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Anti-LGBTQ Backlash Is Starting to Sound Like ‘Gay Replacement Theory’

An uptick in people identifying as queer or trans has doubters claiming ‘social contagion’

The “great replacement” conspiracy theory, which falsely posits that white or “European” demographics are being overtaken by non-white populations, has been linked to many far-right terrorist attacks in recent years. The mass murderers who carried out shootings at a Pittsburgh synagogue, two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand and stores in El Paso, Texas and Buffalo, New York all appeared to believe that immigration and/or declining birth rates threaten the very existence of whites — making a violent response necessary.

Meanwhile, as anti-LGBTQ sentiment accelerates, led by a new rash of transphobic state bills, a parallel idea has been taking shape. Under the guise of “just asking questions,” commentators like Bill Maher are suggesting that the uptick of people identifying as queer and/or trans will probably continue until there are no cisgender heterosexuals left. Which sounds, to a skeptical ear, like a gay replacement theory. If the straights don’t do something, in a couple of generations, everyone will belong to the LGBTQ rainbow. It’s practically genocide!    

The simplest explanation for the statistical rise is also the most encouraging: Those who would have, in another age, hidden or repressed their true selves are at less risk coming out today. A common analogy is left-handedness, which became more common when parents and teachers stopped punishing it. Yet transphobes and homophobes have, with very little evidence, clung to the idea that “social contagion” and kids’ affinity for popular “trends” are behind the shift. This mimics replacement theory’s notion that whites are losing their majorities in the U.S. and Europe not in the natural course of population change, but because Jews have orchestrated it.   

Here and there, a researcher has tried to shore up the claim that adolescents and young adults only want to transition because their friends have. A 2018 paper by physician scientist Lisa Littman proposed a condition she termed “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” caused by peer influence. But her work had to be republished with significant caveats about its biases and flawed methodology — chief among them recruiting parents from anti-trans websites to conduct the survey that resulted in the ROGD hypothesis. 

In 2021, a group of 122 medical groups, including the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, cautioned that ROGD shouldn’t be used in diagnosis, as there is no empirical evidence to support it. Already, they noted, the conceit had given rise to harmful misinformation and clinical malpractice, and was being used to justify discriminatory legislation. The internet is awash in those who take it as gospel fact, arguing that the transgender community is an example of mass psychogenic illness.

We’ve seen angry men answer great replacement’s implicit call for racist murder, and we know that the myth of “homosexual recruitment” helps to incite homophobic violence. Any effort to persuade straight or cis people that they will soon be erased by the LGBTQ juggernaut as it converts entire generations is disingenuous and intended to do similar harm. All the bigots using the same playbook? Sounds like social contagion to me.