Published February 27, 2017
It didn’t take long for the inaugural scientific conference of the U.S. Professional Association for Transgender Health (USPATH) to descend into an ugly display of intolerance and identity politics, with gender-confused kids as ideological pawns.
When the dust finally settled, trans bullies and their medical allies had colluded to kick a dissenting expert (Kenneth Zucker) off the program, justified their censorship by indirectly blaming President Trump (the “direct threat” to trans people from the “new political climate”), and declared victory.
It was the latest piece in a mounting pile of evidence that the debate over how best to treat gender-confused children is not really about what’s good for children, but about the transgender obsession with being “de-pathologized” and validated as “normal.”
It also points to an even more troubling possibility, that the transgender phenomenon has given rise to what one lesbian critic calls a “trans cult,” characterized by “inventing false facts that don’t stand up to scrutiny, claiming that science is hateful toward your beliefs, claiming to be persecuted when you can’t force your beliefs on other people, and attempts to silence and destroy non-believers. Transgenderism is a religious cult.”
Cult or not, it’s clear that the alliance of trans activists, blind believers, wounded followers, and willing dupes in the medical community controls the airwaves, so to speak, of modern medicine. They have arrogated to themselves the right to rewrite history, silence critics, brand their own ideologically driven opinions as “fact,” and deny a hearing to researchers, clinicians, victims, and families whose evidence and experience run counter to their mandated cultish beliefs.
We Invite Dissenters to Shout Them Down
Consider the events at the USPATH conference. The conference, held February 2-5, 2017 in Los Angeles, drew more than 600 medical clinicians and scientific researchers active in caring for gender non-conforming, gender-confused, and transgender adults, adolescents, and children. They met to “affirm our dedication to transgender health” in light of “uncertainty due to the change of leadership in Washington, and concern over what the consequences may be for trans health and trans rights.”
Sponsored by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, the conference debuted the newly formed “USPATH,” ostensibly to serve WPATH’s U.S. members, who account for 75 percent of WPATH’s membership. However, according to USPATH Conference Chair Dan Karasic and Co-Chair Jamison Green, the conference served a political purpose as well: “USPATH LA 2017 will stand as a strong statement of support for continuing the rapid developments in trans health in America, and for the community of health providers, researchers, and advocates who are advancing that care.”
But not all health care experts are welcome. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist with years of experience treating gender confusion, was slated to speak on several panels at the conference. He was a token, actually, a voice representing politically disfavored but scientifically weighty research that cautions against labeling gender-confused children as “transgender,” in part because the majority of these children later “desist” from cross-gender identification.
(To deal with the inconvenient data on desistance, some WPATH members advocate for changing WPATH’s upcoming Standards of Care 8 to “remove unsubstantiated and harmful statements on the statistical likelyhood [sic]” of transgender persistence or desistance among children. That’s one way to blunt the impact of data you don’t like—erase it.)
In a Facebook post after the uproar, Karasic admitted that USPATH had stacked the conference schedule with practitioners of the “trans affirmative” approach favored by the trans alliance. Karasic said Zucker was invited merely as a gesture of tolerance. Conference organizers had fully expected his views to be “contextualized” (marginalized) by the “now dominant perspective of trans affirmative care.”
The trans community, however, absolutely loathes Dr. Zucker.
To them, his common-sense approach that, all things being equal, it’s preferable for a child to accept his or her body than pursue a “trans” identity (which requires lifelong medical intervention and is associated with a variety of poor outcomes) inflicts a narcissistic wound. His mere presence draws venom, which is why trans activists disrupted Zucker’s first talk and, after being ejected, demanded and got a meeting with the Board of WPATH, the conference sponsors.
Say What We Like Or Else
During the meeting, trans activists denounced the invitation to Zucker, whom they described as a champion of “reparative therapy,” and accused WPATH of being “grounded in cis-normativity and trans-exclusion” and prioritizing “white and cis-gendered clinicians and researchers” without input from the trans community (especially trans women of color).
They also charged WPATH with inflicting “violence and inaccessibility” on the trans community because hotel security was called to keep protesters from disrupting the talk. Activists also complained that WPATH “continues to pathologize our experiences” by supporting the DSM–5 classification of gender dysphoria as a mental health issue. To get a sense of how unhinged all this is, realize that trans activists are leveling these charges against their friends—the professional organization that has done its best to legitimize trans identities.
After the denunciations came the demands. The trans leaders demanded that Zucker be tossed off the program and that WPATH apologize to the trans community for inviting him—and for giving power to cis-gendered, white researchers instead of consulting transgender patients about the selection of conference speakers. Finally, they demanded that WPATH hire trans people as paid consultants, give local trans communities input into planned conferences, and promise that transgender persons will be given seats on WPATH committees, including the scientific committees that decide which academic papers are accepted for conferences.
Now imagine if a person suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (also a DSM-5 diagnosis) demanded to pass judgment on proposed medical presentations on that topic before a professional conference could invite the speakers. It would never happen.
