Approximately a week ago now, I missed what turned out to be a fairly inflammatory interview segment on NPR’s All Things Considered about the treatment of trans youth by the medical establishment. Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, a gender therapist in Oakland, CA, represented what I’ll call the voice of reason. Ehrensaft supports the right of a person to present as whatever gender they choose, to express their gender identity in whatever way feels right to them. In other words, she allows people to make their own decisions about their own bodies and their own happiness. How terrible! In fact, Ehrensaft doesn’t even view gender variant folks as disordered:
“. . . because Ehrensaft does not see transgenderism itself as a dysfunction, the therapist didn’t think Pam and Joel should try to cure Jonah . . . [saying] don’t put a kid in therapy until they need it.”
This perspective even may allow, in the future, for non-trans identified gender variant people (read: genderfuck, genderqueer, etc.) to easily access the medical establishment for whatever treatment they desire. Some might see this as making an open buffet of SRS procedures, but I personally see it as good sense. If you’re happy and capable of making a decision for yourself, then I’m perfectly happy to let you do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t harm others. Unfortunately, this tends to not be the common approach in the treatment of gender different people within medicine and psychology/psychotherapy.
The other side was represented by Dr. Kenneth Zucker– a name that should be familiar to everyone, but likely isn’t because he seems to fly under the radar in a way that Warren Throckmorton, Mark Yarhouse, and Joseph Nicolosi can’t (see NARTH’s site for more of Teh Crazy). What do all of these names have in common? A shared belief, if in different shades from one person to the next, in the power of “reparative” therapy. (Hint: The “scientific” side of the “pray-away-the-gay” movement.) Zucker’s gold star moment in the NPR interview was to relate gender transition to race, stating:
“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.”
He also calls gender different kids “gender-disordered” and believes that gender variance is a result of dysfunction that should and can be “cured”. This involves getting the child to play board games (deemed non-gender specific by the Good Doctor), associate with children only of the child’s assigned birth sex, and have all toys, cloths, etc., associated with the “wrong” sex taken away. Sounding familiar yet? I mean, if little Johnny (pardon my excessively gendered stereotyping here) can have his gender variant feelings “cured” by playing with “butch” Thomas the Train instead of Polly Pocket, obviously the ex-gay folks are on the right track with “de-gaying” gay men by making them play touch football and taking away their Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirts. (Really – take a look at Exodus, JONAH, or Love In Action’s websites if you don’t believe me. You’ll find Mary Kay makeover seminars for lesbians and electroshock among their offerings, too.)
Right now, you might just think I’m angry with NPR for giving this bigoted crackpot airtime to spout his damaging rhetoric. But the “uh oh!” moment is still coming. Navigate over to the Bilerico Project to see Mercedes Allen’s original poston the DSM-V debacle.
That’s right! “Cure the trannies” therapist, Dr. Ken Zucker, has been appointed by the APA as the chair of the Working Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders for the DSM-V revision. It doesn’t stop there. Dr. Ray Blanchard, long time reviled psychologist at CAMH and mentor to Zucker, is also on the working group. Blanchard is even worse than his flunkie, advocating for a direct link between “autogynephilia” and trans(s)exualism as well as actively opposing the transition of non-hetero transpeople (or “homosexual transsexuals” as he calls them), at least as far as I can tell.
This isn’t good news, folks.
A few days ago, a further specification of duties was handed down by the APA regarding GID and the working group to one letter writer: a specific chair was identified for GID as well as another of other sub-groups. Our problems are no where near over with this move, however.
While Dr. Peggy T. Cohen-Kettenis – if she is indeed actually a chair for GID as a sub-topic – may not herself subscribe to the Zucker-Blanchard model, Zucker is still the final word and the highest in the chain of influence in the working group, so assuming that he won’t have his hands in the pot as the new DSM-V section is created is just sticking your head in the sand.
Zucker and Blanchard need to be removed from the Working Group. At the least, look to contact the APA representative that was listed on the press releases. This fight is not over, and continues to get murkier all the time (post forthcoming about this morning’s developments).
If you would like to send a letter to the APA, the following is their main address:
1000 Wilson Blvd, Suite 1825
Arlington, Virginia 22209