Brown University Slammed for Promoting “Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria” Study

Activists and academics called the researcher's methodology into question.

An Ivy League university is in hot water after promoting a controversial study on so-called Rapid-Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD) among youth.

Earlier this week, activists discovered that Brown University in Providence, RI, was promoting the research of one of its professors, Lisa Littman, who hypothesized that youth who come out as transgender are more likely to have trans friends or watch media about trans people. Littman’s research, published in the journal PLOS ONE, concluded that “social and peer contagion” was a possible explanation for ROGD among teens.

But critics were quick to raise concerns about the validity of Littman’s research methodology. The 256 parents she surveyed for her research were sourced from the sites Transgender Trend and 4thwavenow, both of which Littman herself described as “more oppositional to transgender-identified individuals.”

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Susie Green, CEO of U.K. LGBTQ nonprofit Mermaids, told The Telegraph that the study was “completely flawed”: “As a colleague, a clinician who works in this field has stated, it’s like recruiting from a white supremacist website to demonstrate that black people are an inferior race.”

ROGD has been repeatedly debunked as a valid sociological theory, most recently by author and biologist Julia Serano, who wrote a 4,000-word Medium essay explaining why it doesn’t hold up (and is frequently weaponized as propaganda against the trans community.) Serano addressed Littman’s research, too, arguing that the professor “purposefully structured her study to confirm the [participating parents’] assumptions, rather than objectively assess the state of their children.”

Brown has since removed Littman’s research from its website and social media, citing concerns about the validity of her study’s methodology as the reason. Bess H. Marcus, dean of the university’s School of Public Health, added that other faculty had complained.

“The School of Public Health 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,” she said in a statement to The Telegraph.

Meanwhile, other academics have taken to social media in support of Littman’s research, claiming that Brown’s removal of the study from its website is an example of censorship due to pressures from trans activists.

Correction: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Serano’s essay was 7,000 words. We apologize for the error.

Brooklyn-based writer and editor. Probably drinking iced coffee or getting tattooed.