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A Term with no Scientific Background Created on US Websites

In 2016, the term ROGD (Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria) began to spread on the Internet, which refers to the allegation that due to social influence, young people who have reached their teen years (mostly girls) are not happy about their gender. Because it is said to happen suddenly and simultaneously in small groups, it was called a “syndrome” (Serano, 2019).

Before 2016, nobody was talking on the Internet of possible “socially contagious” behaviour and (in the future) so-called ROGD. In 2016, these terms brought up three US websites which are critical of transgender people and trans issues. The same websites often refer to each other and share stories and opinions of alleged researchers about how children are being influenced in social media to become transgender. These websites then made up the term ROGD and from there started presenting it as a factual medical syndrome. The information was quickly picked up and spread by conservative and extremist media publications and practitioners who do not support gender diversity (Serano, 2019).

There is no ROGD

In 2016, researcher Lisa Littman began researching the topic, and in 2018 she published her study, in which she also describes ROGD as a syndrome. She hypothesized a “potential new subcategory” of gender dysphoria in the ROGD concept – the distressful feeling that one’s gender and assigned sex do not match. Littman’s theory stated that young people with ROGD experience symptoms of gender dysphoria and self-identify (mainly online) as transgender due to peer influence, rather than dealing with their issues.

One of the problems with the research was that Littman tried to validate that there have not been transgender children in society and it’s a new topic. But Jules Gill-Peterson (Kesslen, 2022), associate professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and author of  “The History of the Transgender Child”, asserted that while the issue of transgender children has only recently begun to be discussed in the mainstream media, trans children have existed defining themselves based on their gender identity without medical or legal intervention long before the occurrence of actions related to the transition.

The Littman research article was accepted into a peer-reviewed scientific journal, which immediately received widespread criticism. A week after the article was published, the scientific journal acknowledged that they had to issue an apology for publishing the work and a revised version of the article, stressing that Littman’s work was “descriptive, exploratory” and had not been clinically validated (Littman, 2019). It asserts that Littman is not entitled to state that ROGD is a disease, disorder or medical condition based on her work. It appears that she did not check the validity of the hypothesis, but rather looked for evidence to prove her hypothesis.

In 2021, the Journal of Paediatrics published a comprehensive study that found no evidence of ROGD (Bauer et al., 2022). More than 60 psychological organizations, including the American Psychological Association, called for the term to be abolished (Coalition for the Advancement & Application of Psychological Science, n.d.).

A Dangerous Narrative

The “contagion narrative” has long gone hand in hand with gender and more broadly with LGBTQ+ issues. The contagion narrative has helped to create a series of new harmful narratives – “LGBTQ+ as the result of brainwashing, LGBTQ+ as a phase, LGBTQ+ as a desire to be like others”, etc.

It is dangerous to spread the narrative of contagion because it prevents people from discovering their identity honestly and openly and makes it difficult to talk about LGBTQ+ issues in education. In addition, the desire of such narratives is also to separate and imprison the LGBTQ+ community from each other, which makes it more difficult for them to support each other.


Bauer, G. R., Lawson, M. L., & Metzger, D. L. (2022). Do Clinical Data from Transgender Adolescents Support the Phenomenon of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria”? The Journal of Pediatrics, 243, 224-227.e2. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2021.11.020

Coalition for the Advancement & Application of Psychological Science. (n.d.). CAAPS Position Statement on Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD). Retrieved 25 September 2022, from https://www.caaps.co/rogd-statement

Littman, L. (2019). Correction: Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria. PLoS ONE, 14(3), e0214157. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0214157

Serano, J. (2019, February 20). Origins of ‘Social Contagion’ and ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’. Origins of ‘Social Contagion’ and ‘Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria’ | Whipping Girl. https://juliaserano.blogspot.com/2019/02/origins-of-social-contagion-and-rapid.html

  1. Not to be confused with the gender transition process of trans people. RODG is not about trans persons or their journeys.
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