Bad faith patterns

The misrepresentation of research

jane fae


Image adapted from Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope by Giuseppe Bertini (1858): public domain. Captioned: Doge: “So, close both eyes… …and I will see proof that trans women worship the devil?” Galileo: “Yes, your Popiness!” Doge: “You know I’m not the actual Pope: just the Doge of Venice?” Galileo: “R-r-ruff!”
Adapted from Galileo showing the Doge of Venice how to use the telescope by Giuseppe Bertini (1858): public domain

This week, the anti-trans have been out and about once more pushing the fraudulent line that trans women display a “male pattern” of offending. Like, we’re all rapists, doncha know.

This is bare-faced misrepresentation of the one supposed major piece of research in this area. It shouldn’t take more than a simple reading of what the research says to realise it doesn’t.

Now read on…

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For those not familiar with the territory, this is going to be a detailed look at “that Swedish study”. You know the one: it’s the 2011 paper, somewhat sexily titled Long-Term Follow-Up of Transsexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden.

It’s by Swedish academic Cecilia Dhejne and a bunch of academic mates. Her reason for doing so? As Dhejne correctly pointed out: there is adearth of long term, follow-up studies after sex reassignment”. So, it seemed like a good idea to do one.

Also, unlike some researchers in this area, her motivation for doing so was broadly positive. In statements in and around the paper since then, she has spoken about how the point of this work was to locate areas for improvement of trans healthcare. She has also told of how upset she is that something so basic has been kidnapped by anti-trans campaigners.

Having seen how the anti-trans will re-purpose anything, from last week’s chip papers to a lottery ticket if it will make trans folks look bad, i sympathise. But not too much. In some trans circles, there has grown up a sense that this is a decent well-intentioned paper from a would-be ally that just happened to fall into the terf mincing machine.

I have always been less convinced. My earliest reading of it made me uneasy. Returning to it this week, the best i can say is that it is “flawed” — and a failure by the author to engage fully with both critics and the bad faith tendency has encouraged its mis-use.

I’ve avoided it for a bit because (TW for the math-phobic!) it is going to include not just some numbers, but — eeek! — a little bit of statistics too. If you can bear it, though, this might just count as an important review. So…



jane fae

Feminist, writer, campaigner on political and sexual liberty who also knows a bit about IT, the law and policing. Not entirely serious…