But trans issues are different. The docs have drunk the Kool-Aid—or are too intimidated to speak truth to power. And it’s clear who has the power. As one trans activist proclaimed during the meeting, “We are so amazing and we want to be acknowledged for who we are, as a community…we want our power to be acknowledged.”
So the gender professionals at WPATH and USPATH listened meekly and bowed to power. Zucker’s second panel was cancelled, and Karasic and the WPATH board posted apologies.
We’ll Even Censor Scientific Research You Don’t Like
It gets worse. A video of the meeting between trans activists and WPATH and USPATH leaders reveals a medical community not only pathetically cowed by trans activists, but also apparently colluding with them about how to exclude Zucker without risking a lawsuit. (The video is a treasure trove worth mining if Zucker sues over the incident.)
Karasic admitted that WPATH “made a mistake” in allowing Zucker to speak. In fact, Karasic volunteered, in hindsight he should have overridden the competitive process by which WPATH’s scientific committee selected papers to ensure that Zucker was rejected. Ironically, according to Karasic, the scientific committee that approved Zucker’s presentations included several professionals who are also transgender.
In a blatant admission of his willingness to censor scientific research in the future, Karasic apologized to the trans activists, saying, “even if it [Zucker’s proposal] was getting a high enough score, I don’t think we should have let him present,” and WPATH/USPATH would not make that mistake in the future.
Karasic admitted that he’d intervened on another occasion with the American Psychological Association to prevent Johns Hopkins researcher Paul McHugh, an outspoken opponent of transgender reassignment surgery and medical interventions for gender-confused children, from presenting: “When Paul McHugh had an accepted proposal at the APA,” Karasic said, he (Karasic) had “intervened with the scientific committee” and “got them to revoke their acceptance” of McHugh’s paper. (Apparently the test of whether a paper “advances” transgender care is ideological, not evidence-based.)
We’re Not Violent Unless We Have to Be
As trans activists pressed the WPATH officials for a commitment to remove Zucker, the executives hemmed and hawed about alternatives, such as “ask[ing] the other people on this panel to not go,” so that Zucker would “present to an empty room” or trying to “persuade him” not to speak. The WPATH board members were clearly worried that Zucker might sue them if he were disinvited. One USPATH leader described Zucker as “very litigious,” and admitted that, while “I’d love to” cancel Zucker’s presentation and eject him from the conference, “we will open ourselves up to legal liability and we will bankrupt ourselves.”
Unsympathetic, the trans activists pressed the point. They wanted Zucker gone: “We are demanding that this asshole gets away from this conference…we want him to be excluded from this conference.” Another trans activist declared “this is really crucial. This is how you stand with us… whether you cancel it or not, it’s not going to happen.”
The impasse was resolved when a trans person, apparently an attorney, reassured the conference organizers that, generally speaking, conference organizers “have authority to make changes if there’s a threat or to prevent violence or harm,” for example, if a talk is “likely to create violence” or “alienate certain people.” The trans chorus voiced approval, with one exclaiming, “We are already traumatized” by his presence.
So the same trans community that started the meeting insisting that WPATH agree that “there was no violence” in their protest against Zucker’s first talk, and that they needed their “safe space” because they felt traumatized by the mere presence of security officers, now concocted their own threat of violence as a pretense to shut down Zucker’s second scheduled talk. Seeing daylight, the board embraced the narrative and reassured the trans group that, “Based on what happened yesterday” (the protest}, the board would go ahead and cancel Zucker. It was now “a done deal.”
At the conference’s evening gala, trans persons gathered on stage to celebrate their win but also to repeat their demands that WPATH “stop pathologizing us” and change the WPATH standards of care to affirm transgender identities as completely normal. The activists ended with a chant led by a trans woman of color: “When I say trans, you say power. Trans…power, trans… power… power to the people.”
We’ll Experiment on Kids if We Want
The conference moved ahead, minus its lone cautionary voice, leaving the medical zealots free, at the urgings of transgender adults, to embrace ever-earlier medical and surgical intervention for confused and gender non-conforming adolescents.
So they did, giving presentations on a variety of topics ranging from social transition for young children (“what do we know?”), puberty suppression (“lessons learned and unanswered questions”), puberty suppression and loss of fertility (“puberty suppression…effects on fertility…and the associated ethical and legal ramifications”), to double mastectomies for teen girls (“impact of male chest reconstruction on chest dysphoria in transmasculine adolescents…a preliminary study”).
The titles give witness to how experimental these medical interventions really are, but with little acknowledgement that in every experimental trial, some lab rats do poorly or don’t survive. But these docs are experimenting on children, not lab rats. One group of concerned parents, many of whom have children who formerly identified as trans, likens the trans experimentation to the lobotomy craze of years ago. The results were not good. So they ask:
The drama at the USPATH conference, and within its sponsoring organization, WPATH, reveals a disturbing picture of a medical community unable or unwilling to exercise independent judgment in the face of trans rage. It also thoroughly discredits WPATH/USPATH and their members as trustworthy “scientific” or “medical” professionals. Whatever credibility they might have had is now in shreds.
Unfortunately, that won’t stop them. Perhaps “trans cult” is indeed apt. You decide.
Mary Rice Hasson is an attorney and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC.