Gender Ideologues Trying to ‘Cancel’ Objective Research on Dysphoria, Transitioning
By 2017, already professionally engaged in transgender politics, I began to focus on the anecdotally observed phenomenon of Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria (ROGD): a sudden declaration of a need for gender transition in adolescents and young adults (AYA) who had never presented as dysphoric in childhood. I sought research material, but available studies did not separate out AYA onset from childhood onset. So it was left to parents of AYA teens suddenly presenting with dysphoria to drive interest in researchers and even help to produce it.
In July of 2018, I attended a private meeting of such parents in Toronto, sponsored by Parents of ROGD Kids, where I met with attendees from across Canada and as far away as Texas, and heard several deeply troubling stories of their beloved—but often alienated—ROGD children. Also present was Northwestern University professor of psychology J. Michael Bailey, a well-known expert in the domain of gender dysphoria and its taxonomy. The co-organizer of the conference, Suzanna Diaz, presented results of an online survey her group had conducted. Following the meeting, Dr. Bailey was motivated to suggest a collaboration on a peer-reviewed study based on its findings.
By coincidence, in August 2018, Lisa Littman, a researcher in the department of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Brown University’s School of Public Health, aroused controversy with a paper based on a survey of 256 parents of ROGD youth, establishing ROGD as a demonstrable trend. Detractors tried to have it pulled from Plos One, and nearly succeeded. Littman ultimately prevailed, and it was re-published, with cosmetic revisions, in 2019 as “Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria.”
Littman’s paper set the cat of objective research amongst the pigeons of ungrounded theory. Her findings lent evidential weight to the theory of social contagion as one important source of the escalating numbers, anathema to the trans-orthodox insistence that the desire for transition springs invariably from an individual’s authentic gender identity. Of course, in science, the results of an experiment must be reproducible to prove a hypothesis. Precisely what Bailey and Diaz’s research did—and more. So ideologues’ ire at Littman’s research was compounded when Bailey-Diaz’s peer-reviewed study, “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria: Parent Reports on 1655 Possible Cases,” was published March 29 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Bailey and Diaz’s 1,655 identified cases of ROGD were too numerous to ignore. The participating parents revealed that their children had displayed a high proportion of pre-existing mental health problems, predating gender dysphoria by four years on average. AYA with a higher preponderance of emotional problems were found to be especially likely to have socially or medically transitioned. Most provocatively to gender ideologues, the best predictor of transition was found to be a consultation with a gender specialist. Parents who did so tended to feel they were pressured to transition their children. Finally, parents said their children’s general functioning deteriorated after they socially transitioned.
These conclusions challenged the settled beliefs of gender ideologues—now better organized for pushback than they had been when caught off-guard by Littman’s 2018 paper—that social transition improves the mental health of all gender dysphoric children, and that affirmation is a best clinical practice, without regard to any history of trauma or comorbidities.
And so, on April 19, hundreds of LGBTQ researcher-advocates and allies circulated an open letter on the Listserv of the International Academy of Sex Research, the organization closely associated with, but not the owner of Archives of Sexual Behavior (ASB). Deep ethical shade was cast on Dr. Bailey, ASB, and its editor Dr. Kenneth Zucker, with the signatories—including World Professional Association for Transgender Health President Marci Bowers—threatening to refrain from submitting to the journal or acting as peer reviewers until Dr. Zucker was replaced by an editor “with a demonstrated record of integrity.” (Zucker, an internationally eminent sexologist, had long presided over the gender dysphoria clinic at Toronto’s mental health hospital, CAMH, but in 2016 was driven out by activists because of his policy of wait-and-watch caution against too-early affirmation. Their witch hunt was resolved in his legal favour in 2018, capped by a public apology.)
On May 5, a counter-petition was launched by the group FAIR in Medicine in support of Dr. Zucker. The names of many of its signatories will be familiar to followers of our era’s alpha dissenters against gender ideology’s institutional capture in the fields of pedagogy, sport, and the sciences, such as: the above-referenced Lisa Littman, Stanford University medical scientist Jay Battacharya, evolutionary biologist Colin Wright, award-winning journalist Abigail Shrier, developmental biologist Emma Hilton, and high-performance coach Linda Blade.
Springer Nature, ASB’s publisher, caved to the activists. On May 10 a Publisher’s Note was added to the article, stating its methodology was under scrutiny and that an investigation was being conducted, in particular “due to concerns about lack of informed consent [by survey participants].” This makes no sense. On the form survey participants signed, it states: “Your answers will help us gain a better understanding of which children are more vulnerable to [ROGD] and what we can do to help them better. We will publish our data on our website when we have a large enough sample to make our results significant.”
Never one to back down from an attack on his professional integrity—this isn’t his first dust-up with gender ideologues—Bailey took to Twitter to arouse public attention to the injustice, saying that the article “remains true” despite being slapped with a retraction notice. He then elaborated on the history of attacks on ROGD research in an Unherd.com article, “Why Is My Research Being Cancelled?” which handily rebuts Springer Nature’s rationales for retraction and which vigorously defends both Zucker’s editorial integrity and the study’s methodology.
When asked on Twitter what retraction of the paper would accomplish, Bailey responded, “it’s a gotcha” for activists, because most people “will assume fraud.” Furthermore, “the publisher can disappear the article later if they choose to. And scholars may be discouraged by editors from citing the article.”
Before its suspension, the study was downloaded more than 38,000 times, ranked in the top percentile of its type for online attention.
A parting thought: Parents who unquestioningly affirm their children’s alleged dysphoria are themselves affirmed as admirable parents by ideologues. But, as the Bailey-Diaz study concludes, “there is presently no reason to believe that reports of parents who support gender transition are more accurate [in assessing what is in their children’s best interests] than those who oppose transition.”