Kenneth J. Zucker (born 1950) is an American-Canadian psychologist and sexologist. He is Psychologist-in-Chief and Head of the Gender Identity Service in the Child, Youth, and Family Program at Toronto's Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Based on his collaboration with Susan Bradley, with whom he collected clinical and research data over a period of twenty years, Zucker has become an international authority in the field of gender identity disorder in children (GIDC) and adolescents. He is a controversial figure in the transgender community, leading to an internal review of his clinical practices in 2015.
Zucker is also a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Toronto. He was named editor-in-chief of Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2001. In 2007, Zucker was chosen to be a member of the American Psychological Association Task Force on Gender Identity, Gender Variance, and Intersex Conditions, and in 2008 he was named chair of the American Psychiatric Association workgroup on "Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders" for the 2012 edition of the DSM-5. He previously served on workgroups for the DSM-IV and the DSM-IV-TR.
Zucker was born in 1950 to Jewish parents, and grew up in Skokie, Illinois. Zucker received his B.A. from Southern Illinois University, his M.A. from Roosevelt University, and his Ph.D. from University of Toronto in 1982. He holds a certification from College of Psychologists of Ontario.
Zucker became interested in gender identity after reading Richard Green's 1974 book Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults. Zucker's graduate work in developmental psychology resulted in his master's thesis on normative gender identity development in children. While in graduate school, Zucker met his future collaborator Susan J. Bradley, a child psychiatrist on staff at the Child and Adolescent Service of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry (now the Child and Family Studies Centre of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health), a public mental health centre and teaching hospital of the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine.
Zucker was impressed with the Clarke Institute and met with then chief of psychology, Kingsley Ferguson, who told Zucker of Bradley's new working group assessing children and adolescents with gender identity problems. He joined Bradley's group.
Therapeutic intervention for gender variance
Since the mid-1970s, Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children to enable them to be more accepting of their biological sex until they are old enough to determine their sexual identity. For children assigned as males at birth, Zucker asks parents to take away toys associated with females and instruct the child not to play with or draw pictures of girls. Psychologist Darryl Hill wrote that Zucker and Bradley believed that reparative treatments can reduce rejection by enabling gender non-conforming children to mix with children of the same sex, reducing the possibility of adult GID.
Among Zucker's publications is the case history two patients who were male by birth but suffered a penectomy and were shortly thereafter reassigned as females. At age 26 both denied ever feeling the desire to be male. Both patients reported more masculine behaviors and bisexuality, about which Zucker suspects that gender role and sexual orientation develop mostly before birth while gender identity development begins shortly after birth. There is some support for the position that "prenatal sex differentiation can at least sometimes trump social influences."
Zucker says parents set the goals at his clinic. "We recommend that one goal be to help the child feel more secure about his or her actual gender, another to deal with the child's emotional difficulties, and a third to help with problems in the family. It's helpful to have parents set limits on things like cross-dressing, which many parents have not done before coming to us." Zucker's follow-up of 50 treated children found that "about 10 percent are still very unhappy about their gender, still cross-dressing, and thinking about having sex reassignment surgery" as young adults. Zucker has stated that "the therapist must rely on the 'clinical wisdom' that has accumulated and to utilize largely untested case formulation conceptual models to inform treatment approaches and decisions."
For adolescent clients expressing gender identity disorder, Zucker's treatment protocol resembles that for adult GID, consisting of hormone replacement therapy to aid the adolescent in a social transition. Since sex reassignment surgery is not generally performed on minors in North America, Zucker's clinic does not provide recommendations for it – instead, clients are encouraged to pursue reassignment through the adult Gender Identity Clinic at CAMH, which controls funding for the procedure in Ontario.
Controversy over reparative therapy for transgender children
As editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior, Zucker published a controversial study on reparative therapy by Robert Spitzer. According to The New York Times, after his presentation of the study caused controversy, Spitzer asked Zucker to publish it. “I knew Bob and the quality of his work, and I agreed to publish it,” Zucker said in an interview. “But I told him I would do it only if I also published commentaries”. Spitzer later recanted the study's conclusions.
The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association believes "'reparative' therapy that seeks to reverse sexual orientation or gender identification" is an "extreme example" of bias that "may lead to increased self hatred and mental health problems." Psychiatrist Simon Pickstone-Taylor has cited similarities between Zucker's therapeutic intervention and reparative therapy for homosexuals. Zucker responded that prevention of homosexuality was never a goal in their treatments and cite a lack of empirical evidence for the most effective approach. Journalist Marc Lostracco described Zucker's therapy as "well-meaning" but "problematic and harsh." Others, like author Phyllis Burke, object to any diagnosis of GID in children, considering it to be "child abuse." Zucker dismisses Burke's book as "simplistic" and "not particularly illuminating;" journalist Stephanie Wilkinson said Zucker characterized Burke's book as "the work of a journalist whose views shouldn't be put into the same camp as those of scientists like Richard Green or himself."
LGBT activists protested Zucker's 2008 appointment to the DSM-5 working group. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force issued a statement questioning the APA's decision to appoint Zucker and a second member of the work panel. According to a response released by American Psychiatric Association, Zucker does not advocate reparative therapy for transgender adults or for trans youth in all cases, and he opposes change therapy for gays under all circumstances.
