Bell Let’s Talk is Feeding a Monster

UPDATE: As many have informed me via the comments below, CAMH has decided to conduct an external review their Child Gender Identity Services.  Thank you all for your activism on behalf of trans individuals and mental health advocacy in general as well as your comments.

UPDATE II: The CAMH has decided to terminate Dr. Zucker and discontinue the program.

Author’s Note: Some are taking this as a broad condemnation of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative or of the CAMH.  It is not.  Anyone can see the good that both Bell Let’s Talk and the CAMH do in regards to mental health issues.  However that good should not be taken as the pinnacle of achievement, nor should it come at the expense of anyone.  This is a very specific condemnation of one particular aspect of the CAMH and how the organization has handled criticism.

Bell Let’s Talk, for those that don’t know, “is a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.”  It’s grown to be bigger than that, spanning across country and continental lines to anyone that wants to begin or be a part of a dialogue about mental health.

It also funnels money to an organization that, by its own internal study, has diminished the mental health of thousands of Canadians.

A significant portion of Bell’s donations from the Bell Let’s Talk campaign go to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or CAMH.  The CAMH employs one Doctor Kenneth Zucker who is their Psychologist-in-Chief and Head of the Gender Identity Service in the Child, Youth, and Family Program.

(Note: As some have pointed out in the comments, the majority of Bell’s contributions to the CAMH came via a 2011 grant. However, the CAMH is still listed as a partner organization.)

Kenneth Zucker is an advocate of trans-reparative therapy or the notion that transgender individuals can “heal” themselves if they just try hard enough.  In 2003 Zucker, an editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior, published a study on reparative therapy by Dr. Robert Spitzer without subjecting it to any sort of peer-review process.  Spitzer has since disavowed the study.  Zucker’s and CAMH colleague Ray Blanchard’s (who called trans women ‘men without penises’) transphobia had become so well known by 2007 that the CAMH launched an internal study to investigate the complaints.  The study found the following:

  1. Homophobia, racism and ableism have been cited as important internal concerns
  2. Although there are Queer & Trans-specific services in the Addictions program, these have not been offered in Mental Health
  3. LGBTTTQQI priorities have not been part of the cultural competency practice framework for clinical staff
  4. The Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) and the Gender Identity Disorder Service (GIDS) have not been well regarded by some members of LGBTTTQQI communities due to negative experiences, underlying operational theories, approach, and treatment philosophy.”

The study expounded on point number four:

In Focus Groups and individual interviews with LGBTTTQQI community members, the Gender Identity Clinic and Gender Identity Disorder Service were cited as the main concerns.  . . These experiences have resulted in negative feelings and perceptions – which have impacted CAMH’s reputation in broader LGBTTTQQI communities within the GTA and beyond.

Gender Identity Clinic

Used the Medical Model (pathologized)

A greater priority on research, relative to care

Demonstrated a lack of willingness to engage with LGBTTTQQI communities and engage in dialogue

Exhibited poor therapeutic communication and engagement. Some identify dismissive, condescending and authoritarian attitudes of staff

Used a surgery-only track

Supported and promoted the theories of Homosexual Transsexualism and Autogynephelia

Used guidelines that are four-times (for hormones) and double (for the real life experience) the current WPATH Standards of Care

 Gender Identity Disorder Service:

Used the Medical Model (pathologizing)

Focused on removing cross-gender behaviour

Demonstrated a lack of willingness to engage with LGBTTTQQI communities  and engage in dialogue

Exhibited poor therapeutic communication and engagement. Some identify dismissive, condescending and authoritarian attitudes of staff

There are many examples (locally, nationally, and internationally) of treatment and care for transgender adolescents and adults that are client-centred and rooted in an informed consent approach. Similarly, there are different clinical perspectives about children who exhibit cross-gender behaviour, as evidenced by the different term – Children with Gender Variant Behaviour (rather than children who have Gender Identity Disorder). 3 Since 70%-90% of children who exhibit cross-gender behaviour later come out as Lesbian, Gay, or Bisexual, it is argued that labeling this behaviour as pathological has negative consequences to self-esteem and self-acceptance of LGBTTTQQI individuals.

