Stop Trans Reparative Treatment at CAMH Toronto
It has recently come to my attention that a variation of the gender-variant conversion therapies is currently available through the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Toronto, lead by their Head of the Gender Identity Service in Children and Adolescents, Kenneth Zucker.
Since the mid-1970s, Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children through his “preventative” therapy, actively working towards helping the children be more content in their biological gender. He does this by working with the parents of these children to enforce gender roles on the children (boys must play with trucks, girls must play dress-up) and to discourage "gender variant behaviour.”
You cannot change the core of these children’s identities; you cannot change their gender identity; you cannot change their sexual orientation. You can make them afraid and/or hate themselves, but you cannot change who they are. You can, however, help shape a negative self-perception for the child. This act is child abuse.
When many kids figure out who they are, they can become scared and freak them out, causing them to try to repress or hate themselves because of it out of fear. There is a lot of discrimination and negative connotation attached to being gender variant and/or queer, which can cause children to feel this way. Language that is negative and harmful can also be used, unknowingly reinforcing these thoughts, like cis-normative language such as “feminine hygiene products”, or “lady parts,” which single out and alienate children whose gender identity does not align with the gender attached to their biological sex.
Gender does not equal sex. These two things do not mean the same thing. People like Kenneth Zucker and CAMH are trying to prevent children from becoming transgender so that they will not have to deal with the onslaught of negativity surrounding those identities until they’re seen as old enough to face the problems with society head on. I and many others believe that although this approach is well-meaning, it does more harm than good.
The unfortunate reality of transgender Canadians is this: 77% of trans respondents in an Ontario-based survey had seriously considered suicide and 45% had attempted suicide. Many of the people who identify as trans and take their own lives are just children themselves. How long do we force children into suppression and self-hatred until someone realizes that they can decide how they identify for themselves? The same societal pressures to conform to the gender associated with biological sex at birth persist long into adulthood, and in some cases, can even follow people after death, as we saw in Leelah Alcorn’s case in late 2014.
Children are the future of our world, and we always vow to make the world a better place for the children, so that they don’t suffer through the things that we had to endure. Would we rather tell our child to conform to harsh gender stereotypes to try and help them not have to experience our transphobic society or try to fix our transphobic society?
It is psychologically beneficial to support a transgender child by providing them with proper health resources such as hormone blockers, emotional support, and bringing the child into communities and situations where they will be accepted for the gender they identify as: whatever the hell they want to.
It’s time to end reparative therapy at CAMH Toronto and make our world a safer place to live in for our transgender children.
- Psychologist-in-Chief and Head of the Gender Identity Service, CAMH
- President & CEO, CAMH
Dr. Catherine Zahn
Stop trans reparative treatment at CAMH Toronto. I believe that it is psychologically destructive and generally ineffective to put a child through repartative therapy. Children's identities cannot be changed through therapy treatments such as this, but their self-perception can be negatively impacted in a way that can help lead to many mental health problems or even suicide down the road. I believe that in order to start to fix our transphobic society, we must support our transgender children wholly for who they are and their full identities, including their gender identity. Toronto is seen as a world leader on the front of LGBT rights, but this practice is archaic and ineffective, adding to the real problem instead of solving it: how we view gender in our society. If we can all work together to support instead of help suppress, we will see dramatic changes to the way that transgender children see themselves and how others see them.
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