Capitulating to bullies: Brown University and the transgender lobby vs. science

Oct 8, 2018 by

By Julian Vigo, Public Discourse.

Over the past month, transgender advocates have attacked a Brown University researcher, Lisa Littman, for her article, “Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports” published in PLOS One. Littman, Assistant Professor of the Practice of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown, looked into the phenomenon of rapid-onset gender dysphoria (RGOD) examining how social media and online videos affect adolescents’ identification with a transgender identity.

As a result of the public backlash against her results, Littman has not only been harassed on social media; she is also being critiqued by her own university and the very journal that reviewed and published her results. Although it initially promoted her peer-reviewed study, Brown University quickly caved to public pressure and accusations of supporting transphobia. It withdrew a news releaseabout the study and replaced it with a statement questioning the quality of Littman’s research, declaring that the university’s decision was “about academic standards,” not academic freedom, and emphasizing its support for the transgender community. Brown’s Dean of the School of Public Health, Bess H. Marcus, stated that concerns over methodology had prompted the university to remove the news article, claiming that members of the university community had “express[ed] 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.” PLOS One itself issued a statementacknowledging the complaints regarding the study and promised “further expert assessment on the study’s content and methodology.”

It is a troubling affair when a peer- and ethics-reviewed article is de-platformed by a researcher’s own university because of how the public and those in the field might possibly interpret the study. No matter what Brown’s representatives claim, this is clearly an issue of academic freedom.

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