Monday, October 26, 2020

Under The Microscope

There has been many studies into what makes us tick but one thing to remember with all the research is if they find a “cause” for being trans all they found is one possible cause, there could be many, many reasons why we are trans.
The Disturbing History of Research into Transgender Identity
Research into the determinants of gender identity may do more harm than good
Scientific America
By Jack Turban
October 23, 2020

In 1975 psychiatrist Robert Stoller of the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote something bizarre in his textbook on sex and gender. He asserted that people who were assumed to be boys when they were born but whose gender identity or expression did not match that assumption “often have pretty faces, with fine hair, lovely complexions, graceful movements, and—especially—big, piercing, liquid eyes.” Based on this observation, he suggested a theoretical model in which transgender girls become transgender because they are especially cute. Society treats them more like girls, he reasoned, and because of this experience, they start to identify as female.

As a physician-scientist, I’m generally of the opinion that knowledge leads to progress. But studies focused on this particular question—those asking what determines someone’s gender identity—have led us down some strange and dangerous paths. Researchers in this area appear to be in search of some objective truth, but the science is rooted in a subjective assumption: that we need to know what makes someone transgender so that they can be “fixed.” As a result, scientists have relentlessly pursued such questions, launching studies that promoted ideas that could hurt transgender children and their families.
And researchers like Kenneth Zucker PhD and Ray Blanchard PhD liked these studies and came out with their own research.

One of the things you should do when you read about a “study” is how did they pick their subjects. One such theory that has been debunked is autogynephilia by Blanchard in his book The Man Who Would Be Queen but by his own words the research was flawed. His survey was never validated to see if it was really measuring what he was testing, he picked his subjects from gay bars not randomly, he didn’t have a “control” group, and I think most tell of all he never tested cisgender women to see if they exhibit the same traits.

Another study that was debunked was the Brown University study that coined the phrase “Rapid Onset of Gender Dysphoria” (ROGD)…
Similar research into the psychological causes of transgender identity continues even today. A physician at Brown University recently conducted an anonymous survey of respondents recruited via Web sites for parents who believe peer pressure and online influences have made their children transgender. The survey essentially asked the parents if they thought the Internet made their children trans, and the parents, not surprisingly, given that they were visiting Web sites about this idea, answered yes. Conservative media latched onto the study, suggesting that transgender children are really just confused kids tricked into being transgender after reading something on Reddit. The implication is that we need to take these kids away from supportive online LGBTQ communities so that they can be made cisgender again. Reading through this literature, we need to ask ourselves some questions: What is the reason for this research? What does it hope to accomplish? The tireless search reveals a thinly veiled dogma: that being transgender is a pathology to be fixed. This belief not only harms transgender people but also undermines good science.
This study as I see it had two major flaws, first was in the way the researcher selected her subjects from anti-trans conservative websites and second the researcher was questioning parents and not their trans child about the trans identity formation.

Picking test subjects is the most important things in doing a survey or research study. Suppose you are doing a study the is looking at the cause of crime. So you survey a prison and you find 70 percent of the inmates smoked cigarettes you could jump to the conclusion that cigarettes causes criminal behavior. But if you look at the general population only a small fraction of the smokers are criminals and that would shoot down your hypothesis that cigarettes causes criminal behavior.

Surveying a marginalized population is very hard. First many of the members of the target population do not want to come out, and second it is very hard to survey everyone in the target population over the whole social-economic spectrum. Take for example the 2015 US Transgender Survey, it was done online and this has built error… only people who have access to a computer could do the survey and as a result many of the more marginalized members of the community never took the survey.

When I was working to develop a survey that was funded by Yale University we used a modified “snowball” recruitment procedure. The term “snowball” mean you recruit me (a seed) and I recruit three other people and they each recruit three more people each. What become very important are the seed people that you recruit, you want them to be as diverse as the population you’re surveying.

Also what are you surveying? Is it a general needs assessment or are you trying to prove or disprove hypothesis? So for the 2015 US Transgender Survey it isn’t necessarily bad that they used an online survey because it is really a needs assessment survey and they are not trying to prove or disprove anything they just want to see what are the needs of the community. But for research in to autogynephilia picking your subject from gay bars is a problem, I think you can see how picking your test subjects from a gay bar distorts the results. If they went to a trans conference how would it have effected the results?

So there are many factors you need to look at when you read about a research project or a survey.

That all being said, I am working on a LGBTQ+ needs assessment survey for the Connecticut Department of Public Health and the Legislative LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network. It is a needs assessment survey so that means it is going to be a convenience survey like the 2015 US Transgender Survey.

What we hope is to get every LGBTQ+ person in Connecticut to take the survey. We are looking at healthcare, housing, employment, and quality of life here in Connecticut. We also ask how the current epidemic is affecting you.

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