Brown University has censored findings from its very own study on transgendered youth, where they found evidence that teens can be influenced by social media and their circle of friends to want to change their gender identity.
Five days after the university published an article about their study, they removed the article after receiving several community complaints that the study itself was transphobic.
The study focused mainly on what they described as “rapid-onset gender dysphoria”: gender dysphoria that manifested within days or weeks in teens and young adults, rather than presented in one’s early youth.
The study found that transitioning usually happened after teens used social media and after binge-watching videos online about transitioning from one gender to another.
Lisa Littman, assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown’s School of Public Health, and the study’s author stated, “This kind of descriptive study is important because it defines a group and raises questions for more research. One of the main conclusions is that more research needs to be done. Descriptive studies aren’t randomized controlled trials – you can’t tell cause and effect, and you can’t tell prevalence. It’s going to take more studies to bring in more information, but this is a start.”
“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 Littman.
“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.
The study was based on 256 surveys, all completed by parents and had been published earlier this month in a peer-reviewed science journal called PLOS ONE, according to the Washington Free Beacon. Over 62% of teens had previously been diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disability, or at least one mental health disorder.
Parents reported their children “exhibited an increase in social media/internet use prior to disclosure of a transgender identity.” These findings led to the hypothesis that “friends and online sources could spread certain beliefs.”
For example, parents said they witnessed “clusters of gender dysphoria outbreaks” in the peer groups their children associated with and “in a pattern that seems statistically unlikely based on previous research.”
Dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, Bess Marcus, said in a statement posted online that 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 of the studies “should be debated vigorously.”
“The spirit of free inquiry and scholarly debate is central to academic excellence,” Marcus 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.”
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