Some tips on opposing Kenneth Zucker’s new article on trans children

This morning it came to my attention that notorious child psychologist Kenneth Zucker has co-written a chapter on trans issues for the new (6th) edition of Rutter’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The chapter, entitled “Gender dysphoria and paraphilic sexual disorders” effectively draws upon flawed and outdated research to promote reparative therapy for trans children. You can read most of it via Google Books here.

Cover of Rutter's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

Abusing children – for science!

This is a big deal because Zucker draws upon harmful theories (including Ray Blanchard’s deeply reductive typology of transsexualism) to promote the idea that issues faced by gender variant children are due to a problem with the child, rather than societal gender norms. He therefore promotes a form of treatment that (to quote his new article) encourages parents to “set limits with regard to cross-gender behaviour, and encourage same-sex peer relations and gender-typical activities” in an attempt to cure them of difference. This is the kind of treatment that leads children to internalise the idea that non-normative gendered expression is shameful or wrong.

Rutter’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, meanwhile, is a widely-used textbook and can be found in university libraries and on reading lists in many countries.

I’m not sure what the best way is to stop this article from influencing practice. However, some ideas could include:

  • Write to professional organisations and ask them to explicitly oppose reparative therapy for trans youth
  • Write to University libraries and courses, asking them to consider sticking with the 5th edition of Rutter’s
  • Write to University departments and ask them to teach critical texts alongside the 6th edition of Rutter’s, and/or avoid putting the new edition on reading lists
  • Borrow the book from a local library if it becomes available, and write critical comments in the margins
  • Write to the book’s editors and/or publisher and question why Zucker has been given a platform for his outdated ideas
  • Comment on this post and/or join this new Facebook page to discuss possible ways forward.

The new edition isn’t yet widely available in libraries, so now is a good time to act.

If you’re writing letters or raising awareness of this as an issue, here is some useful information on opposing the article:

  • Zucker’s approach to treatment can seriously harm children
  • Zucker’s Gender Identity Service at the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was recently suspended pending investigation in the wake of a large number of complaints – his approach to treatment is now also arguably illegal in the province of Ontario
  • Zucker’s new article represents poor academic practice. He cites himself 17 times, relies upon papers at least 20 years out-of-date to make many of his arguments, and also draws strong inferences from statistically insignificant quantitative findings
  • Zucker’s considerable academic position is based in part upon a small “invisible college” of academics who regularly peer-review and cite one another, thereby gaining many publications with a high profile whilst avoiding external criticism
  • There is a considerable evidence-based case to be made against Blanchard’s work. See for instance “The Case Against Autogynephilia“, a peer reviewed article by Julia Serano.

Thanks and respect to Peter Le C for raising awareness of this issue, and to oatc for suggested edits.

6 thoughts on “Some tips on opposing Kenneth Zucker’s new article on trans children

  1. Thanks for all the resources in this post. I’ve just sent an email to the acquisitions librarian in my medical school, while I’ll copy here in case anyone wants to use it in their institution:

    —–

    I’m writing to you as [library] holds several copies of the 5th edition of Rutter’s Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, and I imagine that you might be considering upgrading to the 6th edition which has just been released.

    I would like to encourage you to avoid upgrading to the 6th edition where possible, and perhaps to share this email with any academics who request that you do so, or who add the 6th edition to reading lists.

    One of the major changes between the 5th and 6th editions is the addition of a chapter written by widely-discredited Kenneth Zucker. It promotes outdated and unethical “conversion therapy” for young people displaying gender variant behaviour, an approach which can seriously harm children, and is illegal in many US states. It is also in direct contradiction of the American Psychological Association’s commitment to non-discrimination: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19419899.2011.576696#.VctV6lUViko

    Zucker’s Gender Identity Service at the Toronto-based Centre for Addiction and Mental Health was recently suspended pending investigation of these practices; it seems very strange to me that he’s been asked to write this chapter. In addition, the chapter represents poor academic practice: Zucker cites himself 17 times, relies upon papers at least 20 years out-of-date to make many of his arguments, and also draws strong inferences from statistically insignificant quantitative findings. The inclusion of this chapter in as esteemed a publication as Rutter’s Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has the effect of making “conversion therapy” appear mainstream, when in fact in many places it is illegal. (For example, this is the case in about half the states of the US: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/09/us/politics/obama-to-call-for-end-to-conversion-therapies-for-gay-and-transgender-youth.html).

  2. I cannot thank you enough for this. I am an activist, a writers, and a part time English instructor at two colleges in Michigan. At both colleges, I am the first and continue to be the only out transgender professor. I will be investigating the catalogs at both colleges, as well as course texts, to see if the sixth edition is being used or is on the shelves. Again, thank you and many blessings, Char Davenport

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