Former CAMH psychologist Dr. Ken Zucker to speak at gender identity conference in London

Some trans activists are concerned that psychologist Ken Zucker has been invited to speak at a conference on child and youth gender identity at Western University.

Dr. Ken Zucker has been criticized for allegedly promoting transgender 'conversion therapy'

Dr. Kenneth Zucker, used to head the Family Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. (Jim Ross/New York Times)

Western University is drawing criticism from some in Ontario's transgender community for inviting a controversial psychologist to speak at an upcoming conference on child and youth gender identity.

Dr. Ken Zucker has come under fire for allegedly practising 'conversion therapy,' or trying to discourage those who identify as transgender from embracing their non-biological sex. His clinic has denied this claim.

Trans educator and social work student Fae Johnstone said she was 'genuinely shocked' to find out that Dr. Zucker would be speaking at the conference, as she doesn't think he is a credible source on trans identities. 

Pride London director Jennifer Wenn said that the transgender community 'doesn't have high respect' for Dr. Zucker.

"There is a history there that is difficult and painful," said Wenn, referring to Dr. Zucker's alleged use of conversion therapy.

"Historically he was one of a group of medical professionals who felt that being transgender was a mental illness," she said—something that the transgender community dismisses out of hand.

Wenn said she would feel differently if Dr. Zucker were coming to campus for a different reason, such as a debate.

"The man's welcome to come, just not in the role of being an educational resource at a workshop."

Dr. Zucker is the former director of the Child Youth and Family Gender Identity Clinic at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto.

He is slated to give a workshop during the May 4 conference titled "Therapeutic Care of Gender Dysphoria in Pre-pubertal Children."

'There is no single best approach'

In an email statement, a spokesperson for Western's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry said "there are different practice approaches for gender dysphoria, specifically with respect to children," and that research has not yet identified a single best approach. (Dave Chidley/CBC)

A spokesperson for Western's Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry said there was a careful thought process behind inviting Dr. Zucker to the conference.

"There are different practice approaches for gender dysphoria, specifically with respect to children," Crystal MacKay wrote in an email on behalf of the conference planning committee.

"To date, the research has not identified one single best practice approach. Dr. Zucker was invited by the committee to address each of the current approaches during his session, all of which are in-step with practice guidelines set out by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry."

A team from the London Intercommunity Health Centre will also speak at the event.

Dr. Zucker declined an interview with CBC London, saying that he does not speak to the press.

Dr. Zucker's lawyer, John J. Adair, sent the following statement.

"It is profoundly disappointing that people continue to make false allegations against Dr. Zucker," said Adair.

"The CAMH report that led to his dismissal was untrue in important respects, and has been taken down from the CAMH web site for that reason, but continues to exist online and spread misinformation about Dr. Zucker. The issues Dr. Zucker treats are complex, and cannot be reduced to rhetoric."