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Academic at Bath Spa University blocked from researching people who reversed their gender assignment surgery


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A researcher at Bath Spa University has been banned from looking into cases of people who have surgery to reverse gender reassignment after fears it would generate controversy on social media.

James Caspian, a psychotherapist, wanted to conduct research for his master’s degree in counselling and psychotherapy and has accused the university of failing to follow ‘the most basic tenets of academic and intellectual freedom of enquiry’.

The proposal was rejected with an explanation stating that the research was potentially ‘politically incorrect’ and could lead to material being posted online that ‘may be detrimental to the reputation of the institution’.

Mr Caspian, a counsellor who specialises in therapy for transgender people, made the decision to embark on the research following a conversation with a surgeon who had carried out operations to reverse gender reassignment surgery, after some came to regret their choice. Initially, Caspian was given approval by Bath Spa for his research, which would need clearance from the ethics sub-committee in order for him to carry out interviews.

However, he was unable to find willing participants and was asked to change the proposal so that it would include women who had transitioned to men and reverted to living as women, without surgery. Caspian asked if he could post a request on online forums for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) as a way of recruiting participants.

He was informed that this would require a new submission to the sub committee which, after discussion, rejected the idea. The rejection form read ‘Engaging in a potentially ‘politically incorrect’ piece of research carries a risk to the university.

‘Attacks on social media may not be confined to the researcher but may involve the university.’

It added that ‘the posting of unpleasant material on blogs or social media may be detrimental to the reputation of the university.’

It also said that there were potential risks to Mr Caspian’s own safety and wellbeing and were concerned about ensuring the confidentiality of participants and their personal details.

In response, Caspian, who has since lodged a complaint with the university, said "That would mean that the university cannot withstand disagreement, argument, dissension.

"Where would stand the reputation of a university that cannot follow the most basic tenets of academic and intellectual freedom of enquiry? I am more concerned about the potential impact of that stance on its reputation than I am about possible comments on social media."

Bath Spa University said that it was unable to comment while the complaint was being investigated.

Images courtesy of Bath Spa University and Chris Holifield.

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