Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Kenneth Zucker’s racist analogy of gender variance


Reparative therapist Kenneth Zucker of Toronto’s infamous CAMH Clarke Institute has been trotting out an old chestnut to argue for his “therapy” that coerces gender-variant children to conform to society’s expectations for their gender. His argument? The racist analogy that transgender children are like black kids who want to be white:

Suppose you were a clinician and a 4-year-old black kid came into your office and said he wanted to be white. Would you go with that? ... I don’t think we would. (Zucker 2008)

I call this the South Park argument, after the episode ” Mr. Garrison’s Fancy New Vagina.” In this episode, Mr. Garrison becomes Mrs. Garrison, in the standard “man in a dress” stereotype used to mock older transitioners who don’t pass. That episode used two common arguments used to lampoon gender variance: race and species. Kyle gets a “negroplasty” to compete with black basketball players, and his father gets a “dolphinoplasty” because he loves dolphins.

You’d expect an irreverent comedy show to reduce an issue to an exaggerated and simplistic caricature. But when it’s used by the guy the American Psychiatric Association chooses to chair a group that will define our “mental illness” for the next decade or more, that’s pretty sad.

In Zucker’s rigid black-and-white world, you’re either one or the other. Ask any “mixed race” person or person who passes as another race, and they’ll tell you that racists are quick to say that phenotype is irrelevant, just like Zucker: you’re “really” black, etc. The defining and defending of racial distinctions is closely connected with the defining and defending of sex and gender distinctions. Zucker is part of the segregationist movement that wants to make sure there is no miscegenation of the sexes.

The same is true for anyone whose sexuality runs afoul of gay and straight separatists: bisexuals are “really” gay, etc. You can hear this from both gay and straight separatists all the time.

The same is true for people who pass as a gender not assigned at birth, or who blur those rigid lines: we are constantly told that we are “really” our sex assigned at birth. People like Zucker have found a few old “Mrs. Garrison” types who agree they are men with a mental or sexual disease. You’ll see their names come up again and again at sexology conferences, USENET, and anywhere else they can get their bizarre views published or validated.

Taking Zucker’s racist analogy again, we call white people who act “too black” wiggers etc., and black people who act “too white” oreos etc. We enforce race the same way we enforce gender. Only thing is the groups most active in race separatism are considered fringe element radicals. They don’t run race clinics in Toronto and chair committees on enforcing racial roles for the American Psychiatric Association.

For a great review of Zucker’s “race card,” see this nuanced analysis at Mad Melancholic Feminista

I also recommend Apartheid of Sex: A Manifesto on the Freedom of Gender by bioethicist Martine Rothblatt, which also looks at the race analogy of gender variance.

See also my two essays:

“Illegal Immigrants” vs. the Border Patrol of Sex and Sexuality

A defining moment in our history: Examining disease models of gender identity


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Posted by Andrea James on 05/14 at 08:50 AM
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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

More on consultant for CAMH Clarke Institute’s GLBT image problem


Mercedes Allen of asked of my post on the consultant brought in to clean up the CAMH Clarke Institute:

I am not familiar with Annemarie Shrouder and her presence at CAMH.  What is it she was brought in to do specifically?  Is this public knowledge?  This could give emphasis to our concerns of Zucker and Blanchard being on the Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Work Group for the APA, depending on the specifics.  Please let me know more.

This is the note quietly sent out by CAMH in November 2007 (I learned of it through Kristen Worley):

We at CAMH recognize that significant issues exist between parts of our organization and LGBTTTQQI communities. We have had several opportunities to hear the frustrations, desires, needs, concerns and hopes about and for mental health and addictions programs and services.  And we havebeen listening.

We are committed to improving our service to and care of LGBTTTQQI clients. We recognize that in order for us to do this well, we must first bridge the gaps and build our relationships with LGBTTTQQI communities by making internal and external changes.

A crucial component of this commitment as an organization is to develop a strategy based on the feedback we have received over the years. And a crucial component of our strategy development is your input. We are inviting you to join this focus group so that we can share the (draft) framework for this Strategy as it relates to this service and receive your feedback. 

If you plan to attend, please RSVP to Annemarie by Dec. 3rd at: or 416 535 8501 x 3418

Individual meeting times are also possible.  If you would like to speak privately, please contact Annemarie.

Toronto activists noted:

Annemarie Shrouder is on an 8 week consultancy contract with CAMH, and now into her 4th week. She has to do a follow-up report of her findings. In true CAMH fashion, she has been left in the dark and to her demise - She had no idea of all these past developments around Zucker/Blanchard, Garfinkle and Cantor and Co.

I have not seen this final report.


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Posted by Andrea James on 05/13 at 07:42 AM
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Monday, May 12, 2008

Torontoist: “problematic and harsh” treatment of trans children at CAMH Clarke Institute


Lynn Conway notes:

Be sure to read the exposé of Zucker’s reparatist clinic that was just published in Canada:

The Torontoist, May 9, 2008:
“But For Today I Am A Boy”


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Posted by Andrea James on 05/12 at 01:30 PM
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NPR profiles supportive parents of trans youth vs. reparative therapist Ken Zucker


Here’s an interview where you can hear reparative therapist Kenneth Zucker in his own words as he advises parents to take away the toys and other items they love.

