the state of ignorance in the scientific community about the nature of gender identity.”
HMM also discuss the strong influence that activists have had on the medical establishment. This is summarized nicely by Emilie Kao:
“… the largest LGBT lobbying organization, the Human Rights Campaign and World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) influenced medical organizations like the Endocrine Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics to embrace gender affirmation over the last two decades. Jason Pierceson, author of Sexual Minorities and Politics, explains that ‘political activism and consciousness raising has also changed the way in which the medical community views transgender persons.’ He describes how this activism led the American Psychiatric Association to “abandon the mental illness paradigm of transgenderism” by changing the description in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to treat only the stress associated with gender dysphoria as a mental disorder. No breakthroughs in science or medicine led to the change, which was accomplished just by political activism.”
HMM do not claim that puberty blockers and gender-affirming therapy are at the root of increasing transgenderism. However, they express strong reservations about widespread use of puberty blockers among gender dysphoric adolescents.
We know that gender dysphoric youths have high rates of anxiety, depression, and even suicide. Unfortunately, transition doesn’t seem to alleviate those problems as a general rule. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that unhappy adolescents are nothing new. It can be an unhappy time for many kids who are full of self-doubt. Most of them get over it, however, and many with dysphoria get over it as well. One has to ask: does helping dysphoric children along the path to transition so early have any real gains in the aggregate?
What role have the schools played in the gender confusion? The answer is just as horrifying as the role of the therapists and medical doctors encouraging and overseeing the early encouragement of transitions discussed above.
“As early as 2007, for instance, California’s education code stated that gender pertains not to anything biological but to ‘a person’s gender-related appearance and behavior.’ Gender is, in other words, a choice and has no relation to biology. This means that children have a smorgasbord of gender identities to choose from.”
So this is not new and could well have played a role in the Gallup survey results, especially for GenZs. Read at the last link about such things as “Gender Support Plans” in the schools, teacher training in dealing with gender issues, a “children’s garden” where five-year olds can learn the difference between biological sex and “gender”, a kindergarten book called My Princess Boy, the GayBCs for ages 4 – 8, the provision of a “transition closet” in which kids change their clothing once they arrive at school, school nurses who provide puberty blockers to kids they evaluate as dysphoric, pronoun lessons, of course, and many other examples. Also see this article for further information about CGT in schools, including the “Gender Unicorn” first introduced in 2016 and now used nationwide, starting as early as pre-K and kindergarten. And for a running catalog of the outrageous lessons taking place in our schools, check out Libs of Tik Tok.
Other Causal Forces
There are other vaguely plausible explanations for the trend toward more common identification as LGBTQ+ among millennials and GenZs. The internet and especially social media come to mind. Small and large social contagions are frequent on these platforms. Pre-social media, members of certain sub-cultures, and dare I say outcasts, had more difficulty finding, communicating and sharing information with one another. Today there is much less friction in that regard. Social media is also a hotbed of misery for many individuals, afflicted all too often with feelings of inadequacy or a feeling that they are outcasts. Among unhappy youths, the suggestion to try something different, to join a new “tribe”, may be very tempting. The internet serves as a guide.
A phenomenon that might be related to trends in gender identity is an increase in celibacy and decline of “partner sex”, especially among younger individuals and men. While so-called partner sex includes gay sex, the trend in sexual identity is not about any decline in sexual activity per se, but about representations of sexual identity. The uptrend in celibacy is consistent with the hypothesis that some cisgenders, frustrated by a lack of sexual partners (as distinct from the small, mostly male and angry “incel” community), might seek out a broader array of prospects. However, I know of no actual evidence to suggest such a connection.
The entertainment world is certainly no newcomer to controversies surrounding sexual identity. Gayness has long been celebrated in the theatre community, to a fault. I love theatre, but the near ubiquity of the theme in recent years has grown tiresome. There have always been gay stars of the screen, television, and musical entertainment, though it was often closeted in the past. Gay and gender identity themes have become much more common in film, but it was only recently that Disney began to emphasize gender issues explicitly with the children’s audience in mind. Some adults and even adolescents must grapple with gender dysphoria as they always have, with varying degrees of success and failure. However, to subject an audience of young children to themes that are beyond their ability to comprehend, and for whom the early exposure is completely unnecessary, is not acceptable.
Finally, the decline of religiosity might play a role in the trend toward LGBT+ identities. For one thing, church-goers have one more place to meet potential mates. More importantly, traditional religion has nearly always frowned on homosexuality, at least officially, and the LGBT+ coalition is largely areligious. Therefore, it seems likely that the negative trend in religiosity might be related to the positive trend in the LGBTQ+ population.
There is no question that identification as any of various forms of LGBTQ+ has increased dramatically among millennials and GenZs, with the largest increase in the bisexual category. Bryan Caplan hypothesizes that the trend is one of socialization, if not recruitment. It seems likely that this is the case, though much of the LGBTQ+ community’s internal, personal recruitment is probably of the passive variety. In addition, it seems likely that some of the gap relative to older generations is due to a reduction in closeting as well as “costless” status-seeking among individuals who wish to be perceived as enlightened or woke.
It’s also evident that the portion of the medical establishment concerned with issues of gender identity, as well as schools and certain entertainment institutions, have adopted the extreme views espoused by critical gender theory. They are actively encouraging children to learn about and explore various gender identities. This may encourage gender dysphoria, and when children show signs of dysphoria they are encouraged to move to the next stage, which involves affirmative therapy and puberty blockers, A bit later, teenagers might move on to other hormonal treatments and later-still, sex-change surgery. Our major medical, educational, and entertainment institutions appear to be real sources of non-passive recruitment, and indeed, the grooming of children for lives as LGBTQ+ adults.
Credit for the image at the top of this post goes to the Babylon Bee.