Call for eNeuro to retract 'gender dysphoria' theory paper

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To the Editor-in-Chief and Advisory and Editorial Board of eNeuro, and the leadership of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

We, the undersigned, call upon you to reconsider your decision concerning the recent publication "A New Theory of Gender Dysphoria Incorporating the Distress, Social Behavioral, and Body-Ownership Networks" (https://www.eneuro.org/content/6/6/ENEURO.0183-19.2019 and are demanding a full retraction.

Beyond the numerous scientific and theoretical short-comings of this manuscript, the clear intent of the paper was to do harm to the transgender community, one of the most vulnerable communities across the globe. This was not only evident in the section on clinical implications that was removed, but in the basic assumption that transgender people are a deleterious deviation with a disordered network of brain regions which pervades the entire manuscript. This is not merely an example of difference in scientific opinion, but a direct attack on a vulnerable community.

Publication of such perspectives in an SfN Open Access journal signals clearly to every member of the transgender community, every non-binary/genderqueer person, and every gender non-conforming young child that SfN and associated journals do not care about their safety or well-being, including those that are active scientists and members of SfN. You have done irreparable damage and given a false yet persuasive veneer of legitimacy to every anti-trans group, both secular and religious. In short, you have brought the society and, by association, the discipline into terrible disrepute.

While many of our criticisms lay squarely on the article, it is also quite clear that the editorial process at eNeuro, and perhaps other SfN-associated journals, is deeply flawed. None of the three reviewers were sufficiently socially-, politically-, or scientifically-aware of the true intent and meaning of the clinical implications paragraph that was not only disregarding decades of research on the effectiveness of transitioning but actively promoting “chemical conversion therapy.” These statements hark back to a time when all members of LGBTQ+ community – gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and otherwise queer people – were sent off to mental health institutions for electroshock therapy, castration, or other invasive and damaging practices, which are now discredited in the scientific community and even illegal in many states. The same should be for any such practice aimed specifically at the transgender community who are already experiencing entrenched discrimination in society. Your reviewers and editorial staff have completely failed the LGBTQ+ community.

As such, in addition to retraction of the article, we are now demanding revisions to your reviewer policy in regards to any LGBTQ+ focused study, review, or theory manuscript such as the ‘gender dysphoria’ paper. Our demand is that at least one reviewer should come from the community directly impacted by these types of papers to ensure that language and intent are not dangerous, deleterious, or damning. These demands (retraction, revisions to the reviewer policy) are in order to restore confidence in the integrity of the journal and its editorial process. A retraction is NOT censorship as this concern fails on a number of points: 1) the paper is not scientific, but ideological; 2) the paper has many errors in fact and logic that should have been discovered during peer review and prevented publication (but weren’t), and 3) retracting a paper is a correction of the scientific literature and not censorship.

We will call for further direct action by the community, both scientific and LGBTQ+, including boycotting SfN journals and conferences, if these demands are not addressed satisfactorily in a timely manner.

Signed,

Troy A. Roepke, Ph.D., Member

Mark Baxter, Ph.D., Member

E. Mae Guthman, Ph.D., Member

Olivia Guest, Ph.D.

Reubs J Walsh, BA (Oxon) MSc (Lond)

Elizabeth A. Aulino, B.S., Member

Sofia K. Forslund, Ph.D.