The Institute for Comprehensive Gender Dysphoria Research (ICGDR) is a group in Providence, Rhode Island founded by Lisa Littman. Its membership suggests close ties to other anti-trans groups such as Genspect and SEGM. The primary purpose of the organization is to promote research from the fringes of medical and social science regarding transgender individuals and their medical care.
Founded by Lisa Littman in early 2020, ICGDR received its official status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization on February 25, 2021. According to the organization’s mission statement, the group aims to “conduct, support and communicate high quality research about gender dysphoria that addresses several current gaps in knowledge and will be useful to individuals experiencing gender dysphoria, their families, clinicians, the public and policy makers.”
According to publicly available IRS records, ICGDR has never received yearly funding in excess of $50,000. As such, detailed information about donors and salaries are not available due to their submission of 990-N forms, but their public-facing website lists five active members.
History of Anti-LGBTQ+ Activism
ICGDR’s activism consists of hosting and drawing attention to research papers published by its members and associates. Papers of ICGDR members have been frequently used to provide justifications for restricting access to health care for trans minors and undermine the mainstream consensus by providing a veneer of science for flimsy, unevidenced claims.
One of their most prominent hosted works is Lisa Littman’s “Parent reports of adolescents and young adults perceived to show signs of a rapid onset of gender dysphoria.” Littman’s study, which has been widely criticized for its flawed methodology, was one of the earliest introductions of the term rapid onset gender dysphoria (ROGD) to the public. Littman posits that ROGD is a novel form of gender dysphoria that occurs “in the context of belonging to a peer group where one, multiple, or even all of the friends have become gender dysphoric and transgender-identified during the same timeframe.” In its original version, Littman’s study did not make clear that it was an exploratory, descriptive study to formalize the idea of rapid onset gender dysphoria and did not provide any direct evidence of the phenomenon as a distinct group among gender dysphoric youth.
Littman’s research followed Lisa Marchiano’s paper, “Outbreak: On Transgender Teens and Psychic Epidemics.” Marchiano mentions rapid onset gender dysphoria by name and hypothesized that “social contagion may be contributing to the significant rise in the number of young people seeking treatment for gender dysphoria.” Much like rapid onset gender dysphoria, there is a lack of evidence to support the concept of social contagion. It is likely that Marchiano spread the concept of social contagion theory via various anti-trans forums and blogs including 4th Wave Now before writing her paper.
J. Michael Bailey, who is listed as the treasurer for the organization, co-published a now-retracted paper on the topic of rapid onset gender dysphoria, which he co-wrote with the parent of a transgender child. Similar to Littman’s, the paper relies on survey data from parents, in this case parents who visited the website for Parents of ROGD Kids. In his work, Bailey claims “vulnerable adolescents, mainly girls, come to believe they have gender dysphoria, even if they don't, at least not in the traditional sense. It's thought to be socially contagious.” His work was criticized for repeating Littman’s flawed methodology and for its lack of review board approval, which eventually led to its retraction.
Stella O’Malley, vice president for the group, has blamed teens seeking gender-affirming care on “porn induced” autogynephilia, and has previously admitted to using talk therapy in an effort to suppress the gender identity exploration of minors, which critics describe as conversion therapy. O’Malley is active in a number of anti-trans organizations, including Genspect and the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine (SEGM), among others.
Studies performed by the group have been used by news outlets like Fox News to provoke controversy regarding rates of dissatisfaction with gender-affirming care among transgender individuals, and right-wing groups like the America First Policy Institute have cited research by ICGDR’s members.