Academic blocked from researching people who reversed their gender assignment surgery speaks out

University wanted to avoid criticism of 'politically incorrect' piece of research

Rachael Revesz
Monday 25 September 2017 16:08
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Bath Spa University rejected Mr Caspian's proposal
Bath Spa University rejected Mr Caspian's proposal

An academic has said he was prevented from researching people who decided to reverse their gender assignment surgery because a university said it was “politically incorrect”.

James Caspian, a psychotherapist who works with transgender and transsexual people, wanted to conduct the research for a master’s degree in counselling and psychotherapy at Bath Spa University.

His research proposal was rejected because, he said, the university found it best “not to offend people”.

“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,” Mr Caspian told BBC Radio 4.

He added: “I was astonished at that decision. I think a university exists to encourage discussion, research, dissent even, challenging ideas that are out of date or not particularly useful.”

The university reportedly told Mr Caspian that “engaging in a potentially politically incorrect piece of research carries a risk to the university”.

Mr Caspian argued the research needed to be done as he had found growing numbers of young people who were regretting having surgery, and he said some were even “traumatised”.

His research proposal was influenced by a conversation with Dr Miroslav Djordjevic of the Belgrade Centre for Genital Reconstructive Surgery in 2014. Mr Djordjevic said he had carried out seven reversals that year, more than ever before.

Mr Caspian’s proposal was originally accepted by the university. After discovering people were unwilling to talk openly about their experiences of reversing surgery, Mr Caspian amended the proposal to include talking to people who had transitioned to men and reverted to living as women without having surgery.

The proposal was then rejected.

Bath Spa University declined to comment. It is reportedly carrying out an internal investigation about the matter.

When asked about his research potentially harming transgender people who had fought for their right to have surgery, Mr Caspian said older studies on the subject were “out of date” and new research was important.

“The whole field has completely changed over the last few years and the idea that we might use the information from the research we are going to do in a way that won’t help people is completely wrong,” he said.

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