From the comments

“While you source the information about the internal assessment from 2007, you don’t acknowledge that it’s now temporal information/no longer factual. I’ve been on the front lines of trans health advocacy for over a decade, you erase and deny the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the tremendous improvements that have taken place since 2007. The adult clinic follows WPATH SOC v7 (GRE is only required for lower surgery, not hormone therapy, chest reconstruction or gonadal removal), they recommend non-binary folks for chest reconstruction coverage, they rightfully challenge the model of sending folks for psychiatric and/or endocrine care instead advocating for hormone therapy to be part of primary care. Is there lots of room left for improvement? Of course. But I’ve seen people on FB and other social media, following reading this article, say they won’t be going to the GIC for surgical coverage and that does the community a great disservice. For some of us, it’s the only way we can afford life saving surgery. We need to continue advocacy (including for multiple assessment site, which the GIC is in favour of as well), and certainly Zucker deserves all the call out and condemnation there is to throw at him.”

Furthermore the Torontoist ran a piece comparing Zucker’s antiquated methods to more modern approaches.

Bradley’s mother had noticed his attraction to all things feminine beginning at the age of 2½. The tipping point came one day when, under the care of a sitter, he returned home bleeding from the playground, having been attacked by two 10-year-old boys for playing with a Barbie doll. His mother was referred to Dr. Ken Zucker, a controversial “reparative” therapist who has extensively worked with transgendered kids and who subsequently evaluated Bradley over a few months, resulting in a clinical diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder.

Dr. Zucker’s suggested treatment for GID is problematic and harsh: Bradley, now almost six, would not only be denied access to girls’ toys or be allowed to pretend he was female, but wouldn’t even be allowed to play with girls. His favourite toys were dolls, which his mother was instructed to confiscate. When he drew rainbow-coloured pictures of princesses, he was told to draw boys instead. Dr. Zucker warned Bradley’s mother that her son would be rejected by both male and female peer groups as he grew older if he wasn’t made to feel comfortable with his born biological gender.

Almost half of transgender men and women attempt suicide at some point already and medically unsound reparative therapy practices don’t help transgender individuals find any greater degree of acceptance.

Inexplicably Kenneth Zucker still heads the CAMH’s Gender Identity programs.  Probably because the CAMH’s response to criticisms has been to have their attorneys threaten to sue critics for libel.  And CAMH employee James Cantor has also edited several Wikipedia articles on Gender Identity to agree with Zucker’s methods.  The same James Cantor that had to issue a letter of apology after harassing a trans speaker at an LGBT workshop at the CAMH.

This is one of the organizations Bell Let’s Talk partners with.

Author’s Note:  This has gotten a lot more attention than I ever thought it would.  I’m honored and thankful to those that have opened their ears to the concerns of the trans community and want to take action, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the irony of a piece by me, a cis-voice, getting such elevation when trans and gender-nonconforming voices and experiences have so often fallen on deaf ears.

The crux of the issue outlined above is that trans voices are so often ignored both by society in general and by medical professionals.  I would strongly encourage those that have shared this to seek out and promote trans voices and trans activists because if it’s me getting attention and not them, that’s just a continuation of the problem.  There are numerous trans advocacy organizations from the well known that are endorsed by GLAAD and the Trans Advocacy Network to small local groups like The Self Made Men of Rochester New York.  Your city probably has one, and I would encourage you to seek them out, even if only to learn and to listen.

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About Alex

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52 comments

  1. Joe

    Do you have any proof that the majority of the money from Bell Let’s Talk goes to CAMH?

      • Do I agree with Dr. Kenneth Zucker’s beliefs? No. Definitely not. But what your blog entry implies is that he is the single doctor that works at CAMH and therefor the Bell Lets Talk campaign funnels $1.5 million directly into Zucker’s research which strictly isn’t so. There are precisely 100 physicians that work for CAMH and that $1.5 million would go towards much of the research that those 100 physicians are deep into. Your post completely negates all of the good that CAMH does everyday and the research that it has contributed to today’s standards. As I said, I don’t personally agree with Zucker’s research… there are always two sides to a story and knowledge is typically found somewhere in between both arguments. Your blog post is completely nonfactual and much of it is based on your own speculation of small truths taken out of context. You should without a doubt be ashamed of yourself and honestly you have become no better than Zucker is.

      • Haha, well. It’s always fun to be accused of being nonfactual and basing things on speculation when I sourced everything, especially when it’s from a comment that sources nothing. I also don’t think my post negates all the good CAMH does, I’m really not that powerful. Perhaps you meant “devalues” or “undercuts.” I would avoid the golden mean fallacy too. But to the greater point, if you also take issue with Zucker’s harmful therapy, shouldn’t you be writing your own post instead of nitpicking my tone?

