The Tide Pod Challenge: How a teenage self-harm fad ought to be handled

by Overwhelmed

If you haven’t heard, the Tide Pod Challenge is all the rage with teens and young adults. Unfortunately, many of them have bitten into, ingested, and accidentally inhaled the liquid laundry detergent packets, leading to serious medical consequences. Several young people have even died.

Tide bottleWhy has the challenge become so popular? Well, this age group is not known for risk aversion or for considering the consequences of their actions. And many of them have a social media presence and strive to accrue “likes” and gain new followers. So when #TidePodChallenge started trending, some of them just couldn’t resist. They recorded themselves biting into laundry pods and uploaded it to various social media platforms. This in turn inspired more to join in the dare.

I’m sure 4thWaveNow readers can appreciate the parallels between the Tide Pod Challenge and Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria.  The same age group is involved. Both are spread by social contagion, which is greatly amplified by social media. And both cause medical harms.

Dr. Susan Bradley, longtime expert in childhood gender dysphoria, as well as autism, had this to say about Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) in a recent article in the Canadian journal Post-Millennial:

In my own practice, I have seen a good many young women displaying the phenomenon known as “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” or ROGD, which overwhelmingly affects girls.

Typically, the ROGD teenage girls I see have, wittingly or not, begun to experience homoerotic feelings about which they are conflicted. They tend to be socially isolated, and somewhere “on the spectrum.” They may have histories of eating or self-harm disorders.

They have found companions with the same attributes on Internet sites, which diminishes such adolescents’ sadness over their social isolation, but which can also lead to foreclosure of reflective thinking about their own feelings and situation. Some of these girls are depressed, afflicted with suicidal ideation. Because of the initial euphoria they experience in finally “belonging” to a well-defined kinship group, they tend to embrace the idea of transitioning wholeheartedly as the solution to their other problems.

I’ve been impressed with the actions being taken to stem the Tide Pod Challenge (which I list below). It gives me hope that when the serious ramifications of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria are eventually acknowledged, steps will be taken to curb it as well.

So, how have responsible adults acted to reduce the number of young people being harmed by the Tide Pod Challenge?

  1. Many journalists are reporting about it. The public is being informed of this trend, including the serious medical implications—seizures, chemical burns to the eyes which can cause temporary blindness, fluid in the lungs, respiratory arrest, coma, death.
  1. YouTube (owned by Google) has removed videos that show people taking bites of laundry detergent packets. According to a spokesperson: “YouTube’s Community Guidelines prohibit content that’s intended to encourage dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm. We work to quickly remove flagged videos that violate our policies.”
  1. Facebook has followed suit, deleting content off its platforms (including Instagram), stating “we don’t allow the promotion of self-injury and will remove it when we’re made aware of it.”
  1. Procter and Gamble, which owns Tide, is trying to turn the tide (sorry, I couldn’t resist) of this social contagion. According to a company representative, “We are deeply concerned about conversations related to intentional and improper use of liquid laundry pacs and have been working with leading social media networks to remove harmful content that is not consistent with their policies.” Tide has even enlisted a celebrity, NFL star Rob Gronkowski, to appear in a Twitter video informing people that Tide Pods are for washing, not eating. It has already garnered millions of views.

tide podsThis is exactly how a socially contagious craze that is impacting young people SHOULD be handled. I dream of more journalists honestly covering Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria and its associated often-irreversible medical consequences. I wish pharmaceutical companies would speak up and condemn the inappropriate, non-FDA approved, off-label use of their products. I hope social media platforms will restrict content that glorifies tweens, teens, and young adults altering their bodies via binding, cross-sex hormones, double mastectomies, and genital surgeries. It could easily be interpreted that cheering on medical transition already qualifies as a violation of YouTube’s policy of encouraging “dangerous activities that have an inherent risk of physical harm” and Facebook’s “promotion of self-injury.”

But unfortunately, the transgender rights movement is overshadowing this epidemic. I think the majority of the public is totally unaware that kids are being influenced, especially by social media, to believe that they are transgender. They become convinced their bodies are wrong and in need of drastic life-long medical interventions. The adults who are aware of this contagion are often afraid to raise concerns because they will be labeled transphobic (and potentially lose their jobs). Of course, this seriously dampens the opportunity for rational discussion on this topic. Mainstream journalists, particularly in the United States, have been extremely hesitant to cover it.

I have no doubt that Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria will eventually become widely known as a disastrous medical fad. Steps will be taken to curtail the damages. It’s just a question of when. In the meantime, parents of ROGD kids and their allies will keep speaking out. They’re doing what they can to reduce the number of young people who may eventually regret how easy it was to medically transition.

Unlike the Tide Pod Challenge, the spread of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria has gone unchecked for several years now. Thousands of young people and their families have been impacted. It has gotten so out of control that serious efforts need to be undertaken to counteract the nearly insurmountable amounts of misinformation, and help control this social contagion. This effort needs to be more than parents speaking out. Medical organizations need to review the science (not rely on trans activist ideology), reevaluate their stance on pediatric medical transition, and rein in rogue practitioners. If we have any chance at stemming this, it will have to be done on a grand scale from multiple fronts.

