Brown University accused of 'cowardice' after pulling article on new transgender research

An aspiring model does her make up before auditioning for a transgender/transsexual modelling agency set to open in New Delhi, February 7, 2016.(Photo: Reuters/AdnanAbidi/Files)

An Ivy League university in the US has removed an article from its website on a study by one of its own researchers into transgenderism, reportedly after coming under pressure from transgender activists.

According to Science Daily, the study by Lisa Littman looked at 'rapid onset gender dysphoria' in teens and young adults. 

Littman, assistant professor of the practice of behavioral and social sciences at Brown's School of Public Health, spoke to 250 parents of children suffering from the condition and concluded that peer pressure could be a factor in its development.

In her survey, 21 per cent of parents said their child had one or more friends who became transgender-identified at around the same time, while a fifth observed an increase in the use of social media by their child at the time they started to identify as transgender.  Forty-five per cent of the parents surveyed reported both.

According to Science Daily, Littman concluded that there was a possible correlation between gender dysphoria and friendship groups with transgender members, as well as the types of advice on transgender issues that the teens were being exposed to online, although she said more research was needed.

'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,' said Littman, according to Fox News.

Littman also suggested that teens developing 'rapid onset gender dysphoria' may be doing so as a coping mechanism for negative emotions.

A statement from Brown's School of Public Health Dean Bess Marcus explained the university's decision to withdraw the article about Littman's study from its website. 

In it, she said that the School of Public Health 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.'

Despite the removal of the article, she said that the school 'affirmed the importance of academic freedom and the value of rigorous debate informed by research.'

Radio host Ben Shapiro, writing in the Daily Wire, is among those criticizing the decision.  He accused Brown of turning against the study because it 'offended politically correct sensibilities about transgenderism.'

He added, 'Raising questions about study methodology is normal. Pulling down articles about scientific studies thanks to public pressure isn't. It's simply an attempt to shut down discussion about a critical issue of public importance.'

Steven Hayward, senior resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, accused Brown of 'cowardice.'

'The ideological identity politics camp doesn't want further research: it wants research like Prof. Littman's suppressed and repudiated ... very few academics will want to look into this issue going forward,' he said. 

A petition has been launched in defence of Littman's research here.