Psychiatrists plan transphobic conference

The Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group (an organisation clearly well-qualified to meddle in trans affairs) are planning a delightful meeting in London next month.

Described as an “extremely stimulating meeting exploring the most recent academic, clinical and contemporary thinking on transgender issues, for all people interested in this field, Transgender: Time to Change will include contributions from a number of disturbingly transphobic speakers.

Let’s have a look at the programme for the day, shall we?

A meeting organised by the
Royal College of Psychiatrists’
Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group
Friday 20th May, 2011
15 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PG

9.30am Registration

10.00am Morning session: Chair: Professor Michael King

10.10am Dr Domenico Di Ceglie: From Disorder to Diversity: Current views and controversies in the management of Gender Identity Disorder in Young People

10.45am Ms Julie Bindel There is no such a thing as a real woman (or a real man, for what matters). A feminist perspective on Gender Identity Disorder

11.20am Ms Christina Richards: Trans: What the empirical literature tells us

11.55am Discussion

12.30pm Lunch

13.15pm Afternoon session: Chair: Shawn Mitchell

13.20pm Dr James Barrett: Disorders of Gender Identity – what works

14.00pm Dr Az Hakeem: Deconstructing Gender and Parallel Processes: Features specific to a Specialist Transgender Psychotherapy Service

14.40pm Panel discussion – all speakers

15.15pm Finish

15.30 – 16.15pm GLBSIG AGM – all welcome

My, what a line-up. Where to begin?

The most obviously questionable speaker is Julie Bindel, a woman with a long history of transphobia. Bindel makes it her mission to subject trans people in general – and trans women in particular – to the very same treatment that she (rightly) decries as sexism when it is aimed at cis women. She has consistently argued against the provision of medical treatment for transsexed individuals. She has threatened to sue trans individuals and feminist organisations that dare condemn her damaging actions. What the hell gives her the right to comment on the psychiatric treatment of trans people?

However, Natacha Kennedy rightly points out that Dr Az Hakeem is considerably more dangerous. He runs a “specialist psychotherapy service for patients with transgender and other gender identity disorders” (source) at the Portman Clinic, meaning that he has a great deal of power over trans patients. Let’s have a look at what he has to say about us:

“The experience of many psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and psychotherapists working with transsexual patients is that they are individuals who, for complex reasons, need to escape from an intolerable psychological reality into a more comfortable fantasy. By attempting to live as a member of the opposite sex, they try to avoid internal conflict, which may otherwise prove to be too distressing.”

Regarding Hakeem’s approach to trans research, Kennedy points out:

There is so much wrong with Hakeem’s 2010 paper in which he claims to be able to ‘cure’ trans people it is hard to know where to begin. These kind of claims have been repeated throughout the chequered history of psychiatric engagement with trans people. His kind of treatment “talking therapies” as Julie Bindel calls them, “reparative therapy” being one of the many euphemisms employed by the “treatment has also been tried on gays and lesbians and been shown to fail, causing only feelings of trauma, guilt and suicidal tendencies.

His paper makes assertions for which he provides no evidence and his methods, selection of research participants and the nature of their participation in the study appear to be opaque in extreme. In addition there is no mention of research ethics which are particularly important when one is publishing research about individuals with whom one has a professional-client relationship.

Gosh. I’m sure glad this man is going to be sharing a platform with Bindel.

Who else do we have? Ah yes, Dr Domenico Di Ceglie. The conference blurb points out that he works for the Tavistock Clinic, a service that offers approximately sod all a very limited “service” for trans children and adolescents. Contacts of mine who have attended this clinic explain that therapists have patronised them, steered the conversation away from any real discussion of gender, and refused to offer treatment. Realistically, hormones are banned until you’re 18 for the vast majority of trans teens in the UK. Looks like you’re doing a sterling job, doctor!

James Barrett is a controversial fellow, to say the least. He’s deeply unpopular with some of his patients at Charing Cross, whilst others like him. He’s provided a great deal of help to many, but is a bit obsessed with the idea that people need to be in employment or education in order to earn treatment. He has been known to block treatment for individuals who have disabilities that prevent them from working.

Finally, we have Christina Richards, another Charing Cross psych. Shockingly, Christina brings the number of trans people speaking at this conference up to a grand total of one.

As a community, we shouldn’t simply let this pass. Most of these speakers aren’t just dodgy, they’re downright dangerous. We need to be asking the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Gay and Lesbian Special Interest Group what the heck they think they’re doing, raising awareness of this travesty in the LGBT media, and if necessary picketing the meeting. If we let this go without a fuss then the vile propaganda of individuals such as Hakeem and Bindel will only spread unchecked.

