Last Thursday, Dr. Allan M. Josephson sued leaders at the University of Louisville, alleging that the university demoted and effectively fired him for opposing transgender “treatment” for children. Josephson claims the university punished him for his speech at the Heritage Foundation.
“Universities are supposed to be a marketplace of ideas, but the University of Louisville is turning itself into an assembly line of one thought,” Travis Barham, a senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the law firm representing the professor, said in a statement. “Dr. Josephson has had a long and distinguished career at the University of Louisville, leading and rebuilding its child psychiatry program. Public universities have no business demoting or firing professors simply because they hold a different view than their colleagues or the administration, but that’s exactly what’s happened here.”
Dr. Josephson became a medical doctor in 1976 and a board-certified psychiatrist in 1982. He is licensed in Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, and South Carolina, and he has authored, co-authored, or edited at least 42 articles in scholarly journals. He became chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Louisville in 2003.
In recent years, however, Dr. Josephson has testified against the trend of treating children with gender dysphoria (the persistent condition of identifying with the gender opposite one’s birth sex) with treatments affirming a transgender identity. Drugs that block puberty or cross-sex hormones can endanger a child’s long-term psychological health, he argued.
In his 2016 testimony in the case Carcano v. McCrory, he argued that biological sex is immutable and based on objective binary genetic facts, while gender identity involves a basic sense of oneself as male or female — a social construct. Since “children are not equipped psychologically to make many important life decisions,” pro-transgender parents “abdicate their responsibilities if they allow children to ‘decide for themselves’ regarding key life decisions.”
Since transgender identity and medical attempts to affirm it often involve “permanent social, medical, psychiatric, and other consequences that cannot be fully appreciated until adulthood,” and since roughly 65 to 95 percent of youth who experience gender dysphoria will desist by late adolescence, children experiencing gender dysphoria “should receive individual therapy to understand the factors that fuel their desire to become a member of the opposite sex and attempt to resolve any conflicts.”
Dr. Josephson argued that children should receive “empathic guidance in aligning their feelings with their biological sex, which may take some time, rather than exclusively and quickly being affirmed in the belief that they were born in the ‘wrong body.'” While “youth experiencing gender dysphoria must always be affirmed as a person,” this “does not mean that parents or medical professionals should affirm their desire to become a member of the opposite sex before the issues are explored.”
The psychologist repeated similar arguments in 2017 at the Heritage Foundation. He argued that the new “transgender-affirming” treatment of gender dysphoria “neglects the developmental needs of children and relies on ideas that are just not true,” such as “the notion that gender identity should trump chromosomes, hormones, internal reproductive organs, external genitalia, and secondary sex characteristics,” which is “counter to medical science.”
“Children persistently, insistently, and consistently demand many things that are not good for them,” he added, affirming the experiences of parents everywhere. “A parent’s role is to resist these demands when parental wisdom trumps children’s limited life experience.”
“When someone complains of pain, medical professionals generally seek to understand what causes the pain,” Dr. Josephson argued. “When that inquiry is not allowed in the gender dysphoria context, the well-being of children is short-circuited, preventing us from diagnosing pain accurately, and an opportunity for developmental progress is missed.”
After his Heritage Foundation testimony, staff at the University of Louisville LGBT Center complained to his colleagues. Dr. Josephson’s colleagues wrongly considered his positions as “hostile” to the treatment of gender dysphoric patients, the lawsuit explains. Dr. Christine Brady, an assistant professor in his division, “claimed that Dr. Josephson’s belief that many individuals experiencing gender dysphoria have manifest psychopathology was evidence of his discrimination against those individuals.”
In a compelling line, the lawsuit states, “To her, to diagnose is to discriminate.”
Brian Buford, then-executive director at the LGBT Center, refused to give Dr. Josephson a rainbow sticker because he objected to Josephson’s views expressed at the Heritage Foundation. “Dr. Josephson has recently given speeches and taken part in other activities in which he refutes the existence of transgender identity,” he said, mischaracterizing Dr. Josephson’s position.
Charles Woods, former chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the university, told Dr. Josephson that “all your faculty are against you,” despite the fact that only five of the twelve members expressed disagreement with his Heritage Foundation remarks.
The university demoted Dr. Josephson in November 2017, a few weeks after his Heritage Foundation remarks. In February 2019, the university announced it would not renew his contract, effectively firing him.
The lawsuit claims these actions violated the professor’s First Amendment right to free speech, constituted viewpoint discrimination, imposed an unconstitutional condition for his employment, and violated his rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The lawsuit does not seek a specific dollar amount, but rather asks for a declaratory judgment against the university’s actions, an injunction forcing the school to renew Dr. Josephson’s contract and restore him to his leadership position, to purge his personnel file of any record of the demotion and the non-renewal of his contract. The lawsuit also asks for reasonable attorney’s fees.
“Universities should welcome differing viewpoints and encourage civil discourse in their academic communities,” ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom, said in a statement. “Speaking with conservative groups—or holding conservative views—should not be disqualifying for academic service. Unfortunately, the University of Louisville’s attempts to silence Dr. Josephson shut down debate and do a disservice to students and faculty alike.”
Yet efforts to silence dissent on transgender identity are not unique to the University of Louisville. Feminists have been banned by Twitter and kicked out of bars for standing for biology. British police called a 74-year-old woman because she tweeted in favor of biology, asking her to withdraw her statements. In a bone-chilling example, a transgender activist tweeted that he wanted to drink the “bone broth” of people who disagree with transgender identity. He was not banned from Twitter.
Americans should be free to express themselves, even if their opinions are unpopular. When it comes to transgender identity, skepticism based in good genetic and medical science should not be silenced. Many former transgender people have expressed deep and painful regret over their rush to hormones and surgery. Such “treatments” left these people scarred.
When parents and doctors encourage children to undergo permanent alterations to satisfy a transgender identity without seeking underlying psychological reasons, they do the children a disservice and prop up a false view of biological sex. Dr. Josephson spoke out against this horror, and he was penalized for it.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.