Social Media, Schools, and the Secret Rise of Transgender Children: The New ‘Social Contagion’

By Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Reporter
Patricia Tolson is an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter who has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo! U.S. News and The Tampa Free Press. Her focus is covering political events and developments throughout the southeastern United States, which may have an impact on the nation as a whole.
August 23, 2021 Updated: August 24, 2021

In the midst of isolation under COVID-19 quarantines and school lockdowns, a new “social contagion” has quietly crept into homes to infect and transform children, some parents say. It was given a name in a 2018 study: rapid-onset gender dysphoria.

Now, parents are sounding the alarm.

In September 2020, January Littlejohn of Tallahassee, Florida, was shocked when her 13-year-old daughter inadvertently revealed a secret. School officials wanted to know which bathroom she preferred to use “as a result of her requested name change.” More shocking was her discovery of a plan devised during a private meeting between her daughter and school officials without her knowledge or consent.

“She was so flippant about it,” Littlejohn told The Epoch Times, “and what I’ve come to understand is these kids claiming transgender identities out of the blue have no idea of the scope or scale of what they are saying, things they are asking for in terms of hormones and surgery. It’s like they’re asking to get a nose ring or their hair dyed or a piece of clothing they know their parents are going to reject.

“In many ways, this has become a new source of teenage rebellion, but the long-term consequences are much more severe.”

Littlejohn, who is a licensed mental health counselor, says that adopted school policies regarding transgender students “reinforce the confusion they may be experiencing and affirm in their adolescent brain that they were born the wrong gender.”

“The schools have moved past the position of affirming and are now encouraging and celebrating,” she said.

“Schools are also creating a huge wedge between gender-confused children and their parents. Further, by excluding parents, other mental health issues that often times accompany a transgender identity, such as depression and anxiety, may go unchecked and unresolved.”

According to the Leon County School District’s transgender gender nonconforming student support plan—filled out during the private meeting and obtained exclusively by The Epoch Times—a Part A “checklist” was used to record the child’s new non-binary status, “preferred name,” and “preferred pronouns.” The child also indicated that, while her parents were aware of her choice to identify as “non-binary,” they were not supportive and would not use her preferred name or pronouns at home.

Therefore, under the heading of “Parent/Guardian Involvement” on the form, it was made clear that staff wouldn’t notify the parents of anything involved in “implementing this plan” and wouldn’t “include gender-specific pronouns when speaking w/parents.”

Under the heading of “Names, Pronouns, and Student Records,” it was clarified that—while the child’s gender would remain the same—the name given to her by her parents at birth would be replaced by her preferred name in the Student Information System (SIS) database.

When asked about “expectations regarding rooming for any overnight trips” with the school, the minor child was allowed to decide she would “be comfortable rooming w/either sex.” This opened the door to having the Littlejohns’ daughter rooming with teenage boys on overnight school trips without her parents’ knowledge.

“The purpose of this document is to create a shared understanding about the ways in which a student’s authentic gender will be accounted for and supported at school,” Part B of the form states.

“We’re scrambling to keep up with this,” Littlejohn said, “and when you do an internet search, the bulk of what comes up is to affirm your kid or they will commit suicide. That’s their whole argument. Suicide is being weaponized to bully parents into affirming their children even if they know it’s the wrong choice for their child.

“What we are seeing is absolutely a social contagion of vulnerable kids, mostly girls. Many of these adolescents are isolated, socially awkward, and have a difficult time fitting in and making friends. Some are gifted, and many are on the autism spectrum. They latch on to a transgender identity, believing all their angst and insecurities will disappear and they are immediately praised by peers and teachers. Transgender identities have become glorified by the mainstream media, the entertainment industry, and social media.

“It’s a social contagion like anorexia, affecting vulnerable teens. But it’s being celebrated, and it’s spreading like wildfire.”

In a May 24 letter of response to the Littlejohns’ attorney, Leon County Schools Superintendent Rocky Hanna conceded that “there was no basis to exclude” the parents from the private meeting. He said that “a revised Q&A specific to the Littlejohns concern was provided to the administrators reiterating the directive to promptly contact parents of students who identify as LGBTQ+.”

