Controversy occurred at Brown University when a research report was taken down from the university’s website after strong resistance and backlash.
The Brown University School of Public Health released a scientific study about a trend among teenagers of a “rapid-onset gender dysphoria,” according to Professor Lisa Littman.
What is gender dysphoria? According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria involves a conflict between a person’s physical or assigned gender and the gender with which he/she/they identify. People with gender dysphoria may be very uncomfortable with the gender they were assigned, sometimes described as being uncomfortable with their body (particularly developments during puberty) or being uncomfortable with the expected roles of their assigned gender.
Cited in the Brown study, gender dysphoria state that the presentation of gender dysphoria can occur in the context of severe psychiatric disorders, developmental difficulties, or as part of large-scale identity issues and, for these patients, the medical transition might not be advisable (Kaltiala-Heino, Sumia, & Tyolajarvi, 2015).
The following is an excerpt from Littman’s research:
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 research report goes on to suggest social media has an influence on large segments of the adolescent population stating they identifying as the opposite gender. Social media sites such as Youtube and Tumblr were cited in the report.
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 Universty removed the report from their website and stated that the removal was needed so that the journal would “…seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses” and “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 study was based on 256 completed parent survey responses. The surveys said that teens increased their use of social media prior to revealing their perceived gender identity. Furthermore, the parent surveys said that excessive use of social media allows for an immersion of binge-watching of “transition videos” just before the child’s gender dysphoric symptoms display.
The dean of the school said that Brown University is still committed to academic freedom and all studies should be “debated vigorously” despite the academic censorship.