      • Kale

        Almost 40% of all money raised during Bell Let’s Talk 2012 (1.5/3.9 million) went to CAMH
        Source: http://www.supportcamh.ca/letstalk2013

        Unless Zucker and those who share his beliefs are a minority at CAMH, this is a unspeakable crime, sadly the kind of thing I’ve come to expect from charities that are run by corporations.

        You’re doing god’s work Alex.

  2. Reblogged this on Venus' Veils and commented:
    Did you tweet #BellLetsTalk today? That organization has some practices that are highly questionable. Please read, consider, and research further for yourself, before supporting @Bell_LetsTalk any further!

    (Hash tags and Twitter user name included to try to spread the word, not to try to support the trend.)

  3. A

    CAMH is a huge facility that employs hundreds of doctors. Yes, what this doctor is doing is deplorable, and a few of his colleagues are backing him up. But the majority of the funds are going towards reputable doctors who are doing great things for mental health at CAMH. So to use this as a reason to condemn the “Bell Let’s Talk” movement as a whole is very counterproductive in my opinion

    • I’m assuming you have never been an inpatient at a CAMH facility, or that if you were, you had the protection of privilege. I was an inpatient at one of their facilities and I wish that I could say that their diagnosing my sexuality as a “personality disorder” was one of the worst things they did. They have the worst mental health facility in the city. The absolute worst. I can honestly say they did more damage than good.

  4. Chris

    I think the Let’s Talk campaign at its core is a wonderful idea. I suffered from depression for a very long time. I agree that there’s likely a lot of good work being done at CAMH. I also think, however, that a huge campaign like this is a good time to shine on spotlight on these sorts of things. I would like to see continued support of initiatives like Let’s Talk, but Bell and CAMH need to know that accountability is going to be part of the deal.

    • Indeed, and I would frame the trans mental health aspect as a part of the greater picture and that CAMH’s less than stellar record isn’t an indictment of the campaign, but is something that weakens the overall dialogue by weakening that particular aspect.

      • Xemas

        I’ must suggest adding what you just said just there to your article, as for myself and other commenters I have seen, there is some confusion.

        There isn’t a significant distinction between Zucker and the CAMH. If the goal of the article is to stir indignation, which by the way, it rightly does, then it should be properly directed as well built. That is what is not clear, as well as a look at the other research encompassing CAMH.. of which this article makes no mention.

        Any misconceptions about the research being done there is counterproductive to the goal of the article, which is the best mental health treatment for everyone, regardless of gender, sexuality, anatomy.. or whatever. No one should be subjected to some oaf’s cockamamie theories, no doubt.

        Yet scientists there are developing cutting edge tools for understanding mental illness. Genetics and neuroimaging don’t lie either – they are quantitative disciplines – as are many facets of the field at a high level, which is converged upon by all disciplines to unlock the brain’s mysteries.

        There is already much that has been revealed, and more that looks very promising, for not only treating, but also preventing mental illness with the research being done at CAMH. The credibility of the facility is undermined in your article – which it should be – in a specific manner!

        I have suffered from mental illness myself, and though I never received treatment at this facility, it was research of the type they conduct that empowered me with the knowledge to overcome it.

        Zucker is clearly a nitwit, a bad apple as they say. But the other work being done there is very important, and CAMH is a leading facility in North America. A distinction in the article would improve it’s objectivity and clarity. I hope you will take my comment as constructive. Good day.

      • I had considered adding it from the get-go, but I think that most people understand that a condemnation of Zucker and his like-minded colleagues isn’t a condemnation of the CAMH programs that have done nothing but good. I feel that, since the CAMH has supported Zucker, elevated him to this position, and kept him there after a litany of complaints, they deserve their fair of criticism as an organization.

  5. All I needed to read was This:
    from Alexander Bauer “it” self .. as there is no way of knowing for sure ‘who’/what it is .. When one LIES and thinks it “funny” on any level .. particularly of things that ARE important to so many .. then one is a LIAR and needs to be recognized ONLY as such.
    Your words: (top right of this page) your “disclaimer” >

    “I’ve been making stuff up since I was a kid, but didn’t learn to put it to paper until tenth grade in 2001. Since then it’s been a constant effort to get better. I write fantasy, romantic, erotic, and science fiction.” Alexander Bauer

    That’s all the attention you’ll get from me.
    Too bad you weren’t intelligent enough to put your writing skills to GOOD use.

