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Boys with Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Who Are They?

They’ve always been quirky and sensitive. They might have had difficulty fitting in with their peer group from an early age, experiencing intense social anxiety and isolation. Some of them were bullied for their differences.

For the most part, these adolescents and young men did not display early signs of gender nonconformity and don’t fit the DSM-5 criteria for childhood gender dysphoria. They only began identifying as transgender during or after puberty.

Prior to identifying as transgender, they likely struggled with one or more mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. Sometimes, a traumatic or deeply stressful event occurred immediately prior to  their “coming out.”

Many of these boys are highly intelligent, gifted, or exceptionally creative. Many have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or may exhibit traits of neurodivergence, such as hypersensitivity to environmental stimuli, issues with interoception (body awareness), difficulty reading social cues, or managing strong emotions.

They tend to be frequent users of social media and gaming platforms and often show a strong interest in anime. Some may be influenced by online pornography, but others display a marked lack of interest in, and even a distaste for, male sexuality and their own bodies. Those with attractions to men may struggle with internalized homophobia.

Like most adolescents, they desperately want to fit in. They may be painfully aware of how different they are from their peers and suffer deeply from feeling like an outsider. They often have a close female friend (or more than one) who acts as a transition cheerleader.

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