17 thoughts on “Psychiatrists plan transphobic conference

  1. Shocking!

    Not even one of them supports the published policy of the world’s acknowledged experts – WPATH – as to de-psychopathologisation.

  2. Wish I were able to be in London to man the picket lines, but I will be there in spirit. The idea that people can be cured of who they are is an anathema to modern psychiatric understanding of mental health.

  3. Are you happy for me to signal boost/send people here/repost with acknowledgement this information (with attribution)? I agree that we simply cannot let this stand and we as a community need to get organised, I suspect a picket at least threatened will be needed but email/letter writing would be a good start. We need to stop such a biased event or at the least let those attending know that those speaking do not represent a balanced view etc. The sign up address is:

    Sue Duncan, SIGs Administrator, Royal College of Psychiatrists, 17 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8PG, sduncan@rcpsych.ac.uk but this is probably not the ideal person though she may be able to tell us where to direct complaints.

    • Please do share this information! There is a plan for a picket and simultaneous “teach-in” in which we hold our own, informal mini-conference: details are currently still in the works but there’s some basic info in my latest post.

      Thanks for the link!

  4. Ya’ll might be interested to check out a post on this subject at Gendertrender for a rather different take on the conference.

    • I don’t normally moderate comments, but have edited this one to remove the link. If you’re reading this and want to check out what Gendertrender has to say about the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ conference and accompanying protest, it’s a quick click away on a search engine.

      However, I feel strongly that said blog completely misrepresents the trans community’s opposition to this conference and those who are organising the protest. I object to the aggressive tone of the posts at Gendertrender, and the manner in which the writer has cyberstalked protest organisers in order to share their personal details. This is why I do not feel comfortable sharing the link on my own blog.

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  6. I totally agree with Rowan that a letter or e-mail in advance would be advisable. Curiously, the first time I saw the programme for this conference, Az Hakeem’s talk was followed by ‘Speaker TBC: A Personal perspective on transgender issues’, which suggests that they were originally intending to invite a member of the trans community to give their thoughts. For reasons unknown, this seems to have been a removed from the programme as it is above. Perhaps it might be a good idea for us to ask them to at least replace this on the programme? If they can’t find someone to speak, I am sure we can!!! Additionally, if anyone has a trans friendly psychiatrist, asking them if they would write an objection, might also be helpful.

  7. After reading more on the event, I think what is needed is to find someone who is well placed, someone whose influence is either necessary or helpful for the funding of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (e.g. Anne Fitzalan-Howard or similar), who can, as an ally, make it clear that psychiatry is a global enterprise and that the RCP must adhere to certain scientific constraints – irresponsibly implementing doctrinal or ideological prejudices with complete disregard to the needs and requirements of those upon whom the member practitioners practice is dangerous, counterproductive, and ultimately harmful to the RCP.

  8. Hi there!

    Thanks for directing me to the right place to read more 🙂 Great response from Stuart Lorrimer. I totally agree with what you say in your last column, that we don’t want to scare off attendees. Good psychiatrists are fantastic assets just as bad ones are are appallingly damaging (I have nothing but praise for mine). That attendees have come to learn/show an interest in trans issues in the first place is in itself a good thing…. I just wish they could learn from a different panel. I agree that it is exceptionally disturbing that the College is refusing to engage. Grr.

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  10. In defence of Dr di Ceglie, I don’t think that what the Tavistock does and doesn’t do are really up to him. They have rules to stick to that are thrust upon them by higher powers – in the same way, Dr Richard Curtis doesn’t prescribe to anyone under 16 and doesn’t necessarily prescribe to anyone under 18 (at least this was the last I heard). The Tavistock can and does prescribe to people 16-18.
    The rules are dictated by higher up NHS people, and when I saw Dr di Ceglie speak a few years ago, I got the impression that he was potentially open to change, and that it is a subject of discussion within the Tavistock.
    Some people (Russell someone – Vimes??) are much less open to change, but ultimately I don’t know how much of what the Tavistock does is actually up to them.

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  12. Oh so busy trying to censor anyone who doesn’t toe the trans cult’s current/fad take on “gender”. Disgusting.

    • Can’t say we’re keen on people who hate us, or people who attempt to propagate normative patriarchal ideals of gender. If you approve of either of those things you’re going to find whatever I say disgusting.

    • Yeah, we have this funny fad for accessing fair and equitable medical treatment. We’re all weird bigots like that!

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