    • The bulk of my writing is fiction. This is not. Pretty much everything I said is sourced. About half of it is directly from the CAMH’s own internal study.

  6. I think there were changes in the adult Gender Identity Clinic after this study came out, but Zucker is still in charge of the Gender Identity Service for children and practicing conversion therapy there, unfortunately.

    There is a petition from the MPP Catherine Fife that would prohibit healthcare professionals from billing OHIP for conversion therapy. It can be downloaded, printed, signed, and mailed to her office by Ontario residents. The link is http://catherinefife.com/wp-content/uploads/catherinefife.com/2015/01/2015-01-petition-Dangerous-Therapies1.pdf

    I started an electronic petition on change.org for the same purpose; this petition was the impetus for Catherine Fife’s petition. The link is https://www.change.org/p/legislative-assembly-of-ontario-delist-lgbtqia-conversion-therapy-from-the-ontario-health-insurance-plan. The Ontario government doesn’t accept digital petitions, which is why Catherine Fife’s office created the downloadable petition, but signatures on the digital petition are still valuable as a show of public support.

  7. H G Liu

    It’s kinda sad seeing people make comments that are basically along the lines of “yea CAMH is transphobic, but let’s support them anyway because they do lots of other things that are good.” Essentially, these apologists are saying we should collectively throw trans people under the bus. No thanks. If anything, I would rather see the Bell Let’s Talk money be funnelled to a different mental health institute that doesn’t promote such backwards ideas on certain groups of people.

  8. Nick Papalardo

    Alex, I think some of your facts are misrepresented and it’s causing some to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not correct that a “majority of Bell’s donations from the Bell Let’s Talk campaign go to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health or CAMH”.

    In total, Bell has committed $10M to CAMH out of the $67.5M pledged to mental health initiatives, of which this year’s BLT would be over and above that. It’s not been announced CAMH will get any of that this year – note that the article you linked to was from 2012. It’s still a sizeable chunk in total and it’s deplorable how the CAMH program “treats” the transgendered community. No one should minimize that. But I think the $57.5M donations to Kids Help Phone and the dozens of other government and community organizations that might provide key support to all communities, including the LBGTQ community, shouldn’t be minimized either.

    You can find the breakdown of all grants here. http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/impact/

    The other thing is, you do have the opportunity to influence where this money goes. Anyone can apply for a grant to be funded by the 2015 BLT campaign. You can and should take advantage to help Trans support orgs.

    http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/our-initiatives/community-fund/how-to-apply/

    • Thanks for the clarification. I have fixed the funding portions. Bell Let’s Talk still lists the CAMH Foundation as a partner so the concerns are still very much valid.

  9. I’m glad a number of people have called you out on the bullshit you’re spewing here. The fact of the matter is that no “majority” of money from Bell Let’s Talk goes to CAMH. In fact a quick look at last year’s list of organizations, and of 2013’s list, shows that CAMH has not received money from either campaign. Your sources are outdated. If you have a problem with Dr. Zucker (as you rightly should), keep Bell Let’s Talk out of it.

    • I have corrected the funding portions, however, Bell Let’s Talk still lists the CAMH Foundation as a partner.

      I would prefer you source your info. My bullshit (the majority of which is from the CAMH’s internal study) did. Thanks.

      • http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/impact/2014/
        http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/impact/2013/
        http://letstalk.bell.ca/en/impact/2012/

        Funnily enough, I don’t see CAMH appearing anywhere on these lists.
        There are your sources.

        They do list CAMH as a partner on their main page because, yes, in 2011 Let’s Talk did provide a substantial grant to CAMH.

        In the exact same article from 2012 that you have used as a source yourself (http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/news_releases_media_advisories_and_backgrounders/current_year/Pages/Bell-Let%27s-Talk-Event-raises-$1-5-million-more-for-CAMH—the-Centre-for-Addiction-and-Mental-Health.aspx) we see the quote: “”Bell’s generosity and commitment to mental health was certainly felt by CAMH staff and patients as we moved into the Bell Gateway Building this past summer,” said CAMH President and CEO, Dr. Catherine Zahn. “With Bell’s support, our historic Queen Street site has begun to transform into the hospital of the future””

        So it appears the grant money was used towards a new building for CAMH? And not to continue trans conversion therapy as many people who read your misleading article seem to think.

