This week, Brown University pulled down a news story on a study conducted by a Brown University researcher. That study focused in on what it described as “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”: gender dysphoria that was not present in early youth, but that manifested within days or weeks in teens and young adults. The study author, Lisa Littman, assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown’s School of Public Health, stated, “This kind of descriptive study is important because it defines a group and raises questions for more research. One of the main conclusions is that more research needs to be done. Descriptive studies aren’t randomized controlled trials – you can’t tell cause and effect, and you can’t tell prevalence. It’s going to take more studies to bring in more information, but this is a start.”
Among the noteworthy patterns Littman found in the survey data: 21 percent of parents reported their child had one or more friends become transgender-identified at around the same time; 20 percent reported an increase in their child's social media use around the same time as experiencing gender dysphoria symptoms; and 45 percent reported both. … The pattern of clusters of teens in friend groups becoming transgender-identified, the group dynamics of these friend groups and the types of advice viewed online led her to the hypothesis that friends and online sources could spread certain beliefs. Examples include the belief that non-specific symptoms such as feeling uncomfortable in their own skins or feeling like they don't fit in -- which could be a part of normal puberty or associated with trauma -- should be perceived as gender dysphoria; the belief that the only path to happiness is transition; and the belief that anyone who disagrees with the teen is transphobic and should be cut out of their life.
"Of the parents who provided information about their child's friendship group, about a third responded that more than half of the kids in the friendship group became transgender-identified," Littman said. "A group with 50 percent of its members becoming transgender-identified represents a rate that is more 70 times the expected prevalence for young adults."
Additionally, 62 percent of parents reported their teen or young adult had one or more diagnoses of a psychiatric disorder or neurodevelopmental disability before the onset of gender dysphoria. Forty-eight percent reported that their child had experienced a traumatic or stressful event prior to the onset of their gender dysphoria, including being bullied, sexually assaulted or having their parents get divorced.
This suggests that the drive to transition expressed by these teens and young adults could be a harmful coping mechanism like drugs, alcohol or cutting, Littman said.
There is no question whatsoever that in Western societies, reported rates of transgenderism have been rising dramatically in recent years, as publicity about transgenderism becomes the norm. From 2014 to 2015 alone, referrals to Britain’s gender identity service for children doubled. The numbers have also spiked in Australia and the United States, among others. It’s seriously questionable whether that’s merely an effect of people who were transgender coming out of hiding, or whether behavior is actually changing.
In any case, this Brown University study could not stand — any effort to actually research the environmental component of transgenderism is met with raucous calls for censorship. And Brown immediately caved. The University pulled down a news article about the study. Realistically, Brown and the journal in which the original comment was published, PLOS ONE, turned against the study because it offended politically correct sensibilities about transgenderism. Brown’s School of Public Health Dean Bess Marcus even issued a letter to the entire “community”:
Independent of the University’s removal of the article because of concerns about research methodology, the School of Public Health has heard from Brown community members expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.
The University and School have always affirmed the importance of academic freedom and the value of rigorous debate informed by research. The merits of all research should be debated vigorously, because that is the process by which knowledge ultimately advances, often through tentative findings that are often overridden or corrected in subsequent higher quality research. The spirit of free inquiry and scholarly debate is central to academic excellence. At the same time, we believe firmly that it is also incumbent on public health researchers to listen to multiple perspectives and to recognize and articulate the limitations of their work. This process includes acknowledging and considering the perspectives of those who criticize our research methods and conclusions and working to improve future research to address these limitations and better serve public health. There is an added obligation for vigilance in research design and analysis any time there are implications for the health of the communities at the center of research and study.
The School’s commitment to studying and supporting the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority populations is unwavering. Our faculty and students are on the cutting edge of research on transgender populations domestically and globally. The commitment of the School to diversity and inclusion is central to our mission, and we pride ourselves on building a community that fully recognizes and affirms the full diversity of gender and sexual identity in its members. These commitments are an unshakable part of our core values as a community.
In an effort to support robust research and constructive dialogue on gender identity in adolescents and youth, the School will be organizing a panel of experts to present the latest research in this area and to define directions for future work to optimize health in transgender communities. We believe that more and better research is needed to help guide advances in the health of the LGBTQ community. We welcome input from faculty, staff and students about the composition of this panel and scope of the discussion.
This is academic tyranny. End of story. As Jesse Singal of New York Magazine points out:
3/ "[T]he School... has heard from community members expressing concerns that the conclusions could be used to discredit efforts to support Y and invalidate the perspectives of Z" could be used as justification to discredit just about any interesting social science study
— Jesse Singal (@jessesingal)
Raising questions about study methodology is normal. Pulling down articles about scientific studies thanks to public pressure isn’t. It’s simply an attempt to shut down discussion about a critical issue of public importance in order to avoid a narrative that the political Left doesn’t want: a narrative that suggests that the transgender movement might actually be having an impact on the behavior of people who don’t actually suffer from childhood gender dysphoria, associating costs with society’s radical embrace of a completely unscientific set of ideas regarding sex and gender.
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