The APA appointment of Zucker et al. and gender variant children

On May 1st, 2008, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) named its work group members appointed to revise the Manual for Diagnosis of Mental Disorders in preparation for the DSM-V. This revision would include the entry for Gender Identity Disorder (GID). In the days since, the trans community has raised its voice in deep concern about the appointments of the following doctors to the Task Force:

  • Dr. Kenneth Zucker, named as Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders Chair, infamous for utilizing reparative (i.e. “ex-gay”) therapy to “cure” gender-variant children.
  • Dr. Ray Blanchard, Head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH and creator of the theory of autogynephilia, categorized as a paraphilia and defined as “a man’s paraphilic tendency to be sexually aroused by the thought or image of himself as a woman.”
  • J. Michael Bailey, whose work has included “homosexual eugenics.”

(It’s too bad Dr. Norman Spack wasn’t included on the Task Force.)

For an excellent assessment of the potential ramifications of these appointments, see the thorough posts on Dented Blue Mercedes:

The appointment of Zucker as Chair seems to be the most concerning. I have heard terrible things from other trans people about the now defunct Clarke Institute in Toronto where Zucker worked. I just read two new articles from NPR.org that summarize his views on gender variant children:

Certainly, not every little girl who likes to play with trucks is going to wind up being transgendered, but as a someone who was diagnosed with GID when I was 5 years old (back in 1979), I can say that being subjected to Zucker’s preferred therapy of forcing me to be “comfortable” with my biological gender would have been an absolute horror that would have been extremely detrimental to my mental health. Talk about stealing one’s childhood!

We only get about 10 years of being a kid, yet this formative time affects us throughout our entire lives. I have so much admiration for my parents for simply letting me express myself as I chose to. I was socially raised as a girl, but my parents often treated me like a boy, and certainly never squashed my “masculine” interests. They bought me my boys underwear, hockey skates and baseball gear, and never asked me to wear girls’ clothing or play with girls. I’m convinced that their open-mindedness was instrumental in providing me with a relatively secure sense of self despite my gender dysphoria. I can’t imagine how I would have turned out if my parents had taken me to see Zucker at the Clarke!

Why can’t we just let kids be kids? Let them explore!

Ryan pointed the way to some important links about the APA’s announcement:

In closing, I’d like to remind us all that the APA is the American Psychiatric Association–why do we (the trans and medical communities) defer to the US on such important diagnostic definitions??

UPDATE: Check out Dylan’s related post, NPR 2 part series on Transgender Children

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