        As a writer you should be more responsible when providing information. I appreciate you having changed the funding portions but the fact of the matter is you have already singlehandedly tarnished the name of an incredible campaign that raises a lot of awareness for mental health issues and helps eliminate the stigmas associated with them.

        As a Canadian who has used CAMH’s services in the past I can assure that they provide life-saving services to people with mental health issues all over the Greater Toronto Area and the rest of Canada. They are one of very few facilities that offer in-patient treatment options, and are one of the few places that are capable of caring for people with multiple severe mental disorders. I don’t agree with Dr. Zucker’s methods but I don’t think one individual represents the entire organization.

        Regardless, you have mis-represented factual information and left a lot of people with the impression that BellLetsTalk sole purpose is intentionally funding trans conversion therapy. Irresponsible at best.

      • Well if you want to read it as a broad condemnation of Bell Let’s Talk or of the CAMH, that’s your right I guess. Most haven’t, at least if the responses her and where this has been shared on other platforms.

        I apologize if this piece’s roughly 60,000 views have “singlehandedly tarnished” the good work of mental health professionals who no doubt comprised many of the 122,150,772 interactions yesterday including 4,775,708 tweets which led to $6,107,538.60 being raised in support of mental health programs and research.

        I wish you luck in your trans advocacy since you disagree with Dr. Zucker’s methods. There’s a paragraph at the bottom that provides a few good starting points.

  10. Jambalaya

    It’s unfortunate, awful to hear, I myself have had bad experiences with mental health agencies over different issues…I can’t write off an entire agency however that IS making a positive impact for people with many OTHER forms of mental illness…I personally have received some of the best help I’ve found throughout my lifetime from agencies associated with CAMH…I cannot pretend to imagine what people struggling with their sexual identity are going through, but I’m glad things ARE slowly changing for the better, and I’m glad that CAMH took the complaints seriously and proceeded with an internal review, trying to treat all parties involved with fairness…bad experiences by one population does not discount all the good work CAMH does for me and people like me…as I said I don’t know what it’s like for that population, but I do know how it feels to be treated poorly due to mental health, not accepted, judged unfairly…people like me used to be lobotomized, locked away for life in despicable conditions, abused, tortured, experimented on…CAMH is fighting to change how people like me are viewed, and provide REAL HELP for wellness in people who previously had little to no options and were SHAMED for our illness…so I for one am THANKFUL for Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign, as it is helping people like me be able to stand up and say “I have a mental illness and I am NOT crazy, I DESERVE respect, and I AM NOT ASHAMED to be sick, not ashamed to be trying, not ashamed to be ME.”
    Let’s not let a few bad apples in an organization spoil all the GOOD this campaign and this organization are doing for people like me…it’s only recently that the public has cared about the stigma of mental illness, despite it existing and people being well aware of the medical causes…people like me are STILL being persecuted, hell, by our loved ones even!! So I get the anger and frustration of people struggling with sexual identity at least to some degree, and the “gay cause” is advancing far faster than the “mental health cause”, in my opinion. Keep fighting but don’t try to minimize the help being provided for everybody else!

  11. NZ

    I’m always very thankful for articles like this that bring forward concerns and create a dialogue around these issues while also allowing the public to critically engage with public/corporate campaigns such as this. Just because an organization does some “good”, doesn’t mean it should be beyond criticism. We need to be able to have public dialogues about these issues in order to create meaningful change and articles like this help us achieve that. Elevating the voices of some, while hindering the voices of others undermines the overall initiative of Bell’s campaign anyway, which is to create a safe open dialogue and bring forward the voices of those who are marginalized and challenge the stigma people with mental illness face in our society. So then, how can we not consider the concerns brought forward by this article and include the voices of trans people who are also marginalized and also face severe stigma even within the mental health community? We should embrace this type of critical engagement so that we can learn from this experience and be informed participants in actively ending the stigma surrounding mental illness.

    Thanks for bringing forward this information, Alex!

    • Agreed. And thankyou. Trans mental health is part of the overall picture. Calling out Bell Let’s Talk for problematic partnerships is not a weakening of the initiative, but an opportunity to shore up aspects of it that have been weak or neglected.

