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Brown criticized for removing article on transgender study

The paper by a Brown assistant professor suggests that gender dysphoria occurring around the time of puberty could be due to peer pressure or online influences.
Image: Brown University campus.
Officials at Brown said they removed a transgender study from its website over concerns about its methodology. Courtesy Brown University

Brown University is being criticized over its decision to remove news about a study on transgender youth from its website.

The paper by assistant professor Lisa Littman suggests that gender dysphoria, or a conflict between one's gender identity and sex assigned at birth, occurring around the time of puberty — as opposed to early childhood — could be due to peer pressure or online influences.

The study, which was published last month in Plos One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, used the observations of parents, who critics say could be politically biased or opposed to their children identifying as transgender.

Brown representatives say they removed the article because of concerns over the study’s research methodology.

Bess H. Marcus, dean of Brown's School of Public Health, also said in a statement that “independent of” concerns regarding research methodology, the school had 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.”

Littman says she stands by the study’s conclusion that more research is needed to better understand “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” in adolescents and young adults and its “implications and scope.”

An online petition, which garnered more than 4,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon, was created by supporters of Littman’s research to encourage the university to resist “ideologically based attempts to squelch controversial research evidence.”

“The parental reports in this study offer important and much-needed preliminary information about a cohort of adolescents, mostly girls, who with no prior history of dysphoria, are requesting irreversible medical interventions,” the petition states.

The petition’s authors, many of whom claim to be “parents who participated in Littman’s survey,” also refuted claims that the study’s participants were anti-transgender.

“We, the signatories to this letter, overwhelmingly support the rights of transgender people, but we want better diagnostic and mental health care for youth who suddenly demand serious medical interventions," the petition continues.