Toronto: epicenter of pathologization of sex and gender minorities

Previous: Ray Blanchard motivations for oppressing sex and gender minorities

Ray Blanchard’s mentor Kurt Freund (1914-1996) was also an expert in psychiatric screening of military recruits based on sexual orientation (Freund 1963). Freund ended up significantly shaping public policy and public perception of sex and gender minorities in the second half of the 20th century. Freund is the developer of the penile plethysmograph (Freund 1958). He was commissioned by the government to use it in the psychiatric screening of military draftees in his home country (now called the Czech Republic). People there were attempting to avoid conscription by claiming to be gay. Freund’s device was developed to see if gay erotica turned them on, simplistically assuming that erection = gay, non-erection = nongay.

Kurt Freund sidebar: Freund continued this work after he fled to Toronto in 1968, while Blanchard was in graduate school. Blanchard met him in Canada while working with sex offenders, and he would later become Freund’s protégé at what is now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). Freund, who was almost exactly the same age as Blanchard’s father, obviously became a father figure for Blanchard, right up until Freund’s suicide (AP 1996).

Though the plethysmograph is considered as scientifically questionable as the polygraph (lie detector) and is not admissible in most trials as evidence, that didn’t stop Freund and his protégés from promoting its use for a range of applications, usually centering around catching people “lying” about their sexual interests. The device is attached to the genitals and a change in blood flow is measured while subjects are exposed to visual and/or audio stimuli (James 2007).

Like Freund, Blanchard has done direct work with sex offenders, a population that most people consider the absolute worst of the “unfit.” Blanchard has certainly seen and heard things first-hand that would give anyone nightmares. Sexual assaults on children by stepfathers and other family members. Catholic priest sex crimes, committed by the types of authority figures Ray probably looked to as father figures in his own early life, men who disproportionately targeted gay boys.

Blanchard is the only smart guy currently working on sex and gender at CAMH. The rest of them range from utterly mediocre to downright inept. It’s got to upset Blanchard that someone less intelligent but more political like Ken Zucker makes a better base salary despite being younger. Zucker has been a politician since his days as a Vietnam War protestor, so Blanchard will always take the back seat in the leadership department. Blanchard does share two things with his less talented colleagues: rigidity and unmitigated arrogance. As with most pathological science, they have insulated and isolated themselves from mainstream science through academic logrolling and nepotism, creating little organizations and journals where they can make sure their worldview prevails unchallenged.

Blanchard’s bid for immortality

It’s the end of the genetic line for Ray, a bitter pill to swallow for a sociobiologist. They often have this quaint heterosexist notion that “evolutionary fitness” is based on one’s number of offspring. So what’s Ray’s bid for immortality? Barring sperm donation, it’s going to be discovering and coining things, an unfortunate obsession found in a certain kind of academic. This goes beyond the “significant contribution” scholars are supposed to make as they move through the lock-step management chain of academia. Blanchard’s ideas are his children.

I imagine a number of questions turn over in Ray’s mind a lot:

  • Why am I gay?
  • Was my birth father gay?
  • How can I connect myself to a man I never met?
  • Why do attention-craving eccentrics rally around me and my work?
  • Why are cross-dressing psychologists so enamored of my work?
  • What do Maxine Petersen, Steven Pinker, J. Michael Bailey, Anne Lawrence, and Seth Roberts all have in common (besides psychology)?

Ray’s bid for immortality has led to an enduring legacy. His work on male birth order and sexuality will probably stand up to further scientific scrutiny (Blanchard 1996). His work on handedness and sexuality seems to have promise as well (Lalumière 2000). This work makes even more sense when considered in context of his family dynamic.

Blanchard and company will also be known for using CAMH to set up the world’s largest publicly-funded forced feminization sex dungeon and transgender reparative therapy clinic (Hill 2006). Applicants (supplicants, really) are carefully screened to include only the most indigent, low-functioning members of society, unable or unwilling to obtain services elsewhere. The regressive requirements at CAMH attract people who get off on humiliation, creating a convenience sample of the bottom 10%: the most eccentric and least successful segment of the transgender community (Newbery 1984).

Cross-dressing sidebar: Transgenderists like Anne Lawrence and Maxine Petersen serve as mini-Blanchards, reproducing the same desire for respect and control by seeking power over a community rather than for it. They are two key promoters of Blanchard and his work. Petersen is a rather dim person who seems genuinely baffled as to what the problem is; Lawrence, by far the smarter of the two, knows exactly what the problem is. Lawrence claims to be a community pariah because of the proselytizing for Blanchard. Both are in fact heroes in their own tiny community of what used to be called “pseudotranssexuals” (Wise 1981). They are, however, pariahs in the larger community. The conflict arises from their assertions that they are transsexual, citing Blanchard’s paraphilic model of gender variance as “proof” of their identities. The transsexual community has rejected both of them as respected authorities. In an apparently unintentional case of self-projection, Lawrence chalks up negative reaction to Blanchard’s ideology as “narcissistic rage” (Lawrence 2008). Petersen and Lawrence will continue to be Blanchard stooges because it’s the only place they get the attention and validation they seek. Lawrence has even written about being a “priestess” (Lawrence 1996), as if restrictive gatekeeping of trans health services is some sort of religious ritual controlled by nuns and priests.

Is there more to the story of how Ray’s life experiences shaped his ideology? You betcha. Can I tell you what else? Not just now.

While these issues have all made news over the years, they are about to take a back seat to the issue that will define Blanchard’s career: his planned expansion of paraphilia as a disease, as discussed in the next section.

Next: Ray Blanchard's problematic place in history