Brown University has censored a research paper on gender dysphoria from its website after it sparked a backlash from the LGBT community.
A research paper was published by Brown University School of Public Health Professor Lisa Littman about a trend amongst teenagers involving gender dysphoria. The piece contends that young people are experiencing “rapid-onset gender dysphoria.”
In on-line 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 or even after its completion. The onset of gender dysphoria seemed to occur in the context of belonging to a peer group where one, multiple, or even all of the friends have become gender dysphoric and transgender-identified during the same timeframe. Parents also report that their children exhibited an increase in social media/internet use prior to disclosure of a transgender identity. The purpose of this study was to document and explore these observations and describe the resulting presentation of gender dysphoria, which is inconsistent with existing research literature.
The paper goes on to suggest that the use of social media sites like YouTube and Tumblr have been a precursor to large swaths of young people claiming that they have a unique gender identity.
Parents have described clusters of gender dysphoria outbreaks occurring in pre-existing friend groups with multiple or even all members of a friend group becoming gender dysphoric and transgender-identified in a pattern that seems statistically unlikely based on previous research. Parents describe a process of immersion in social media, such as “binge-watching” Youtube transition videos and excessive use of Tumblr, immediately preceding their child becoming gender dysphoric. These descriptions are atypical for the presentation of gender dysphoria described in the research literature and raise the question of whether social influences may be contributing to or even driving these occurrences of gender dysphoria in some populations of adolescents and young adults.
Brown University removed the paper from the university website in an act of academic censorship after it sparked concerns that its publication could minimize the struggles faced by transgender individuals. In a statement, the university announced that the paper would be removed because they feared it would be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth.
The research had been published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, which stated in a comment posted on the study August 27 that the journal “will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses.” 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.