On the morning of Mar 29 a group of trans activists crashed a celebration honouring Susan Bradley, the founder of the Child And Adolescent Gender Identity Clinic at Toronto’s Centre For Addiction And Mental Health (CAMH).
The featured speaker of the event was Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and current head of the gender identity clinic. He’s known for promoting reparative therapy for gender-variant children, which teaches kids to conform to society’s expectations of female and male behaviour. His work is heavily promoted by notorious ex-gay group the National Association For Research And Therapy Of Homosexuals.
“Dr Zucker has never left himself in a position where the community could ask him questions,” says trans activist Tina Strang. She and 519 Trans Programs coordinator Kyle Scanlon had issued a call to action via e-mail two days before the event, urging trans people and their allies to attend the lecture and voice their concerns.
“We got a chance to hand out pamphlets to audience members that were not necessarily part of our group,” says Scanlon. “We got a chance to share our ideas and ask our questions.”
Minutes before the opening speeches begin, more than a dozen trans activists squeezed in the back door of Room 1527 at the Hospital For Sick Children’s department of psychiatry. Zucker’s lecture, entitled Gender Identity Disorder In Children And Adolescents: Lessons Learned, included a series of photos of sad-looking little girls and boys in various states of gender confusion.
At one point he showed a photo taken at a Rosedale-area Barbie-themed birthday party. Pictured was a little girl in a fireman outfit, clearly out of place amidst the halfdozen other girls dressed up as Barbie. Zucker used this image to affirm the suffering and alienation brought on by GID.
“She thinks she’s a fireman,” Zucker told the audience, gravely.
Near the end of his lecture, Zucker criticized the “free to be” approach, which advocates parents allow their children to explore their crossgender impulses.
“If a child doesn’t want to go to school, or do their homework should we not step in and tell them what to do?” asked Zucker.
“That is not the same thing,” objected Strang from the audience.
After the lecture, Strang said she felt empowered after being able to object to Zucker publicly, but that she wishes she’d said more.
“Because I had never heard him speak before, I wanted to just once let him speak and give him the benefit of the doubt,” says Strang. “Otherwise I would have disrupted the whole way through. Now I’ve heard it, and after having read all of his literature I can comfortably say that he is full of crap.
“You can’t force children to be one way or another. That’s wrong. It’s not ethical, it’s not right. He’s a dangerous man. His clinic is dangerous, and it is wrong that CAMH has been funding this ridiculous, let’s face it, ex-gay camp all these years.”
Founded in the 1970s, CAMH’s Child And Adolescents Gender Identity Clinic provides, according to its mandate, support for “those who wish to manage their crossgender feelings and the expression of those feelings while remaining in their original gender role as well as those questioning their level of adaptation to the crossdressing or transgendered behaviour.”
The clinic has been criticized for catering to parents who are troubled by their child’s GID symptoms and fear their child might be queer because of their crossgender impulses, as opposed to caring and providing the support for children to feel comfortable with their gender identity.