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Gender surgery regret. Academic blocked from researching it!

(31 Posts)
4square Mon 25-Sep-17 10:53:53

www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/psychotherapist-gender-assignment-surgery-reverse-research-stop-trans-bath-spa-university-james-a7965281.html

This was apparently going to be a genuine research project, about people who regret their gender reassignment surgery and get it reversed.

The project was stopped by the University because they were worried they'd get criticised on social media (by transactivists, which isn't said explicitly in the report but is definitely implied) and give the University a bad name.

I think academic enquiry being blocked like this is terrible

BertrandRussell Mon 25-Sep-17 10:59:14

I wish somebody could explain to me so that I understand how transactivists have suddenly go so much power. "Cis" women struggle for years for an inch of progress, but trans women seem to be able to have what they want when they want it. It's all very odd.

Zoll Mon 25-Sep-17 11:22:40

It's not odd. 1) It's because they are men. and 2) It's because they are a clown car filled with the historical struggle between authority and liberty. wink

retreatwhispering Mon 25-Sep-17 11:29:53

Bertrand, I suspect that it's a combination of factors. Good old fashioned male entitlement; snowflakery; piggy backing onto the accepted mindset WRT race, sexuality etc. And well intentioned confusion between what stems from a medical condition and what is social contagion. Also, it seems, a lot more money than women's causes have at their disposal.

Turning down a research project is fair enough. But not on those grounds.

DJBaggySmalls Mon 25-Sep-17 11:50:58

I'm not sure I can explain this well, but I think part of the problem is support from people who mean well but don't get it.

Think about the general elections a few years ago, when perfectly sensible, ordinary people insisted that it was offensive to show the Union Jack, or celebrate Christmas. Thats what they had heard, and they meant well and didnt want to offend anyone.
But I believe those rumours were started by the BNP, knowing that nice people would want to do the right thing and pass them on in good faith.
It didn't matter how many Muslims countered the argument, stating no one has ever tried to ban the flag. It became an opportunity for nice people and virtue signalers alike to show how much they cared about minorities, and the BNP hid among them stirring it up.

If people have been told that trans people are suffering and dying, they can go online and see its true. What they cant find is any information to counter the arguments they hear, and they wont realise why. They wont hear is who's behind the movement & how much money is pushing the agenda.

I think that blocking this enquiry on the grounds it might upset some people so much they get violent has been a wake up call for many people.

Ineedacupofteadesperately Mon 25-Sep-17 12:06:25

This was discussed on Today on radio 4 this morning www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b095psnx#play (don't know how to make it clicky). 1hr 43 mins in. Very balanced I thought. It is slightly funny that Bath denied this research for fear of bad publicity but James Caspian was on Today talking about how his research was being suppressed for fear of bad publicity.......grin

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 25-Sep-17 12:07:06

Ha! Poetic justice.

BMacklin Mon 25-Sep-17 12:56:02

Also mentioned on Radio 4 this morning on the Today programme. Forward it to 149.09.

BMacklin Mon 25-Sep-17 12:57:11

Sorry Ineed! I just noticed you already said that! blush

CanIBuffalo Mon 25-Sep-17 13:18:53

On the BBC mobile news page now.

BMacklin Mon 25-Sep-17 13:23:17

www.thetimes.co.uk/article/even-asking-questions-is-now-transphobic-ztk3rlrfk also but its behind a paywall. I thinks its been linked in another thread...

everyone should also check out: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/debate-not-hate-we-need-to-talk-about-gender-tickets-38129665857/amp

BMacklin Mon 25-Sep-17 13:49:16

Also just to add isn't shutting down transpeople from discussing their experiences transphobic? smile

MoaningYoniAgain Mon 25-Sep-17 14:05:36

On the beeb website now too

Bath Spa University transgender research block labelled 'astonishing' - www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-41384473

Beingrippedoff Mon 25-Sep-17 14:12:32

I just saw this on BBC website and came here to see if it was being discussed. I wonder if all the publicity will lead to a rethink. Maybe the media tide is starting to turn. Hopefully in time to influence the debate round the proposed changes to GRA.

SomeDyke Mon 25-Sep-17 14:23:31

"The project was stopped by the University because they were worried they'd get criticised on social media (by transactivists, which isn't said explicitly in the report but is definitely implied) and give the University a bad name. "
Just to add my tuppence......My experience with university ethics committees at my uni is pretty good. Projects are subject to local (departmental) scrutiny to iron out some bumps before going to a university-wide ethics committee (not animal or NHS related, those are different areas). But as regards the research with human subjects side (which I presume this falls under), we have a panel of academics from various faculties (all science I think in my case). The usual issues we have to address are things like 'is the research reasonably sound and has it been approved by someone (i.e. a supervisor), who knows this stuff. This is because it is viewed as unethical to waste the time of human subjects (even if they are fellow students!), by investigating a research question that is utter bollocks! The main issues we then tend to have are things like consent, data protection and anonymity, are the personal details of the subjects going to be kept at all, and is the investigator going to be safe (when you are thinking about stuff like where people are going to be interviewed). Actually, as a scientists who doesn't get to involve human subjects, it is quite reassuring to me to see exactly how things are handled. If someone objects to the judgement of the committee, then they can appeal and so on. Some people do get very snotty at having a bunch of physicists, chemists etc daring to question them, but most graduate students (PhD and Masters) are okay with it.

My only thoughts with this one, if it came in front of me, would be, you do realise you'll probably get attacked on social media over this choice of topic? And have you got enough subjects for it to be worth doing. Even if someone in a meeting raised the 'bad publicity' point, I think that would be jumped upon pretty quickly as irrelevant to the university.

