APS Refutes ‘Social Contagion’ Arguments

APS Refutes 'Social Contagion' Arguments

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) today released the following statement in support of transgender people in Australia, and challenging the unfounded claim that social media influences the gender of young people specifically:

“Empirical evidence consistently refutes claims that a child’s or adolescent’s gender can be ‘directed’ by peer group pressure or media influence, as a form of ‘social contagion’,” APS Fellow Professor Damien Riggs said.

“To say that there is a trans-identity crisis among young Australians because of social media pressure is not only alarmist, scientifically incorrect and confusing, but is potentially harmful to a young person’s mental health and wellbeing.

“Claims that young people are transgender due to ‘social contagion’ serve to belittle young people by asking them to believe that their sense of self and their gender is nothing more than a by-product of what other people might think or say through the media.

“Further, describing awareness of being transgender as a form of social contagion implies that such awareness can be ‘corrected’ through psychological, medical or spiritual ‘conversion therapies’.

“There is no evidence to suggest that such approaches work in terms of changing a person’s gender. What such debunked ‘therapies’ do produce, however, are high levels of shame, disrespect and distress. So debunked are these ‘therapies’ that they are increasingly being rejected by policy makers and legislators across Australia in favour of affirming responses to transgender people,” Professor Riggs said

As a professional organisation committed to evidence-based practice, the APS opposes any forms of mental health practice that are not affirming of transgender people. The APS supports evidence-based strategies for responding to transgender clients, including:

  1. Affirming the person’s gender
  2. Challenging negative perceptions of gender diversity amongst family members (especially with regard to children)
  3. Discussing appropriate referral options for hormonal or surgical responses, if desired
  4. Advocating for the support needs of transgender and gender diverse people.

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