Leon County Schools Equity Officer Kathleen Rodgers told The Epoch Times that the district is “working to put together a more detailed policy to be more inclusive of the Parent Bill of Rights,” adding that “a committee will meet in the next few weeks to tweak policies and begin the process to present them to the School Board for adoption.”

‘There Are Hundreds of Us’

“I need to do this anonymously for several reasons,” a mother from Wayne, Pennsylvania, told The Epoch Times, “but the first and most important one is to protect my daughter. I also worry that if I speak out too much that activists will target me. I don’t believe my boss would fire me, but his superiors might.

“There are just too many risks involved in speaking out publicly. I wish it were different, but these are the times we live in.”

The woman says she belongs to two support groups, which are “horrified at the way schools, doctors, and counselors are stripping parents of their rights in how they raise their children” and “actively keeping things from parents.”

“Our children still need permission slips for field trips or consent to take Tylenol at school, but schools will allow children to change their names, pronouns, and bathroom choices at school without even telling parents,” she said.

“There are hundreds of us. … We’re scared, confused, angry. Our numbers are growing rapidly. I feel the need to speak out because I know first-hand how this ideology is tearing families apart.”

“I feel so blindsided and disillusioned,” a mother from Portland, Oregon, told The Epoch Times, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect her daughter’s identity.

Her nightmare began just prior to her teen’s 13th birthday, when she requested a “non-binary” flag and a “they/them” pin from Amazon. Within days, her daughter underwent a “complete appearance change,” going from wearing lipstick, mascara, skirts, and crop-tops to shopping for boys’ clothing and “all things rainbow.”

“It was a complete 180,” she said.

“I requested access to her school account shortly after this all came about, only to find out she had officially changed her pronouns to ‘they/them’ and all school staff must comply. Then, I emailed the school to ask [about] their bathroom policy, and the principal sent back the district policy, which is six pages in length and goes into full detail about all of the definitions and outlines that everything must line up with the child’s self-proclaimed ‘gender identity.’

“Name and pronouns are up to the kid. Parents do not have to be notified, let alone consulted. Bathroom, locker room use, even overnight school trip accommodations are to align with preferred gender identity.

“I was dumbfounded. How was it that I had been in the public school system for eight years and I had no idea these were the beliefs that were being taught to my child?”

Different States, Same Story

While these families live in different states, their stories share clear consistencies.

“The quarantine definitely escalated the isolation, screen time, and exposure to gender ideology through friends sending her video,” Littlejohn said.

The mom in Pennsylvania said: “I should’ve never given her internet access, and I definitely should’ve monitored her even closer than I did.

“I blame YouTube and platform influencers who sell this ‘born in the wrong body’ garbage to our impressionable, vulnerable kids.”

She also blames the schools “for allowing this and keeping it from parents.”

“Their job is to teach, not decide what’s best for our children,” she said.

“I began researching feverishly, trying to figure out what happened to my daughter,” the Portland mother said. “I found the diagnosis of ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria’ and began reading relentlessly. What became abundantly clear was that my daughter had been indoctrinated somehow.”

Just prior to her daughter’s announcement of her new trans-status, the mother explained that her husband—who monitors their daughter’s devices—discovered that she had been spending more than four hours a day on TikTok. An internet history search revealed their daughter also had been researching “definitions for all the different genders.”

“I then find out they are actually teaching this rhetoric at her public school,” she said.

Fear and Consequences

“My biggest fear is that I won’t be able to reach my daughter before she turns 18,” the Pennsylvania mom said. “I’m terrified she will start testosterone and have a double mastectomy. I’m terrified if she does start testosterone, I will never hear her beautiful sing-song voice again or see her beautiful face without facial hair. I’m terrified she’ll do these things and still not find the relief she thinks it will bring, because it won’t. I’m terrified she will cut me out of her life because I won’t support this choice.”

Littlejohn said: “With these gender-confused kids, things quickly escalate from, ‘I’m non-binary’ to ‘I think I’m a boy, I want a binder, I hate my breasts, and I want to get ‘top surgery,’ which they conveniently relabeled from being a double mastectomy because it sounds better.

