Brown University researcher Lisa Littman has become the latest cause célèbre for academic freedom grifters after publishing an irresponsible article promoting "rapid-onset gender dysphoria," yet another disease model of gender identity and expression. Imagine a disease called "rapid-onset homosexuality" to understand the problem with "ROGD." Now all the usual suspects are defending her biased garbage.
On Monday, PLOS ONE announced it is conducting a postpublication investigation of the study's methodology and analysis. "This is not about suppressing academic freedom or scientific research. This is about the scientific content itself—whether there is anything that needs to be looked into or corrected," PLOS ONE Editor-in-Chief Joerg Heber in San Francisco, California, told ScienceInsider in an interview yesterday.
Also on Monday, Brown officials removed the university's press release highlighting the paper from its website. On Tuesday, Bess Marcus, dean of Brown's School of Public Health, wrote in an open statement that the university acted "in light of questions raised about research design and data collection related to the study." She added that people in the Brown community have raised concerns that the study's conclusions "could be used to discredit efforts to support transgender youth and invalidate the perspectives of members of the transgender community."
This kind of iatrogenesis is nothing new. The historical arc of bigotry like this toward sex and gender minorities generally follows this trend:
Trans people have been stuck at Disease since last century, in part because a substantial cohort of trans people claim they ARE diseased, usually for financial or social reasons. Disease mongers capitalize on this, often because they want to be the one who creates or names a disease. In the case of Littman, she is possibly the first academic to publish about a term that bubbled up from anti-transgender forums and SEXNET, a secret online hidey-hole where anti-trans fringe sexologists concoct diseases and strategies for popularizing them.
When researching oppressed minorities, academic freedom must go hand in hand with the highest levels of academic responsibility. The reification of garbage like "ROGD" is completely irresponsible, as it attempts to layer a disease (social contagion) over what might simply be an improvement in social acceptance.