Zucker's treatment protocol came under further scrutiny in March 2015 when Cheri DiNovo MPP tabled a private member's bill to ban conversion therapies to both homosexual and transgender for minors. Zucker's gender identity clinic stopped accepting new patients the same month, awaiting the result of an ongoing review of the practice. CAMH director Kwame McKenzie said that Zucker's treatments were against the centre's guidelines, but that there exist two groups of thinking on controversy therapy for children under 11 among professionals.
According to the Web of Science, Zucker has published almost 100 articles in peer-reviewed journals. These articles have been cited over 2000 times, with an h-index of 20. He has published several books, including:
- Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents (1996)
- Attachment and Psychopathology (1997)
- Ex-Gay Research: Analyzing the Spitzer Study And Its Relation to Science, Religion, Politics, and Culture (2006)
- "Dr. Kenneth Zucker". Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- Awad G.A. (1999). "Gender Identity Disorder and the Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents (review)". American Journal of Psychotherapy 53 (2): 265.
- Morton, Gillian (January 11, 2001). "Drop the doll!". Xtra. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
- Cross, Jessica Smith (March 18, 2015). "Outcry prompts CAMH to review its controversial treatment of trans youth". Metro (Metro International). Retrieved March 20, 2015.
- Bradley S.J., Blanchard R, Coates SW, Green R, Levine SB, Meyer-Bahlburg HFL, Pauly IB, Zucker KJ (1991). "Interim report of the DSM-IV Subcommittee on Gender Identity Disorders". Archives of Sexual Behavior 20 (4): 333–343.
- Schwartzapfel, Beth (March 14, 2013). "Born This Way?". The American Prospect. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
- Zucker, Kenneth J. and Susan J. Bradley (1995). Gender Identity Disorder and Psychosexual Problems in Children and Adolescents. Guilford Press. p. v. ISBN 0-89862-266-2.
- Brown, Patricia Leigh (December 2, 2006). "Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear". The New York Times.
- Spiegel, Alix (May 7, 2008). "Two families grapple with sons' gender preferences". All Things Considered (National Public Radio).
- Hill D.B., Rozanski C., Carfagnini J., Willoughby B. (2006). "Gender Identity Disorders in Childhood and Adolescence: A Critical Inquiry". In Karasic D, Drescher J. Sexual and Gender Diagnoses of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM): A Reevaluation. Haworth Press. pp. 7–34. ISBN 0-7890-3214-7.
- SJ, Bradley; Oliver GD; Chernick AB; Zucker KJ (1998). "Experiment of Nurture: Ablatio Penis at 2 Months, Sex Reassignment at 7 Months, and a Psychosexual Follow-up in Young Adulthood". Pediatrics 102 (1): e9. doi:10.1542/peds.102.1.e9. PMID 9651461.
- Dingfelder, Sadie F. (2004). "Gender bender". Monitor on Psychology 35 (4): 48. Retrieved June 17, 2008.
- Goleman, Daniel (March 22, 1994). "The 'Wrong' Sex: A New Definition Of Childhood Pain". The New York Times.
- Zucker K.J. (2008). "Children with gender identity disorder: Is there a best practice?". Neuropsychiatrie de l'Enfance et de l'Adolescence 56 (6): 358–364.
- Bailey J.M., Zucker K.J. (1995). "Childhood Sex-Typed Behavior and Sexual Orientation: A Conceptual Analysis and Quantitative Review". Developmental Psychology 31 (1): 43–55.
- Carey, Benedict (18 May 2012). "Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay ‘Cure’". The New York Times. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
- Dean, Laura et al. (2000). "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender health: Findings and concerns". Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association 4 (3): 102–151.
- Ryan, C, Bradford, J & Honnold, J. (1999). "Social workers' and counselors' knowledge and understanding of lesbians". Journal of Lesbian and Gay Social Services 9 (4): 1–26.
- Pickstone-Taylor, Simon D. (2003). "Children with gender nonconformity". Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 42 (3): 266.
- Bradley, Susan J.; Zucker, Kenneth J. (2003). "Children With Gender Nonconformity: Drs. Bradley and Zucker reply". Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 42 (3): 266–268. doi:10.1097/00004583-200303000-00004.
- Lostracco, Marc (May 9, 2008). "But for today I am a boy". Torontoist.
- Burke, Phyllis (1996). Gender Shock. Anchor. ISBN 978-0-385-47718-5.
- Wilkinson, Stephanie (2001). "Drop the Barbie!". Brain, Child.
- Chibarro, Lou Jr. (May 30, 2008). "Activists alarmed over APA: Head of psychiatry panel favors 'change' therapy for some trans teens". Washington Blade.
- Rau, Krishna (July 7, 2008). "Trans activists infuriated by doctors in charge of gender identity definitions.". Xtra.
- National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. "Task Force questions critical appointments to APA’s Committee on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders". Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- "Statement on Dr. Kenneth Zucker and Gender Identity Disorder". May 23, 2008. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
- Paterson, Tara (21 February 2015). "As trans issues become mainstream, question of how to address variant gender expression comes to forefront". National Post.
- "Web of Science". 2008. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
- Kenneth Zucker profile via Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
- Kenneth Zucker profile via American Psychiatric Association
- Kenneth Zucker at the Internet Movie Database
- Kenneth Zucker in The Atlantic