“I was horrified and panicked, operating from a place of sheer terror that my 13-year-old child, who was perfectly content being a girl a month ago, has been brainwashed and is now rejecting her beautiful, healthy body.”

“I do absolutely fear for our children and the terrible emotional and mental damage that is being inflicted on them, and the eventual irreversible physical damage they will endure through cross-sex hormones and double mastectomies if allowed to continue to believe the lies,” the Portland mother said. “This is an assault on parenthood and our poor children are the victims. Presenting youth with this confusing information while they are still developing is criminal. Every one of us should be outraged.”

Who Is to Blame?

“The schools are playing a huge role in this,” Littlejohn said. “They are not innocent. This is not a neutral position they are taking, and what these children need is a neutral environment to work through these issues, especially the underlying issues.”

According to the Littlejohns, many of the children being caught up in the trans-fad are truly in emotional pain and suffering from “previous trauma, whether it’s sexual trauma or physical trauma.” Many also suffer from depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, and a whole slew of other mental health issues that get swept under the carpet in the name of gender identity.”

“Many of these kids are in desperate need of mental health counseling,” Littlejohn said, “not hormones.”

“I’ve read so many stories in our groups from suicide attempts to complete estrangement from their parents,” the Pennsylvania mother said. “It’s devastating, and much of society points the blame at parents who aren’t affirming. We’re called transphobic bigots and told it’s a good thing our children got away from us all because we don’t want our daughters having voluntarily double mastectomies or our sons having bottom surgery or not wanting them to be lifetime medical patients and sterile before they’re even out of college.”

She added: “There are so many people I hold responsible for this. The list seems to grow daily. Myself, of course. I blame the doctors who took an oath to do no harm who tell girls like my daughter that binders are safe, puberty blockers are reversible, and then change their preferred name and pronouns in their charts.

“I blame big pharma for pushing this and lobbying for it so they can stuff their pipeline with lifetime patients. I blame the politicians who are trying to pass bills and laws under the guise of ‘equality’ by giving away women’s sex-based rights. I blame society for turning their back on parents who have nothing but their children’s best interest at heart and vilifying them for daring to question the current narrative.”

‘A Huge Ally in Our Corner’

“I truly believe, without the Florida Parents Bill of Rights being signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, we would not be making the progress we are making with the school district,” Littlejohn said.

“I think that gave us a huge ally in our corner. The district knows they can’t get away with doing this to parents anymore. We were asking for the same changes to their policy back in January, and we were not getting very far.”

Under H.B. 241, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, governmental institutions are prohibited from infringing on the rights of the parent in deciding what’s best for their child’s health, education, and upbringing “without demonstrating that such action is reasonable and necessary to achieve a compelling state interest,” DeSantis’s press secretary, Christina Pushaw, told The Epoch Times.

Pushaw, who noted that no media outlets aside from The Epoch Times had inquired about “this important issue,” said: “If any school official attempts to indoctrinate any child to ‘become transgender’ (which would imply medical and psychological interventions), that is clearly an infringement of parents’ rights.

“Such instances would not be reasonable or necessary to achieve a compelling state interest—completely the opposite, in fact. It is in the state’s interest to have strong families and empower parents to raise their own children in accordance with their own values.”

“For other parents with gender-confused children, there is hope,” the Littlejohns said. “Our daughter is doing great. She is happy and healthy and we have worked very hard to rebuild our relationship with her and restore her love for herself. Gender ideology is not a cure for adolescent anxiety or social isolation due to COVID.”

Littlejohn has a message to other children who may also be lost and struggling.

“The cure is knowing your parents love you unconditionally and you know and accept yourself as you are. That’s how you make it through adolescence.”

Patricia Tolson
Patricia Tolson
Reporter
Patricia Tolson is an award-winning political columnist and investigative reporter who has worked for such news outlets as Yahoo! U.S. News and The Tampa Free Press. Her focus is covering political events and developments throughout the southeastern United States, which may have an impact on the nation as a whole.