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  13. Jessee

    My input entails not only this specific article, but a general frustration with the black and white strategy of many pieces that I have seen shared on social media. Although I am impressed and glad that this issue in the mental health community has been called out, I found the authors replies to many of the comments that offered criticism sounded rather defensive. Just a reminder that no matter if the comments are are critical it is important to remain open to the perspectives of your readers to ensure that you don’t sound biased. Personally I took the author less seriously after reading the replies because the tone came across as stubborn and sarcastic. Don’t underestimate yourself because you “are not that powerful,” as mental health and trans issues are subjects that many people are very passionate about, and an article like this makes a large impression. A concerning trend that I have found in many seemingly progressive articles is that they often exaggerate or withhold information in order to strengthen their argument. Even if this argument is “the right one”, a narrow lens polarizes the issues and the potential views of readers. In this way, people come away feeling enlightened about an issue while they may really be in the dark to important aspects. Such impartiality disappoints me, although I realize that in this case this most likely results from a desire to convey the damage done by Zucker’s warped perspective, and the role that Bell Let’s Talk has played. His obvious discretions do distract from considering the implications that may arise from sullying the organizations around him. To sum up, I’m less distraught with you writing passionately, and more with the fact that people often won’t take the time to question or further research anything they read on the internet so long as it is in line with their perspective, no matter who it is written by.

  14. cisvoice

    decent article. not especially pleased with your comment about the so-called ironic nature of your booming cis-voice piercing through the veil of (alphabet soup) discrimination, and echoing beyond the reach of lgbtttqqi ( i scrolled back up for the acronym this time) persons. i had been eminently comfortable evaluating the article based on content, with no real concern for the gender identity of the author. i doubt that the majority of your readers, of this article in any case, had one sweet clue about your privilege, and i do not believe you had any obligation or valuable purpose in disclosing it. if i gave a crap how you identify, wouldn’t i be a yet-larger part of the problem than i clearly already am?

    • I disagree. It’s great if people want to read what I wrote and find meaning in it, but it’s unfair that I should be elevated in speaking on trans issues while trans individuals continue to be ignored.

  15. Jake Pyne

    Hi Alex, thanks for your work on this. I’m a researcher and trans activist in Toronto working on this issue. Get in touch please if you’d like to connect. Here is a piece I wrote two weeks ago about the clinic: https://nowtoronto.com/news/leelah-alcorn-fix-society-not-trans-people/

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  17. I have been a client at CAMH for the past 3 years, as part of the youth addictions and concurrent disorders program. Last year I read about some of the horrors Zucker has inflicted on his clients, and I brought it up in one of my individual sessions. My therapist, who isn’t part of the gender program, told me that as far as she knew mental health practitioners are NOT supposed to pathologize transness. Their job is to help their clients come to terms with their identity, and to ease any discomfort / stigma their client is facing. Ultimately mental health professionals are supposed to provide a purely accepting and non judgemental environment. A safe space.

    Mental health care wasn’t always client centered in this way, and from what I have read in this article it is pretty clear that Zucker is traditionalist in his approach, which is harmful as fuck.

    If anyone knows someone who has been hurt by Zucker, or wishes to forward their concerns – my therapist says they should go above CAMH entirely and contact the national psychologist associations.

    http://www.cpa.ca/
    http://www.ccpa-accp.ca/en/

    It’s unacceptable for an organization such as CAMH to be supporting these types of treatments. These transgressions must be spoken about and criticized until positive change is made. So many lives depend on it.

  18. Eleanor

    I commend you, Alex, on the conversation you have started, and your patience with reading and replying to criticisms. This is a productive use of dialogue on an important issue. Furthermore, the way you have tactfully responded to those who are criticizing you is elegant. I will still continue to support BellLetsTalk, mostly because I do believe in all the positive outcomes of it, but I am glad I now know the problems with CAMH. Thanks.

    • Thanks. I am very supportive of efforts to increase awareness and promote dialogue on mental health, even of Bell Let’s Talk. It is no doubt pushing things forward in reducing the some of the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Ultimately I chose not be more explicit in that regard so as to not divert attention from the specific issues trans individuals face. The success of Bell Let’s Talk has and continues to speak for itself and doesn’t need me weighing down a piece like this one with caveats.

  19. Transguy

    Alex – Agree totally. Thanks for beginning the conversation. The debate about the percentage of money is really not the point; it is about Bell and CAMH lending support to Zucker’s hateful views. Maybe you should write Mary Walsh a note on Facebook and ask her to take a stand – she’s been acting as the spokesperson for Bell’s campaign but I think that if she was informed about this issue, she might actually speak up. And people might actually listen.

