Adolescents try being transgender to be trendy, to stand out from peers, psychiatrist says

Lulu, a transgender girl, reads a book in her room at her home in Buenos Aires July 25, 2013. | Reuters/Stringer

An Australian child psychologist said that some children and adolescents are trying out being transgender because they want to stand out from their peers and be "different."

Psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Stathis, who runs a gender clinic at the Lady of Cilento Children's Hospital in the state of Queensland, Australia, said that he had a lot of adolescents who wanted to try being transgender because they thought that it is trendy.

"One said to me, 'Dr Steve ... I want to be transgender, it's the new black,'" Stathis narrated.

The psychiatrist said that many of the children he sees in his clinic are just confused about their sexuality and not really gender dysphoric.

He noted that many children are "getting their sexual identity mixed up with their gender identity." He explained that some of them are "gender variant," which means that they enjoy activities that are associated with the other gender but do not identify with it.

Stathis said that he had seen girls who have been sexually abused and wanted to identify as transgender. "The girls say, 'If only I had been a male I wouldn't have been abused,'" he recounted.

The psychiatrist explained that some children are desperate to be transgender that they start puberty blockers then progress to irreversible hormone treatment.

"I've seen genital mutilation, some who try to cut off their penis. The thought of touching their genitals is so abhorrent they don't wash them and get infections," he told The Courier Mail.

Stathis' observations are consistent with the findings of a study on gender dysphoria in children released by the American College of Pediatricians in 2016.

The 2016 study found that many children "self-diagnose" as transgender after social media "binges."

"This suggests that social contagion may be at play. In many schools and communities, there are entire peer groups 'coming out' as trans at the same time," the study stated.

The study also indicated that factors such as parental abuse and social reinforcement could influence a child mentally and such factors could "contribute to the development and/or persistence" of gender dysphoria.

Stathis supports giving puberty blockers, which stalls the development of sex-specific characteristics, to children entering puberty. He said that it would help children who identify as transgender avoid depression.

Although puberty blockers are generally considered safe, the American College of Pediatricians warns against their use as its full effects are still unknown.