At age 13, Ash Eskridge was severely under the influence, but not of drugs or alcohol — of TikTok.
The brunette told The Post that trendsetters on the popular app wrongfully convinced her that she was transgender.
“I saw TikTok videos by influencers saying how that transitioning saved their life,” said Eskridge, now 16, from Missoula, Missouri.
After becoming depressed at 12, she leaned on the virtual platform as an emotional crutch.
“I was struggling and wanted it to save my life, too,” she told South West News Service.
It was just after the pandemic that the Gen Zer joined the crowd: As part of what’s been dubbed “Generation COVID,” Ash spent the majority of her recreational hours scrolling through social media, where viral hashtags such as #transgender and #trans have amassed a staggering 21.5 billion and 59.6 billion views, respectively.
According to 2022 Pew Research Center research, TikTok has a massive impact on up to 67% of teens 13 to 17. A 2021 study on its sway, conducted by the Shanghai United International School in China, found that the digital space contains “over-exaggeration content that shapes teenager’s value in a misleading way.”
In December 2022, the Center for Countering Digital Hate also determined that TikTok’s algorithm funnels mentally and emotionally damaging content — such as suicide and eating disorders — to adolescents within minutes of creating a profile.
Meanwhile, The Post’s March 2023 undercover investigation of the app also found that it directed harmfully persuasive visuals to teens.
In Eskridge’s case, she said the videos on her timeline “brainwashed” her into transitioning.
“Being transgender is definitely a TikTok trend that all began around 2020,” she told The Post of the apparent social media wave. “I notice that the demographic it most affects is teen girls around 12 to 14, as they’re the most vulnerable since they aren’t matured yet,” she continued, noting that most trans folks in her age demographic would likely disagree.
“I know that all of the kids who are also being pushed to [take part in the transgender] trend definitely think they’re 100% right and that it wasn’t caused by TikTok, because that’s how I felt, too,” Eskridge acknowledged.
“But I’d say maybe 1% of the trans teens on TikTok are actually trans,” she claimed without evidence. “The rest, influenced.”
Her parents, Sean and Darcy, told SWNS that they were doubtful that Eskridge — a lifelong “girly-girl” — was, in fact, transgender. However, they supported her decision to live as a male.
“She told us she was trans. It was after COVID, and she was at home a lot,” said Darcy, a secretary. “She started spending too much time on TikTok, watching influencers who were saying how they went through the same thing [and] how they had transitioned and it made them happy.
“We questioned Ash and pushed back,” the mother continued. “We told her we would accept her for who she is but how we didn’t feel this was the right path for her.”
And while Eskridge understood her parents’ concerns, she elected to proceed with the gender swap.
“My family [was] very confused,” said the youth.
“My life had been really girly and I never showed any dislike of being a girl,” Eskridge admitted. “They were very supportive of me, but they never thought it was right for me, but they stood by me regardless.”
She legally changed her name to “Greysen” and assumed the stereotypical look of a teenage boy — rocking a short haircut and wearing sporty togs.
At 16, she began taking testosterone, which caused her voice to become lower and body hair to sprout.
But rather than feeling affirmed, Eskridge says the drastic changes felt “unnatural.”
“My voice dropping didn’t feel correct,” she lamented. “When the voice started dropping, it made me feel uncomfortable, and the body hair felt really gross.”
In fact, while living as “Greysen,” Eskridge said she “missed being a girl.”
“It was exhausting,” revealed the teen, “the people who I knew in real life didn’t know I wasn’t born a man.”
“I had to adjust the way I walked and talked in a way that wasn’t natural to me,” she said. “I didn’t tell anyone that I was born a girl as I supposed I was ashamed and embarrassed of it.”
But a nighttime epiphany prompted a change of heart.
“My breaking point was when I had a dream that I was a girl,” she remembered. “I thought, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
In April 2023, Eskridge chose to detransition, reverting back to female with the support of her parents.
“She came to us and said how she made a mistake,” said Darcy. “She told us how easily influenced she was by social media.
“There was a lot of shock from us but also a sense of relief as we never thought it would be the best path in life for her,” added the mom.
But reversing her gender identity proved to be a “tough road,” which derailed a number of her close relationships.
“They thought I was born a man,” Eskridge said of her pals. “After I detransitioned, I lost a lot of friends.”
The number of children who report experiencing “gender dysphoria” in the West has surged. While statistics are difficult to track, between 2009 and 2019, UK children being referred for transitioning treatment increased by 1,000% among those assigned a male gender at birth and 4,400% among those assigned female.
Meanwhile, according to 2022 research from the University of California’s Williams Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of young people identifying as transgender in the US has almost doubled since 2017, to approximately 300,000.
According to a Fenway Institute and Massachusetts General Hospital study, about 13% of people who underwent “gender-affirming transition” said that they at some point detransitioned. A large number of those — 82.5% — cited external factors such as family pressure or having trouble finding a job as the reasons they detransitioned.
The research also reported that only 2.4% of the 17,151 trans people who were questioned had detransitioned due to “doubt” about their gender identity, and another 2018 survey listed reasons including hormone complications, unresolved psychological issues and discrimination, plus realizing their struggle pertained to sexual orientation as opposed to gender.
Since resuming her life as a woman, Eskridge and Darcy have begun advocating for better mental health care for teens and demanding the law require an age limit of 18 to get gender-affirming care.
Eskridge has also become a detransitioning crusader on TikTok.
In a confessional with more than 2.2 million views, she said, “After about two years of living as a male, I realized I was wrong.”
The teen explained that after coming out as trans, she only went to one doctor’s appointment — during which she claims her mental health was not properly assessed — before being given instructions on the next steps toward becoming a man.
But the ill-fated journey led her down a dark path of drug use, self-harm and suicidal ideation, according to her post.
“I assumed this was because I wasn’t male enough,” said Eskridge, “but it was really because I wasn’t a male at all.”
She captioned the clip: “I support transgender people, I was simply was wrong about myself.”
On camera, Eskridge said, in closing, “Once I detransitioned, all my mental problems were gone.