National Post 2 June 2015
The toddler — “Carter,” not her real name — was only two years old when she told her parents, “I am a boy.” They weren’t alarmed at first, but as her fixed idea persisted, concern set in. When, age seven, Carter punched her vagina in anger, they sought family therapy at CAMH’s Child, Youth and Family Program’s Gender Identity Service (GIS).
Dr. Ken Zucker, Clinical Lead at the GIS, and acknowledged as one of the world’s foremost authorities in this domain, supervised and participated in Carter’s therapy, which was intense and protracted. But by age 11 Carter voluntarily identified as female, grew out her cropped hair and asked for girl clothes. Now 19, her mind and body remain in sync.
Carter’s parents feel immense gratitude to Dr. Zucker for sparing their daughter a lifetime of hormone treatments, and possibly major surgery. They also feel lucky in their timing.
For Ontario’s Bill 77, now on the cusp of passage, known as the Affirming Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Act 2015, will ban funding for “any services rendered that seek to change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient, including efforts to change or direct the patient’s behaviour or gender expression,” and will ban health professionals like Dr. Zucker from “carry[ing] out any practice that seeks to change or direct the sexual orientation or gender identity of a patient under 18 years of age.”
For trans activists this is a victory. Over the past decade, the trans rights movement has successfully promoted the alignment of gender dysphoria (the DSM-5 terminology for Gender Identity Disorder) with sexual orientation, advancing the false idea that therapy for the former — which, if undertaken in childhood, has a solid record of success in re-connecting gender identity with biological reality — is comparable to “conversion therapy” for gays, acknowledged by most mental-health professionals, including those at the GIS, to be ineffective and unethical.
Sexual orientation and gender dysphoria are in fact distinct phenomena, and Bill 77’s conflation of the two is based in progressive sexual-identity correctness rather than mental-health epidemiology. On the evidence, a ban on conversion therapy alone can be justified, but a ban on gender-dysphoria therapy cannot. Unfortunately, the inclusion of trans rights under the LGBT consciousness-raising umbrella encourages an assumption of parity, and obscures the unsoundness of Bill 77’s one-size-fits-all approach.
I spoke with Dr. Susan Bradley, professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, now retired from psychiatric service at CAMH and the Sick Children’s Hospital, who founded the GIS in 1975. She considers Bill 77 “disgraceful.” Dr. Bradley hopes to testify to the Justice Committee today, but believes it is “a charade even having this public meeting,” since “Minister of Health [Eric] Hoskins has been unresponsive to our efforts to have a discussion of the complexity of the situation.”