The Triumph of Trans Lysenkoism
The Narrative says that only right-wing nuts are against Science™. Well, consider the frankly horrifying case of Dr. Kenneth Zucker, as reported by Jesse Singal in New York magazine. Excerpts:
On paper, Dr. Kenneth Zucker isn’t the sort of person who gets suddenly and unceremoniously fired. For decades, the 65-year-old psychologist had led the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic (GIC), in Toronto, one of the most well-known clinics in the world for children and adolescents with gender dysphoria — that is, the feeling that the body they were born with doesn’t fit their true gender identity. Zucker had built up quite a CV during his time leading the clinic: In addition to being one of the most frequently cited names in the research literature on gender dysphoria and gender-identity development, and the editor of the prestigious journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, he took a leading role helping devise diagnostic and treatment guidelines for gender dysphoric and transgender individuals. He headed the group which developed the DSM-5’s criteria for its “gender dysphoria” entry, for example, and also helped write the most recent “standards of care” guidelines for the World Professional Association for Transgender Health — one of the bibles for clinicians who treat transgender and gender-dysphoric patients.
An impressive career, yes, but it’s doubtful any of this gave him much comfort on December 15. That was when he was called in from vacation for an 8:30 a.m. meeting with his employer, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), one of the largest mental health and addiction research hospitals in Canada. Given the long-brewing investigation of his clinic by the hospital, it’s unlikely Zucker was feeling optimistic about what awaited him in downtown Toronto.
Zucker’s crime? He is against the idea that children who experience gender dysphoria should be rushed into transitioning via hormone therapy and surgery, preferring instead a more cautious approach, given that unstable gender identity in childhood and adolescence sometimes resolves itself in time. This position is anathema to trans activists. Note well: Dr. Zucker is in favor of gender transitioning; he simply says that the scientific knowledge we have at this point advises a more cautious approach.
For this, he got fired, and his clinic shut down. More:
Zucker, his colleagues, and their many allies in the world of academic sex research see things differently. To them, the real scandal here is how CAMH responded to a sustained campaign of political pressure: by allowing a vital scientific question — vital not only to gender-dysphoric and transgender young people, but to anyone who is a parent or will one day become one — to be decided by activists on the basis of flimsy, anonymous allegations. They think the activists’ claims about the clinic are unfounded, and argue that the controversy has more to do with adult agendas than with genuine concern for gender-dysphoric children and youth. As Dr. Jack Drescher, a psychiatrist with a research focus on gender-identity issues, explained in an email, this fight resembles many other culture-war battles: “[C]hildren serve as proxies for the competing value systems of adults.” Indeed, some parents of GIC patients feel that as a result of the clinic’s closing, their children have been cut off from a place that was — despite rumors to the contrary — a safe, nurturing environment for young people to explore their emerging gender identities.
… And if you look closely at what really happened — if you read the review (which CAMH has now pulled off of its website), speak with the activists who effectively wrote large swaths of it, examine the scientific evidence, and talk to former GIC clinicians and the parents of patients they worked with, it’s hard not to come to an uncomfortable, politically incorrect conclusion: Zucker’s defenders are right. This was a show trial.
One more thing: Zucker apparently thought his job was to do responsible science, not master ideological politics:
The consensus among those who know Zucker is that while he’s a gifted clinician and researcher, he isn’t great at playing politics. He is, well, an old-school white male research scientist: “He responds to every question with a methodical three-part answer,” noted Hanna Rosin in a 2008 article in The Atlantic, “often ending by climbing a chair to pull down a research paper he’s written.” Over the summer of 2015, more than one friend and colleague tried to explain to Zucker that he needed to defend himself more assertively (though he was in part stymied from doing so by a restrictive CAMH media policy). But while Zucker may lack certain self-preservation instincts, or may have wrongly believed his perch atop the sex-research hierarchy afforded him protection from activist pressure, a close reading of the External Review suggests none of this really mattered at that point. The review is a markedly unprofessional document that takes many of the worst claims about the GIC at face value — without bothering to check them.
Read the whole thing. It is long and very well-reported. You need to do this. These activists stop at nothing — and manifestly, they have allies in high places. Note well that their sleazy protests against Zucker would have come to nothing if not for the intellectual and moral cowardice of his superiors. These are the same people who are compelling the US Government to sue school districts that won’t allow biological males into high school female locker rooms. This is how they work: screaming that anyone who doesn’t bend to their demands is causing trans suicides, is creating unsafe spaces, and so forth. When applied to science, it is LGBT Lysenkoism, the Soviet-era agricultural disaster caused by trying to make science fit into Stalinist political correctness.