When I first came across this paper I was, initially, alienated by the standard Ideologically approved language. I pushed past the “assigned at birth”, “gender identity” framing which is ubiquitous in this field, and it actually proved to be an interesting paper with some important observations. It lasted, I think, about six weeks before activists got the final paragraph removed. Here is that paragraph. 👇
He is proposing more research to, potentially, identify less risky and invasive treatments that could mitigate “Gender Dysphoria”. He also recommends caution, to the clinical community. Were activists appeased by the concession made by the journal? No. There followed a sustained campaign to get the paper retracted, which succeeded in April 2020. So why? What did the paper say that activists think needs to be suppressed?
The paper rejects the idea of “brain sex” which is the idea that a male can have a “female brain”. That is a theory based on the claim brain imaging showed transgender individuals have a “female brain”. Critics point to the impact of neuro-plasticity; where the neural pathways are forged as an adaptive response to the external environment. Others highlight that these studies fail to control for homosexuality or even exogenous female sex hormones (synthetic oestrogen). At best the jury is out on #LadyBrain theory.
The paper considers a number of hypotheses about the causes of Gender Dysphoria. It concludes that the multi-sensory theory best explains the variety of types of Gender Dysphoria; the different ages of onset and whether sufferers persist in, or desist from, identifying as the opposite sex.
The theory is that Gender Dysphoria, is a bodily dis-associative disorder, caused by dynamic activity in functional networks. He uses this theory to explore connections with high rates of anxiety and depression and some theories that persons with autism have an altered sense of their “body-ownership”. (There is an over-representation of autistic people with Gender Dysphoria. Autistic females are represented at eight times the rate of Autistic males. This is despite significantly lower numbers of diagnosed autistic girls). Crucially the authors argue that their theory does not rule out the additional role of psychosocial factors.
The paper makes comparison with other theories of Gender Dysphoria and this is what likely propelled activists to get it retracted. The social justice theory is that all of these children (and adults) are simply “Born in the Wrong Body”. They are deemed to be “correct” in feeling this way and it has become anathema to contradict this belief.
Another aspect of this paper which explains the ire it generated, is the data on how, in many young children with gender dysphoria, it resolves by itself. This data tends to be hotly contested, even though it is pretty much consistently the case that the vast majority, historically, desisted.
As I have posted before , on this blog, why are we medicalising children when the vast majority would desist, reconcile to biological sex and many would simply be gay? A reminder of an overview of the studies which generate these statistics Do trans kids stay Trans?
Note that desistance studies that post-date the administration of puberty blockers show a very different trajectory. It has been noted that these children invariably progress to cross-sex hormones. They appear to be locked into the trajectory to further medicalisation. As many of those that desisted , historically, turned out to be Gay Males and Lesbians that raises an unpleasant spectre of Gay Eugenics.
This paper also doesn’t cover the issue of “Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD) This is a new phenomenon which, I have argued before, doesn’t seem unconnected to a rise in teaching , in schools, of the idea of “Born in the Wrong Body”. We have seen a rise of 4500% in referrals to the UK main Gender Identity services and an inversion of the sex ratios. Until this last decade referrals were mainly male. Now females pre-dominate. Lisa Littman published a paper on ROGD and it also came under sustained attack, was withdrawn, further reviewed and re-published with only minor changes. You can read about this controversy here Lisa Littman: ROGD
However this is a rapidly changing situation and this paper attempts to address shortcomings in our knowledge base in a considered manner. It even uses the language of “Cisgender” and is careful not to refer to the activists least favourite theory of Autogynephilia. The conclusions it drew were fairly gentle and should have been uncontentious. What’s that you say? We need more research?
And for this the author has been hounded for months. The retracted paper, after the “offending” paragraph was removed, is here 👉. Paper