Universities are usually quite good at protecting the academic freedom of their staff, at least, even when their staff insist on researching really 'unpopular' topics or holding really unusual views. Looking at the current BBC news story, if it came in front of our committee, the proposer looks eminently qualified and well-aware of the issues.

I suppose the only other thought would be that the university (unlike the proposer) is (probably) covered by confidentiality, so cannot say why it was rejected. I would expect there to be some review/complaint process, and seems something else is going on at the moment. But does seem extraordinary statement for them to have ever made as regards publicity and the university. Because if they didn't say any of that, then they would have the issue of a researcher just plain lying to the press about their research (not recommended!).

I suppose it is possible that some committee member made some remarks about possibility of publicity and bad press, and possible harassment of the researcher and the department -- I think I would if such a proposal came before me. BUT the emphasis would be does the researcher realise this might happen, and are there structures in place to protect them? Not 'this won't look good for the university so we'll throw academic freedom out the window and not allow it!'.

The process is usually pretty good, and I admit I'll be waiting eagerly to see what happens further in this case................Bath Spa are going to look like a right lot of numpties if they get this wrong. Research freedom and research ethics are a thing that most academics feel quite strongly about, and they will get a bit cross if they think it isn't being respected.................

Datun Mon 25-Sep-17 14:33:57

That's interesting SomeDyke.

He was quite unequivocal in his statement.

"The fundamental reason given was that it might cause criticism of the research on social media and criticism of the research would be criticism of the university and they also added it was better not to offend people," he said.

At first there weren't enough people, so he included transmen, and then they chucked it out on the basis of political correctness.

As you say. It's a whopping lie, if he can't back it up.

I don't think it's going to go away, so it will be interesting to see what the university say next.

TobeLaRoan Mon 25-Sep-17 14:36:16

Yes, what SomeDyke said re the processes involved in ethics committees.

THis is very much not my field, but I'd imagine the obvious (and important) concerns with this proposal would be with the ethics around conducting research on what will inevitably be some very psychologically damaged and fragile individuals, particularly if it involves long interviews or asking very intimate questions in a way that has clear potential to have an adverse effect on the subjects' mental state and functioning.

But assuming the academic concerned is also an experienced psychotherapist with a background in research in that field, you'd expect him to have thought about it all very carefully and ensured that there were clear routes for assessing how well subjects were coping with the interview process and ensuring they had access to independent psychological/psychiatric support.

SomeDyke Mon 25-Sep-17 16:20:00

Just listened to the interview with the chap on Radio 4, and given his account, and given what he said about contacting detransitioned transmen............he has loads of experience, this is a worthy topic, frankly. Totally up to date and relevant. He has a group of detransitioned transmen who have had top surgery, in addition to earlier subjects.

And he says clearly says they WROTE this as regards 'politically correct' and not upsetting people. I'm stunned that the Ethics Committee would be that bloody stupid! Because Bath Spa, unless this was a tremendous lie (and if they wrote it he has the evidence), are going to look like a total bunch of idiots. Unless their own internal procedures produce a change of decision (which is the point of appeals and complaints procedures), or a proper reason for refusal, then academically, their reputation is going to be shot. And publicly so..........

4square Mon 25-Sep-17 18:31:11

@Zoll well summarised!
@SomeDyke I am also surprised it seems to be as clear cut as this. Bath Spa are doing themselves a huge disservice.

Ineedacupofteadesperately Mon 25-Sep-17 19:28:37

I have a friend who is a lecturer at another uni in a different field. Given the stories she's told me about how hung up the uni is these days on marketing and reputation, this story doesn't surprise me. Plus, Bath were invited to comment and they didn’t say 'this isn't true' which suggests it is true.

newtlover Mon 25-Sep-17 19:45:33

I think this is very funny, and very useful-
it will flag up to people outside academia not only how (some) universities are prepared to sacrifice academic freedom- but also what a stranglehold transactivists have in some circles
I heard the piece on the Today programme and the researcher came across as very compassionate and open-minded. Can't believe the ethics committee were so stupid as to make this decision and not forsee that the researcher would go public. I imagine he will find it quite easy to do the research elsewhere, now.
On top of all this the whole issue of detransitioining and the state of these poor women will now have reached a wider audience.
Result all round, and I hope he gets to do the work and ultimately help people.

Anlaf Mon 25-Sep-17 20:46:09

His radio 4 interview linked above is interesting. He says he got in touch with a group of US women who'd had mascestomies but had then detransitioned without reversing their surgery, and so in his research he wanted to investigate:

"the growing number of particularly young people, and particularly young women who are transitioning their gender and then regretting it."

Tis a feminist issue this, right enough.

Datun Mon 25-Sep-17 20:51:04

Tis a feminist issue this, right enough.

It definitely is. Women who feel they do not fit, is certainly a cause for feminists to investigate.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Mon 25-Sep-17 20:52:19

I wonder if THES will cover it.

SomeDyke Mon 25-Sep-17 20:54:22

"Plus, Bath were invited to comment and they didn’t say 'this isn't true' which suggests it is true."

Just to say:
There is a Bath (University of), and a Bath Spa University (which now makes me think of spa weekends etc etc.)
The former is the one with the grossly overpaid hard-working and totally splendid vice chancellor who is worth far more given all her hard work, O yes indeed!
The latter is the one with the research ethics committee whose decision is being disputed.

It must be something in the water(s) grin

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