Brown U. censors 'gender dysphoria' study, worried that findings might 'invalidate the perspectives' of transgender community

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Brown University has come under fire after censoring its own study on transgender youth, which found that social media and friends can influence teenagers to change their gender identity.

The university removed an article about the study from its website five days after it was published, following community complaints that the research was transphobic, the Daily Wire first reported.

In addition, the findings "might invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community," a university dean wrote.

The dean insisted, however, that it was still committed to “academic freedom,” noting that all studies should be "debated vigorously."

The study examined what it called “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” when a teen suddenly begins identifying as transgender despite never previously never questioning their identity.

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"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."

— Lisa Littman

The transition often happens after teens use social media and watch online videos about transitioning to another gender.

“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,” said Lisa Littman, an assistant professor in behavioral sciences at Brown and author of the study.

“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,” she added.

"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."

— Lisa Littman

The study, based on 256 surveys completed by parents, was published earlier this month in PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed science journal, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Parents said teens “exhibited an increase in social media/internet use prior to disclosure of a transgender identity,” which led to the conclusion that “friends and online sources could spread certain beliefs.”

The parents described "a process of immersion in social media," such as binge-watching "transition videos" and excessive use of social media, immediately preceding their child becoming gender dysphoric, the study claims.

"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."

— Bess Marcus, the dean of Brown's School of Public Health

The research goes on to suggest that teens could be influencing each other to promote certain behaviors through “peer contagion.”

In a statement posted online, Bess Marcus, dean of Brown's School of Public Health, said the university “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," Marcus continued, noting that all studies “should be debated vigorously.”

“The spirit of free inquiry and scholarly debate is central to academic excellence,” she added. “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.”