First journal with entirely transgender board launched

Peer-reviewed open access entry aims to unite field burdened by outside political turmoil and internal disagreements over academic norms

June 20, 2022
Young person with a transgender pride flag
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The first academic journal focused on transgender lives has given the field a peer-reviewed open access option at a moment of growing societal interest and political controversy.

The Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies is the first journal with an editorial board consisting entirely of transgender people, with members from seven countries on four continents.

Northwestern University developed it in partnership with the year-old Center for Applied Transgender Studies, a non-profit research group created by experts based at the university and beyond.

The journal, said the centre’s executive director, Thomas Billard, an assistant professor of communication at Northwestern, will give researchers publication options other than facing peer reviewers “who don’t know anything about trans people”.

The journal also hopes to counter what its creators see as rampant misinformation about transgender people that Dr Billard regarded as being either created intentionally by political opponents or given credibility by publications with low quality standards.

From Dr Billard’s perspective, transgender studies were often harmed by those from fields such as psychology and public health who try to engage without “specific expertise in trans anything”.

“They simply are whipped up into the same curiosity, fascination and sometimes fear that other people are, and they turn their academic lens to it with prejudice,” Dr Billard said.

But one of those Dr Billard identified as such, Alice Dreger, a former professor of clinical medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern, said she understood the emotions and welcomed the new journal. Professor Dreger is among numerous scholars accused of mischaracterising gender dysphoria. A founding board chair of the Intersex Society of North America, she rejected the categorisation yet acknowledged the sensitivities of academic scientists in general and transgender experts in particular.

“Papers have been rejected for political issues around transgender for decades, and it’s from all sides,” she said. “Everybody does struggle with publication in that field, so I understand why these people want to create a special journal to deal with what they think of as the right way to think about these things.”

Dr Billard expressed gratitude for Northwestern’s willingness and even eagerness to back the journal.

“You can go in there knowing that your research isn’t, on face value, being evaluated as negative because of the politics of trans,” Dr Billard said. “Instead what you’re being evaluated on is the quality of the research method.”

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