Brown University has pulled a study on gender dysphoria following concerns over its invalidation of transgender people. The study, which was a 90-question multiple choice survey sent to 256 parents, came to the conclusion that “social and peer contagion” was responsible for “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” among young people. The study went on to suggest that there were “cluster outbreaks of transgender identification” in friend groups that included transgender people.
The research was carried out by Lisa Littman, an associate professor from Brown’s Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Littman stated that “In online forums, parents have been reporting that their children are experiencing what is described here as ‘rapid-onset gender dysphoria,’ appearing for the first time during puberty”.
Brown removed the study, as well as an article that promoted the research from its website following a number of complaints. Bess H. Marcus, the dean of the School of Public Health, stated 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”.
A number of trans activists have criticised the transphobic element of the research. Susie Green, the CEO of the British charity Mermaids called the study’s methodology “completely flawed”, telling the Telegraph that “The places they went to get these responses were very much anti-trans websites. They haven’t talked to the young people themselves and the parents are sourced from gender-critical websites, who do not believe that trans children exist”. Green likened the research process to “recruiting from a white supremacist website to demonstrate that black people are an inferior race”.
Other activists are critical of the implication of this study. Owl, a trans activist, told PinkNews that “The intent of this research is not the well-being of young people, but it rather comes from a place of malice and prejudice, and it needs to be condemned for being harmful and damaging to children and the services they desperately need”.
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