Brown Under Fire After Censoring Article On Research Because It “Might Invalidate The Perspectives Of The Transgender Community”

Brown University is under fire this week for an act of censorship that undermines its status as a leading academic institution.  The university removed an article discussing a peer-reviewed article that ran in  PLOS One by Lisa Littman, an assistant professor in behavioral sciences at Brown.  The article discusses “rapid-onset gender dysphoria” and how this transition toward transgender status is influenced by social media and online videos.  That nexus was immediately flagged by activists as not fitting the narrative that such gender decisions are predetermined and pressure was put on Brown University to act.  Bess Marcus, dean of Brown’s School of Public Health, explained that the article was removed because ” the study could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community.”  Instead, Marcus and the university discredited its entire academic institution by engaging in censorship and attacking academic freedom principles.  Rather than simply allowing an opposing academic viewpoint to be heard, the university removed a story on research by popular demand.  

My objections to this action by Brown has nothing to do with the conclusions of the article.  Indeed, Marcus should have taken the same approach and said that the conclusions — or how they are received — is not the basis for censorship or countervailing action from the university.

In a statement, Marcus acknowledges that the university “has heard from Brown community members” outraged over the suggestion of the study  expressing concerns that the conclusions of the study could be used to discredit efforts to “conclusions of the study.”  The study details the accounts of parents about a common “immersion in social media,” likeas binge-watching “transition videos” and excessive use of social media.

The removals triggered a Daily Wire report but Brown’s faculty has been relatively quiet in the face of this extraordinary action.

What is weird is that I fail to see why this study is so discrediting of the transgender views of critics.  A child who is transgender is likely to focus on social media and videos in trying to make sense of their feelings and explore their options.  It can also be taken in a more cause-and-effect way. However, this is all part of what should be an academic debate.  Instead, Brown sought to end the debate through censorship while Marcus implausibly insisted that Brown still believes in academic freedom.

Marcus only recently started as dean after coming from the University of California (San Diego).  In my view, she should resign if she pushed for the censorship of this article.  Ironically, when she was hired, Brown heralded her selection as someone who “brings a remarkable track record of promoting public health research and education as a senior leader at UCSD,” Paxson said. “Her collaborative leadership style and strong commitment to advancing high-impact research will be instrumental in inspiring students and faculty to confront the wide array of complex public health challenges that face society.”  Apparently, that only applies to research that she or the others find comfortable or acceptable in their conclusions.

The action of Brown is a chilling example of the increasing pressures felt by academics in limiting free speech, associational, and academic rights on campuses.  The entire value of tenure is that professors feel free to buck commonly held or popular views in the pursuit of truth.  That does not mean that they are always right, but the academic freedom and free speech values of universities sustain the intellectual life of these institutions.  Marcus and others are sending a chilling message to young academics that, if they do not reach popular conclusions, they could face censorship and ultimately negative consequences in their pursuit advancement and tenure.

What is particularly disturbing is that academics decided that — rather than engaged in good-faith debate with Professor Littman and published counterarguments, they contacted the university to prevent others from reading about the study on the website.

The relative silence of the Brown faculty is itself alarming and gives this chilling message a glacial meaning.

61 thoughts on “Brown Under Fire After Censoring Article On Research Because It “Might Invalidate The Perspectives Of The Transgender Community””

  1. Science should not be politicized. The data is what it is, and one should not try to shape the conclusions.

    Gender Dysphoria has been classified as a mental illness in the DSM-5 for years until political activists interfered with science. It involves feeling extreme distress and discomfort in one’s biological gender and societal role. In a similar manner, people feel intensely uncomfortable with body dysmorphic disorder. There are in fact many psychiatric disorders which cause people to feel anxiety, distress, or discomfort in themselves. For political reasons, one of these illnesses, gender dysphoria, has become mainstreamed. Not too far behind, are people who identify with a different race or even species. There are whole communities of people who identify as merpeople, and they only feel at ease in their silicone tails and costume in the pool. The rest of society is not required to acknowledge that they are actually mer people, or to provide special aquatic accommodations.

    If surgical gender reassignment relieved their stress, and made them happy, then there could be a benefit, but the extremely high suicide rates of transitioned transgender people suggest otherwise. In addition, the overwhelming majority of children who identify as transgender grow out of it. To make matters more confusing, pardon the double entendre, transgenderism is not correlated with sexuality, so a man could be a transgender woman, but still attracted to women…which would make him straight or lesbian?

