|Lisa Littman, Brown University|
Lisa Littman, an assistant professor at Brown University, has published a study on transgender youth. It has created a controversy for all the wrong reasons. The study is shoddy but it is not necessarily transphobic. It deserves serious criticism which should be limited to its lack of scholarship. Otherwise, she becomes victimized at the hands of those evil “transgender activists.” The above link is to an absurd post by Gail Heriot at Volokh Conspiracy. Apparently Ms. Heriot is also a victim of those same activists.
The study is titled: Rapid-onset gender dysphoria in adolescents and young adults: A study of parental reports. According to Littman:
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.
Littman’s hypothesis is that some young people become gender dysphoric because of social influences. I doubt that is true and it certainly is not resolved by this study. We begin with the journal, PLOS-One. It is peer-reviewed but not rigorously. In fact, with regards to this study they issued a statement:
PLOS ONE is aware of the reader concerns raised on the study’s content and methodology. We take all concerns raised about publications in the journal very seriously, and are following up on these per our policy and COPE guidelines. As part of our follow up we will seek further expert assessment on the study’s methodology and analyses. We will provide a further update once we have completed our assessment and discussions.
That should have been part of peer review in the first place. Now if the article is withdrawn, once again Littman will be portrayed as a victim.
According to Littman:
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.
The first problem is those “on-line forums.” One of those is 4thWaveNow. It is a blog written (supposedly) by a mother who refuses to accept the science. She has compared gender affirming therapy to lobotomies. She also has multiple personality disorder. Not really but it is obvious that many of the comments and posts are from the same person.
The second site is youthtranscriticalprofessionals.org. It is a protected WordPress site requiring approval to read. I would bet my pearls that there are no “professionals” involved and participants are obviously biased.
The third site, Transgender Trends is also for skeptics; “Parents questioning the trans narrative.” In other words, the sample is from parents who do not believe that transgender people even exist. I have reason to believe that two (possibly all three) of these sites were established by religious conservatives but take it at face value. This is not just a convenience sample; it is a biased convenience sample and apparently different questionnaires may, in fact, be form a single person with multiple email addresses.
But there is more. According to the study:
The adolescent and young adult (AYA) children described were predominantly female sex at birth (82.8%) with a mean age of 16.4 years.
Supposedly this involves “rapid onset.” That population is quite aged. At 16 gender dysphoric children are well into their transition and most children are diagnosed in pre-pubescence. What Littman concludes is that Rabid Onset Gender Dysphoria is a phenomenon that occurs in older children:
Rapid-onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) describes a phenomenon where the development of gender dysphoria is observed to begin suddenly during or after puberty in an adolescent or young adult who would not have met criteria for gender dysphoria in childhood. ROGD appears to represent an entity that is distinct from the gender dysphoria observed in individuals who have previously been described as transgender.
Even if that is true it is irrelevant. It has no bearing on the plight of children almost all of whom were diagnosed with gender dysphoria much earlier. They suffer from severely elevated levels of anxiety and depression. Lisa Littman needs a more productive hobby. Her findings pertain to a population that might not even exist.