Nuanced research is crucial, not politically incorrect

The term ‘Political incorrectness’ has become weapon, an accusation or label that makes people jump. Even the most self-assured orators quake in their boots when the term is thrown about.

Clearly, there is a necessity for sensitivity. Verbal abuse is never acceptable, and facts should be as verifiable as possible. However, there is a distinct difference between watching what you say and refusing to discuss anything at all. The former is helpful, the latter is not. Our polite avoidance of sensitive subjects in some circles has led to an assumption that peace is reached only when we sweep the most difficult discussions under the carpet.

Last week, Bath Spa University rejected psychologist James Caspian’s application to research why people sometimes choose to reverse their Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS). The study was refused due the potential risk of accusations of political incorrectness that the University could face on social media. But, by labelling the attempt at research designed to help a vulnerable part of the population as politically incorrect, the university has succeeded in further isolating the trans community. They have put their reputation above the need to understand and prevent the traumatic experiences of a group who are already often socially excluded.

Is it not self-evident that without healthy discussion our society will not overcome the issues we face? That is not to say that we should tolerate misogynistic, racist or transphobic behaviour, but avoiding these sensitive topics is not a solution. Further research into gender reassignment is increasingly necessary, as the number of people undergoing surgery is rising every year, and there are very few professionals who can provide the necessary care and advice.

James Caspian’s research was not designed to offend anyone, or to prevent SRS. It was simply an attempt by an experienced psychologist to better understand the complexity of the issues facing the trans community – of which he is very well acquainted. His findings showed that there were an increasing number of people detransitioning, and he wanted permission to continue investigating why this was the case.

It is unsurprising that people who have undergone a reversal to their surgery are often unwilling to talk about it, with very little known about why they might change their minds. This research could have helped prevent or at least reduced the suffering that is born from our lack of knowledge on the issue. As with all research, there is of course a potential for misuse; care must be taken to prevent dismissals of the complexity of each individual’s situation, and trans people should  be included in the research.

These studies must happen if we are to understand the reasons for surgical transitions and detransitions. The psychological stress that the surgery can cause should not be underestimated. Although discussions may be fraught with difficulty, anger, and accusation, they should not be shut down simply because they may cause opposition. The trans community deserve better than institutions that are more interested in their own reputation than the opportunity to help transgender individuals.

Image: Diliff

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