Banned from researching trans

Perceived criticism of trans orthodoxy was too much for one university

Artillery Row

James Caspian was never anti-trans. A trained psychotherapist, he spent ten years working in a private gender clinic providing counselling therapy for people who wanted to change their gender and later worked to assess their suitability for treatment. But in 2014 when speaking to a colleague over a pint, he heard about a worrying trend. Both had noticed a rise in younger patients but his friend Miroslav Djordjevic, a paediatric Urologist from Serbia, had met several wanting to reverse their gender surgery, something which concerned them both greatly.

They agreed it needed to be understood and Mr. Caspian agreed to research the new phenomenon of “detransitioning” in time to present his findings to a major transgender health conference (EPATH) hosted by Djordjevic in Belgrave in a few years time. 

It was a long journey. Mr. Caspian enrolled at Bath Spa University and spent a year studying compulsory research modules before submitting his own research proposal. A separate application needed to go to the ethics committee who approved the research without an issue. Next came the call for volunteers.

Has he changed his mind?  For him the ‘straightforwardness’ of the issue has changed

Mr Caspian had already noticed a shift in the kind of people coming into his own clinic. From around 2012 there had been a steady decline in the predominantly older male candidates who came through the door in favour of younger females wanting to change their gender. Caspian suspected the shift could be linked to social media and so his interest piqued when some young women came forward to respond to his call for interviewees.

The women who approached him didn’t qualify for the research since they had not opted for surgery to reverse the effects of their female to male transition, but Mr Caspian had been so troubled by their stories that he asked the university if he could change the scope of the research to include them in it. He said:

Many of these young women had been sexually abused and hated their bodies, they were self-harming and had depression. They found this trans thing and thought it was a marvellous way of resolving their considerable problems but it actually added to them.

Did his initial research make him change his mind on the issue?  Mr Caspian says he knows friends who have transitioned and are now happier despite the fact that it was a costly journey. But he says the “straightforwardness” of the issue has changed for him, adding: “I was reading testimonies of mostly young female people who felt as if they had been drawn to a movement, some of them even used the word ‘cult’.”

After asking the university if he could include their stories, Bath Spa referred him back to the ethics committee who refused his request and revoked the permission they had granted for his previous topic which had the effect of preventing him from carrying out any research at Bath Spa on the topic.

The university suggested that nasty comments posted on social media about his work might upset him

In their rejection letter the ethics board wrote “Engaging in a potentially ‘politically incorrect’ piece of research carries a risk to the University”, and added “the posting of unpleasant material on blogs or social media may be detrimental to the reputation of the University”. They also suggested that comments posted on social media might “upset” him personally.

To this point Mr Caspian replied: 

Do you decide that no-one should ever be allowed to say anything that might be commented on on Twitter (or similar), because if they do it would somehow be unable to be tolerated by the university? If you do, you call into question the very reason for the existence of a university, to be a place for exchange of ideas, discussion, dissent, questioning, research and critical thinking. I do feel that this should be self-evident, but apparently it is not…

Later Mr Caspian obtained emails via the Freedom of Information Act, sent internally from members of the university which showed “panicked” employees questioning whether he could be persuaded to research a different topic. He was later told officially in early 2017 that the answer was never going to change, the year he was supposed to be delivering his findings to the EPATH conference. When he asked for his fees to be refunded he was refused.

The former psychotherapist then began a lengthy legal process but has so far been refused even a hearing from any British court. Mr Caspian says Bath Spa’s lawyers used legal technicalities to argue the case should not be heard, but in 2019 on appeal he managed to get a hearing in the High Court to determine whether the case could go to court. Mr Caspian said the judge was “torn” over the decision, and “after much deliberation” sided with Bath Spa’s lawyers.

Now, Mr Caspian’s only chance to get his day in court is via the European Court of Human Rights, a body which was set up by the Council of Europe which the UK is still a member of. As well as launching a crowdfunder, the former psychotherapist is being assisted by the Christian Legal Centre. Mr Caspian says he was happy to work with anybody who would support him in what he sees as a failure of Bath Spa to uphold academic freedom.

He said:

I have been faced with no alternative but to take this case to Europe. Too much is at stake for academic freedom and for hundreds, if not thousands, of young people who are saying that they are being harmed and often silenced by a rigid view that has become a kind of transgender ideology and permits no discussion.

Andrea Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal centre, said:

Over the past decade there has been a 3,000 per cent spike in young girls and women being referred to Gender Identity Clinics. This is a phenomenon taking place in every Western nation with many regretting the life changing decisions they subsequently make. Why? That was the question James Caspian wanted to research. 

Yet in the current climate, anyone who attempts to research, explain and answer these questions is denounced and silenced. This is because the truth and the harm being done to many young people is devastating.

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