Something big happened rather quietly this week. It didn’t make much of a dent in the mainstream media in the U.S., but it’s led to a raucous party on my Facebook feed, with celebratory ALL CAPS posts from my transgender pals and their allies:
“VICTORY AT LAST!”
Here’s what the fuss is all about: Thanks to years of hard work by trans activists, a notorious clinic in Toronto that has been treating children like mine for decades is “winding down” its gender identity services, and the clinic’s director has apologized for its approach “being out of step with the latest thinking.”
Although the clinic denies that its practices consituted the kind of anti-LGBT reparative therapy that has been discredited and even outlawed in recent years, anyone familiar with the the methods of its lead psychologist, Dr. Kenneth Zucker (public enemy numero uno for many parents like me), knows better.
Not only is this a happy day for the children of Canada who will no longer be subjected to Zucker’s intensive de-trans-ification process, it’s also extremely important symbolically: Zucker was one of the sources of the dubious and oft-cited statistics about transgender kids, including the claim that 80% of them will ultimately “change their minds.”
It doesn’t take an advanced degree to see how Zucker’s stated agenda (to avoid a transgender outcome) might have influenced these findings. And if you actually have the stomach to read any of his writing on transgender children and their families, you’ll be further wowed by the Freudian underpinnings of his work:
“Exploration of the mother’s life history revealed many reasons for her ambivalence about men and masculinity”*
“Ben’s mother was an extremely anxious woman, who could not tolerate separations from him.*
“In one subgroup the familial dynamics pertain largely to maternal unavailability…whereas in the other subgroup the familial dynamics pertain largely to maternal hostility and anger that revolve around masculinity-femininity issues…”**
(Oh no! It IS all my fault!)
Zucker’s exit from the scene feels like an early Christmas present, but we still have a long way to go. There is still so much sad and bad news out there. Just about every day I read an article or hear from a friend about a trans kid getting bullied, beaten, abandoned, or worse. (And then there are knuckleheads like this, preaching hate and calling it science.)
With the world in such a state, it’s easy to spend too much time feeling what my daughter calls “sad-mad” – the emotion that overtakes you when you’re feeling so sad and so angry at the same time that neither word is enough on its own.
But today I’m taking a break from sad-mad, because Dr. Kenneth Zucker is out of a job. And because little by little, battle by battle, it looks as if the years of tireless work by trans activists (thank you!!!) are paying off. And because I believe that people like Zucker are not only on the wrong side of history; they are also on the wrong side of the best and highest of human impulses: compassion and love.
Happy holidays from gendermom.
p.s. If you want to hear more about Zucker’s de-trans-ification work and other bunk science on kids like mine, as well as to learn about the solid, science-based research that’s going on today (yay!), listen to this episode of my podcast, or watch the snarky cartoon version:
* “Children with gender identity disorder: Is there a best practice?”, Neuropsychiatrie de l’enfance et de l’adolescence, K.J. Zucker, 2008
** Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents, Kenneth J. Zucker and Susan J. Bradley (1995)