Sorry, Lisa, Kids Don’t Become Trans* By Surfing the Internet

transgender advocacy

This weekend, I spent a fabulous time with a group of queer folks celebrating 15 years of hosting safe spaces for LGBTQ performers. My time was well spent because (1) I’m queer AF and (2) we live in an age where we still need to ensure safe space for marginalized communities and I was proud to help make that happen.

Imagine my dismay, then, when I’m out at a potluck on Sunday and I got tagged in a facebook post. A mom in an educational circle I belong to was asking for resources to support their child who’s coming out as trans*. The problem wasn’t the request – it was the response from a Philadelphia-based clinical social worker pushing false information cloaked in the presumably well-intentioned term: rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD).

From my best google and twitter searches, ROGD seems to be a term coined in mid-2016 by an adjunct professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. This trans-phobic concept claims a social epidemic stemming from kids spending too much time on the Internet causes kids to falsely believe they are transgender. (Yup, you read that right.)

No peer-reviewed research exists on ROGD, but you will find people self-publishing dire parental warnings on sites such as and The basic claim goes something like this:

  1. Parents are blindsided by a teen or tween’s coming out as trans*
  2. Parents report that the coming out was precipitated by an increase in time spent on social media
  3. The “social contagion” of social media misguides impressionable young people – especially girls
  4. ROGD proponents warn, the resultant medical intervention leads to post-transition regrets and/or suicide for the not-really-trans* person


The folks at Gender Analysis with Zinnia Jones offer an excellent take down of ROGD – and I encourage you to read their work.

As an educator, an advocate, and a decent human being who believes in promoting truth, I will offer readers a different take on processing the surprise you may experience, in the event your child trusts you to tell you that they are transgender.

  • Just because you did not see signs of gender variant behavior when your child was younger does not mean your child has not been struggling with gender identity issues internally for years. Kids hold all kinds of big, dark, heavy secrets for years – waiting for the right time to find someone they trust to tell.
    Key take-away: The internet does not make anyone trans*.

  • The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism just published Endocrine Treatment of Gender-Dysphoric/Gender-Incongruent Persons: An Endocrine Society* Clinical Practice Guideline. You can download the 35-page paper for free OR you can read a summary of the peer-reviewed recommended best-practices on our sister-site.
    Key take-away: Contrary to what ROGD proponents want you to believe, medical and mental health experts DO NOT generally recommend hormones before 16 or surgical interventions for trans* youth before the age of 18.

  • No credible study exists that shows a significant correlation with trans* kids committing suicide just because they transitioned. Sadly, trans* folks do suffer higher rates of suicide than the general population before, during, and after transitioning. But – and this is hugely important – substantial research has shown that suicide risk increases with the rate of family rejection of the trans* person.
    Key take-away: Love your child unconditionally. Refusing to love your child because they cannot conform to your traditional notion of the gender-binary has the potential to cause greater harm than any hormones they may or may not take.

  • As a parent, you will go through a grieving process as you will need to let go of the dreams you had for your child – those visions of seeing your little girl be a beautiful bride and mom like you were OR your little boy growing up to be just like the fine man you married. Your feelings of loss and regret are natural.
    Key take-away: “Lost dreams” you have for your child will eventually be replaced by a person who will be more more self-confident, happier, and more alive than you will have ever seen before.

So, Lisa Marchiano – yes, I’m calling you out by name because you are one of the most egregious offenders in promoting ROGD – please go back to your fairy tale musings about daddy complexes. Unless you have special training in gender dysphoria, hormone blocking, and gender-affirming therapies for adolescents, you are violating ethical standards by peddling misinformation to families who are seeking to understand how to best help their children struggling with gender identity.

And to the parents and professionals who may find themselves swayed by the ROGD arguments that if the internet can persuade kids to be trans*, then maybe parents can make them gender-binary, again – There is NO national movement to redefine the research base on transgender youth.

ROGD is a fringe concept with no mainstream backing. In fact, research institutions are actually refusing to fund this hate-fueled topic.

More Resources to Help You Be a Better Trans* Ally



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.