National Public Radio, May 7-8, 2008:

“Two Families Grapple with Sons’ Gender Preferences - Psychologists Take Radically Different Approaches in Therapy” (a heartbreaking contrast between the effects of Zucker’s decades-old reparatist treatment and more modern, humane treatment): (part one) (Q/A re part one) (part two) (Q/A re part two)


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Posted by Andrea James on 05/12 at 01:24 PM
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Letter to consultant brought in to clean up CAMH Clarke Institute


Below is a letter I sent to a consultant brought in to address longstanding problems at Tornto’s notorious CAMH Clarke Institute, the source of nearly all institutionalized oppression of trans people in North America.

To Annemarie Shrouder:

Thanks for your efforts in addressing serious issues at the CAMH Clarke Institute. I am a longtime critic of their role in decades of institutionalized oppression of trans people, not only in Toronto, but throughout the world. Since you’ve probably been inundated with partisan viewpoints, I will keep this brief.

1. The Clarke has a “parole board” mentality common among old-guard gatekeeping facilities that controlled access to trans health services. It is nearly the last “clinic” of its kind in North America, and should be disbanded in my opinion.

2. The Clarke staff members have been worldwide leaders for decades in several problematic areas:

* Reparative therapy on children ("curing" trans children)
* An “addiction” model offering “treatment” for those unhappy with their sexualities
* Phallometrics and application of forensic psychology for gender nonconformity (dating back to Freund)
* Etiology and taxonomy for trans people based on sexual arousal (definitions based strictly on sex assigned at birth)
* Focusing on the “problem” of trans women and ignoring health needs of trans men
* Turning down the vast majority of surgical applicants when The Clarke controlled funding (over 90% rejected)
* Prohibitive requirements that drive most clients to private or extralegal healthcare options
* Selecting participants/test subjects based on those who fit their taxonomies (convenience sampling)
* Using their nonrepresentative samples to conduct and publish research
* Using academic journals to suppress and discredit criticism
* Sociobiological/eugenic underpinnings present at the Institute since its opening in 1966.

3. Below are published statements by and about people working there:

* Ray Blanchard: “A man without a penis has certain disadvantages in this world, and this is in reality what you’re creating.”
* Kenneth Zucker: “Zucker found several predictors of adolescent GID: lower IQ, lower social class, immigrant status, non-intact family, and childhood behavior problems unrelated to gender identity disorder.”
* Susan J. Bradley: (with Zucker) “a homosexual lifestyle in a basically unaccepting culture simply creates unnecessary social difficulties.”
* James Cantor: “These people are erotically attracted to the idea of being a cross-dresser who wants to appear female all the way down to the bone, rather than just by the clothes.”
* Maxine Petersen, an older transitioner and Clarke collaborator: “Most gender patients lie.”

It is this atmosphere of distrust and contempt that is the root of all the problems. Everyone listed above should in my opinion be fired, which would probably take care of 90% of the problems at The Clarke.

4. In the heyday of the “gender clinic” system, patients learned the “right” responses to match pet theories of gatekeepers at each clinic. Most trans people who see the Clarke Institute favorably are older transitioners who identify as “disabled” and are frequently recipients of government assistance. Because they are rarely able to assimilate after transition and are typically low-functioning socially, their identities are validated by programs at the Clarke, where they are classified in more socially acceptable ways than they might be under other taxonomies (which described them as “pseudotranssexual” or “nontranssexual"). Many actually enjoy the rigid requirements and humiliation, which somehow validates them and even plays into their fantasies regarding feminization.

I believe the CAMH Clarke Institute’s research will be the historical equivalent to gender that the infamous “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male” is to race. I am not saying this to be rhetorical or hyperbolic, either. They are really that bad.

You are welcome to use or share the contents of this letter in any way you see fit. Thanks very much for your time, and feel free to contact me if you require citations for anything above or have any questions.

Andrea James

PS: Some of my writings about CAMH Clarke list my email address as a contact, which has been closed due to spam. Please contact me via my University of Chicago email address.

If you are in the Toronto area and seek trans health services, do not under any circumstances go to the CAMH Clarke Institute. Instead, please contact

LINK: Ottawa Transition Support (
Includes local resource listings.

LINK: Trans Youth Toronto!
A drop-in in downtown Toronto for transsexual and transgender youth age 26 and under.

LINK: Sherbourne Health Centre
At Sherbourne Health Centre, we offer a wide range of primary health care programs and services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited, intersex, queer, or questioning individuals. Our goal is to provide you with dignified, non-judgemental services to help you feel better, cope better with day-to-day challenges, and address specific LGBT health issues.

LINK: Transcend: Transgender Support & Education Society (

LINK: Transgender Health Program Vancouver (
Their work in Canada illustrates that alternative architectures are possible for trans healthcare. The monolithic, controlling, centralised gender centre approach is not a given, merely a rather unfortunate byproduct of a marginalied history, just as there was nothing to commend backstreet abortion when unwanted pregnancies were similarly problematised by society. Includes a great overview of services [PDF]

LINK: Vancouver Trans Advocacy Group (VanTAG) (
The Vancouver Trans Advocacy Group (VanTAG) is a team of activists advocating the fair recognition of medical needs and human rights of transgendered people in BC. VanTAG’s members include transgendered individuals; family members and friends of trans people; and loved ones affected by inequities present in our social systems. Our aim is to facilitate a peaceful and productive conversation between the community and care providers.


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Posted by Andrea James on 05/12 at 01:07 PM
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