    Transgenderism is a difficult issue. Of course people who suffer from it should be treated with compassion and kindness. They are vulnerable people with a high suicide rate. Science is just beginning to learn about this disorder, but much avenues of study have been cut off by political activists with no scientific background whatsoever. Research should be ongoing for the foreseeable future on the best approaches to deal with the issue. I suppose the starting point should be what is the definition of a mental illness in modern times?

    The way that the sexes dress is cultural, not biological. In fact, many cultures throughout history had men essentially wearing dresses. Could any but a Highlander pull it off in a more manly fashion? A man may perform as a woman in his dress and speech mannerisms, but he is a biological male. If he were to die in some cataclysm, found by some future archeologists, they would label his bones “male” based on DNA. If he were to leave his blood at a crime scene, the forensic scientists would label it “male”.

    Biology is different from culture. Activists equate the two but they are very different.

    In addition, there are places set aside by society as protection for women at their most vulnerable – battered women shelters, showers, changing areas, for example. There can be single occupancy unisex spaces to serve those who need it, but people must not push in to the protected spaces of others. There was recently a story out of Canada, of course, where a traumatized and abused woman is in trouble with the law because she complained about a preoperative transgender male who identified as a woman being housed with her in her room. The one safe place on Earth she should have, and there’s yet another guy in it.

    This is how the transgender person, who has not transitioned yet, was described:

    “Hanna said the woman is in her late 20s, has facial hair, chest hair, and wears large black combat boots that “trigger” her with their thumping. She said at one communal dinner, the roommate talked about having had a wife in the past, and a pregnant fiancée, and was overheard talking about some unidentified women as “hot” and expressing her preference for Latina women. Hanna said her mannerisms came across as “piggish” and inappropriate.”

    Everyone in the United States has equal rights – including straight, gay, lesbians, and those who think they are mer people. No one has the right to force others to agree with how they see themselves. No one has the right to force science to only agree with a political viewpoint.

    1. Karen……excellent comment! I feel like I just stumbled in to a graduate Psych class

    2. Howbout people who are absolutely.convinced that they are Napoleon? Shouldn’t the rest of us be compelled to acknowledge that each of them is the only real Napoleon?

      1. HarryS – if you really think you are the real Napoleon, isn’t that cultural appropriation? 😉 Or interfering with a corpse?

    3. Excellently put! It is high time that the press stopped bolstering what is essentially nonsensein the name of rights and tolerance. I believe that in the not too distant future, there will be plenty of lawsuits filed against educators and parents who have coerced children and young people into irreversible treatments and procedures to “cure”,something which is actually just an psychological aberration of “gender confusion” and is temporary in nature. The condition can often be traced to problems or misunderstandings in the dynamics of the family, such as if a child perceives that it’s parents favor one gender (sister or brother) over another. Contemporary society is being sold a bill of goods by a lot of false and misleading propaganda which is supported by a press which is willfully turning a blind eye to the true facts and reporting on these gender “issues” in a very biased way.

  2. Repeal the unconstitutional and improperly ratified 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th amendments by executive order.

    Eradicate the incoherence and hysteria that is seizing America.

    Restore the restricted-vote republic before it succumbs to an inexorable descent into the abyss.

    As “Crazy Abe” Lincoln issued an eminently unconstitutional “proclamation,”

    so should President Trump issue a “Republic Proclamation” restricting the vote to self-reliant, actual Americans and deporting the aliens.

    That would do nicely as an opening salvo.

      1. Yes, unfortunately the current trans mantras are “transwomen are women” and “some women have penises,” so women mustn’t object to showering with an intact male transwoman at the gym after a workout, and we mustn’t object to our young girl scouts sharing a campout tent with a male transgender den “mother.”

        1. SkepticalMom – I would refuse to let my daughter shower at school. She can shower at home and stink at school. That is why God made perfume.:)

      2. Like most women anywhere Brit women, excepting some really really repulsive Hutt females, can have as many penises as they want.

    1. Is that why the Brits are importing Musl… uh, Asians? So they can have more real crime?
      Rape of white women (and the occasional whiteboy for variety’s sake) is in process of being legalized. But only for Mus… aahh, Asians, and only when there are five or more in the same breeding incident. It’s an important part of their culture. It’s mandated by the Qu
      Ofcourse, when rape is legalized it isn’t rape any longer.

  3. My favorite Canadian professor, whatsisname, has been talking about this a long time.

      1. David Benson – I can get the site without problems. Must be your computer. When is the last time you cleaned your cache?

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