Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the mythical fire, Kenneth Zucker rose again to promote his theories of multi-trajectory outcomes for transgender children. Although effectively dismissed from the Toronto CAHM in 2015 and expected to fade away into retirement, he was again provided a platform of opportunity to further express his views, in the unexpected and surprising platform of a BBC documentary. Although widely hated by the LGBT community, one can’t ignore his 30 years of experience in the field, even though you may strongly disagree with his theories.
Although risking a very real and venomous backlash from the LGBT community and trans activists, the BBC decided to proceed with its transmission of the documentary Thursday 12th January at 21.00, unleashing a twitter storm.
I think even the most balanced of viewers would have to agree that the documentary tended to side with Zucker’s views rather than the more modern thinking amongst some practitioners of gender care for children.
Aided and abetted by his Toronto mates, Ray Blanchard and Devita Singh, Zucker took every advantage of his soapbox to tell the world about trans girls developing into gays as a much more favourable outcome, than (heaven forbid) a trans woman.
He inferred that parents shouldn’t ‘give in’ to bullying and idle threats of suicide from their children, even going as far as saying that ‘if your 4 year old said he was a dog, you wouldn’t go out and buy dog biscuits’.
Zucker found scientific comfort in the PhD of his protege Davita Singh which although uncontrolled, un-randomised and severely open to bias (Zucker’s patients, Zucker’s unit and Zucker doing the assessments using Zucker’s assessment methods), claims to show desistence rates of 88% in feminine boys. One third of the boys didn’t even have GID in the first place.
Zucker isn’t alone in these errors of scientific judgement in that many of the quoted papers including those from Amsterdam have exactly the same serious flaws. The problem is that reliable prospective data still doesn’t exist.
Fortunately an opposing modicum of sense was introduced into the debate in the paternal form of Dr Norman Spack, Retired Paediatric Endocrinologist from the Boston children’s unit who is very much of the opinion that trans children should be allowed to flourish in their chosen gender until such a time when medical intervention is required.
Most practitioners including Zucker’s team would agree that strongly dysphoric kids are very unlikely to desist and should probably be taken seriously and so the battle continues to wage.
The BBC very sensibly gave itself a safety net the following morning on BBC breakfast with a short discussion with Victoria Richardson a trans woman who had experienced ‘reparative therapy’ in Canada in earlier years, Susie Green CEO for the children’s charity Mermaids whose own child was trans and Dr Helen Webberley a gender GP specialist all of whom didn’t support Zucker’s views and possibly gave a more balanced view of gender care in the modern world.
It will be interesting to see how things move forward from this, one can’t help feel that a man of Zucker’s experience should at least be listened to and not lambasted for his views but should the fear of desistence so strongly influence medical management of trans children, especially when the figures are not really based on any science. Surely the best way forward is to treat every patient as an individual, something I learned at medical school!