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Phase? What phase? Kid trans specialist dishes up the usual gender gruel

What would we do without the crop of gender therapists who seem to have sprung up like mushrooms after a rainstorm in the last few years? How did we raise our tomboys and “effeminate” sons before these specialists arrived on the scene to tell us naïve parents what to think and do?

windycity-times

This little tidbit in the Chicago Windy City Times is emblematic of the same sort of breezy, reassuring advice dispensed by the therapists I consulted when my own daughter was insisting she was trans. We hear similar gender-therapist stories every day from the parents who blow into 4thWaveNow like so many shipwrecked sailors.

Ariel Groner, the author of  this piece entitled “Transgender kids: Is my child just going through a phase?” is a gender identity therapist (specializing in kids 6 and up) at Chicago’s Juniper Center. The Center has a lot of predictable gender identity ideology on its website. The Windy City Time (“the voice of Chicago’s gay, lesbian, bi, trans and queer community since 1985″) seems to have simply picked up Groner’s piece from the Juniper Center’s own website—sort of like free advertising.

Besides promoting its therapy services, the Juniper Center also instructs parents on how to transition their children in the school system, including a quick mention of Title IX as a way to strong-arm balking school staff; as if President Obama did not singlehandedly reinterpret that statute to redefine sex as “gender identity” (a redefinition that is now wending its way through the US court system).

juniper-school-dos

But now to a quick review of Groner’s advice column.

Many parents come into my office asking if their child is identifying as transgender because it seems to be a popular trend.

Groner mentions Jazz Jennings, Caitlyn Jenner, the media attention given to trans issues, but instead of delving into whether there’s any truth to these worried parents’ concerns, she simply provides a crash course in Gender Identity Politics 101.

If a person tells you she identifies as a woman and is only sexually interested in women, many people would label her with the identity of being a lesbian.

She may fit the criteria for one’s definition of the term, but she never identified herself as a lesbian. Perhaps she identifies herself as queer. Instead of getting caught up in the terminology, make sure to ask what that person’s identity, or label/term that they are using, means to them.

Who you gonna believe—me or your lying eyes? A woman only interested in women=lesbian? No, don’t get “caught up in terminology” (more like, caught up in reality). Self-defined labels, identities, terms—that’s the ticket.

Just follow your offspring (or anyone else, for that matter) down whatever identity rabbit hole they are currently burrowing into. Whatever you do, don’t attempt to use your own brain to figure things out.

If your child is telling you that they are transgender or that they are struggling with their gender identity, do not dismiss it as a phase; get educated! There are great resources out there to help answer your questions.

But what if it is a phase? Shouldn’t this specialist with “advanced training” in LGBTQ++++++ youth entertain that possibility? Nope. Don’t use your critical thinking skills,  or any past or present knowledge of your own child. Get educated! Consult the great resources out there, including

a support group and/or in the form of a trans aware therapist.

Not just any therapist, mind.

Is the incidence of transgender increasing?

The truth is that trans people have been around forever. There is no evidence that there are more trans people today then there were 50 years ago. People do however, feel freer to explore their gender identity than they did in the past, thanks to a more public dialogue and acceptance, and they are doing so at a younger age. As a result, people are discovering themselves and being given a platform to do so that never existed in past generations. As our society becomes more accepting, people feel more comfortable being themselves.

It’s all so revolutionary! Forget the second wave of feminism, when women abandoned their skirts and makeup in droves and came to the realization that they could be or do anything they set their minds to. Those past generations of trouser-wearing dinosaurs? The tomboys who hung out in treehouses and played with gender-neutral toys instead of color-coded Legos? What did we from “past generations” know about how to “discover ourselves” without the “platform” of gender identity politics built and maintained by fawning therapists and sycophantic journalists?

But hang on. The gender identity specialist tells us it’s NOT about toys or even how the kids act!

Sometimes when children play with toys not associated with their birth gender, parents are concerned that they might be gay or transgender. Sometimes they are and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they are trans and still play with toys that are associated with their birth gender. Sometimes they are cis and only play with toys that are not associated with their given gender. The bottom line is, try not to focus on what they are playing with and how they are acting, and spend some time listening to them. Give them that space to explore without judgement or shame.

Good advice, overall—except for the “cis” and “trans” stuff.  So what makes a kid trans then? This is a trained therapist dispensing advice. There must be some diagnostic criteria.

For children, it is important to listen and validate what they are feeling. Some may know for sure, but others may still be exploring feelings of being different.

Right. So the key diagnostic criterion for a kid to be trans is that they “know for sure.” Turning the old parenting saw on its head, it’s because they said so.

Parents, listen up. Unlike all the generations before you, it’s not your job to guide your offspring based on your own accumulated wisdom or life experience,  nor your knowledge of your own children. You must never contradict your child.  It’s only and always about validating, listening, getting educated, and above all—never seeing your kid’s trans identity as a “phase” (even when it is).

Given that this therapist specializes in kids as young as 6 and has “advanced training in working with LGBTQ-identified youth,” it’d be nice to see some acknowledgment/knowledge about developmental psychology – stuff like magical thinking, obsessive interests, rigid ideas about gender and just about everything else, and, especially for tweens and teens—social contagion.

As someone whose daughter did experience a trans identity as a year-long phase, the pap spooned up by this gender specialist tastes all too familiar in its bland superficiality and circular reasoning: they’re trans if they say they are. PERIOD.

I encourage any parent reading this post to do two things: