Transgender researcher’s case of rejected research quashed

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A UK psychotherapist who wanted to research reverse gender reassignment has claimed that he had his academic proposal rejected because his university was scared of backlash from trans community, The Daily Telegraph reports the High Court heard.

James Caspian planned to study the experiences of people who have de-transitioned as part of an MA at Bath Spa University, but his idea was rejected because it was “too ethically complex for a piece of research at master’s level”. When Caspian proposed the project, the university’s ethics subcommittee said: “attacks on social media may not be confined to the researcher but may involve the university.”

The report says Caspian’s barrister, Paul Diamond, argued that the Bath Spa had rejected the proposal on the grounds that “engaging in a potentially politically incorrect piece of research carries a risk to the university” and was seeking a judicial review of the process.

However, the judge, Michael Kent QC, quashed their case, saying: “I entirely accept that there are important issues of freedom of expression. I just do not accept that, on the facts of this particular case, there is an arguable case made out. He added that the application was brought too late after the university’s decision, and said: “I accept that it could be said that this is pedantic and it is far removed from the underlying decision, but I can’t see any way round that.”

The report quotes Caspian as saying: “I think this sets a dangerous precedent in that research into sensitive areas will not be carried out because universities don’t want to take ownership.”

Caspian was described by his barrister as “a psychotherapist with an esteemed reputation in the field of gender transition and gender dysphoria”, and as a “highly qualified and experienced professional” who is “clearly objectively qualified to do research on this subject matter”. “He’s not a spotty-nosed adolescent student. He’s the real McCoy,” said Diamond.

The report says he argued that “research in this complex field is needed as there are pressing social pressures on wider society to commence the procedure of gender realignment”, but added: “There is an atmosphere of fear in the academic community on researching this phenomenon.”

The psychotherapist had worked with transgender patients for eight years when he enrolled for the MA at Bath Spa University, and was a trustee of the transgender charity the Beaumont Trust. He was previously quoted as saying that he was “astonished” at the university’s decision to stop him studying people who regret changing their gender.

“I think that a university exists to encourage discussion, research – dissent even, challenging perhaps ideas that are out of date or not particularly useful,” he said.

The report says since 2017, when his case first gained public attention, more than 50 people have approached Caspian after deciding to reverse their gender reassignment surgery. Now, having failed in his bid for a judicial review, he says: “I will be discussing with our lawyers the next steps which may include going to the court of appeal.”

The Daily Telegraph report

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