  20. Ty

    Zucker met with my parents and gave them the ammo they needed to disown me for starting medical transition. I look forward to the day his practice is buried 6 feet under.
    I started transition during the 10 years that there was no coverage, and due to aforementioned disowning found myself starving, under housed with stints of homelessness and doing things I won’t repeat for years to live as myself, access T and eventually afford chest reconstruction. I went to the GIC following the relisting of coverage but before everyone from the “old guard” had left the adult clinic and endured unethical treatment to access coverage for lower surgery.

    While you source the information about the internal assessment from 2007, you don’t acknowledge that it’s now temporal information/no longer factual. I’ve been on the front lines of trans health advocacy for over a decade, you erase and deny the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into the tremendous improvements that have taken place since 2007. The adult clinic follows WPATH SOC v7 (GRE is only required for lower surgery, not hormone therapy, chest reconstruction or gonadal removal), they recommend non-binary folks for chest reconstruction coverage, they rightfully challenge the model of sending folks for psychiatric and/or endocrine care instead advocating for hormone therapy to be part of primary care. Is there lots of room left for improvement? Of course. But I’ve seen people on FB and other social media, following reading this article, say they won’t be going to the GIC for surgical coverage and that does the community a great disservice. For some of us, it’s the only way we can afford life saving surgery. We need to continue advocacy (including for multiple assessment site, which the GIC is in favour of as well), and certainly Zucker deserves all the call out and condemnation there is to throw at him.

    I’ve found no evidence that funds transferred to CAMH from this campaign are specifically going to children services, or indeed to any programming. It’s irresponsible to discourage vulnerable trans adults who can’t afford surgeries by other means from accessing the adult clinic. I think it’s ill-conceived to condemn all of CAMH, tarnishing the good services from continuing to do life saving work because of one, relatively small program. There are alternatives for children, the clinic at CHEO and Sick Kids offer non pathological services for the younger trans and non-binary folks. There is no alternative to the Adult GIC atm for those seeking surgery coverage. Besides which, when it comes to Zucker, the goal shouldn’t be to withhold additional funding from the children’s clinic, it’s to shut it down all together.

    • I added your middle paragraph above following the details of the 2007 study. It’s heartening to hear that strides have been made regarding trans health.

      I agree with your last paragraph, I just don’t think this piece reads that way.

  21. QueerTO

    You might want to get some updated information for this blog…..Zucker is no longer the Psychologist-in-Chief at CAMH for starters…

  22. Jake Pyne

    CAMH has just announced it is conducting an external review of the child gender identity service. This is a very very good thing. It’s the process that led to major positive change in the CAMH adult gender clinic!!!

    http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/CAMH_in_the_headlines/stories/Pages/Gender-Identity-Service-Review-Announced.aspx

  23. QueerTO

    Jake, I was just about to share this! There is always a lot going on behind the scenes. It’s important to note that Zucker has absolutely nothing to do with the Adult clinic.

    CAMH runs both child and adult gender identity services in support of those exploring their gender identity or going through a gender transition. Issues of gender identity are complex and there is new evidence emerging all the time.
    CAMH regularly receives feedback from clients, families, community organizations and other health professionals. We welcome and respect this and use the comments to help us to improve the care we offer. We take this input seriously.

    Our adult gender identity services were reviewed in 2011 with the support of community partners. This improved the quality of our services.
    We will now be focussing on our child gender identity services. We will be undertaking a review headed by an external expert. We expect this review to take six months.

    CAMH’s goal is to provide the highest quality, evidence-based services, and we are committed to continuous improvement. We look forward to learning everything we can from the review of our child gender identity services.

  24. QueerTO

    And Zucker is no longer the psychologist-in-chief. Perhaps they just haven’t updated their information.

  25. Great to hear, looks like I’ll be updating the piece yet again. 🙂 Thanks for your activism and your comments.

  26. Pingback: The Net: Digital Narcissi | The Talon

  27. Casey

    This is absolutely ridiculous, to sit on your chair behind your computer and bash a program that does help millions of people, shame on you that is one Dr you are talking about not everyone participating. I suffer from crippling mental illness and this program helps me spread information to my friends and family about my condition

    If this program were to be shift down or diminished is any way many people would loose their voice to reach out for help and to open up about having a mental illness. I’ve never seen any trans people bashed from the let’s talk people and to dig for a reason to protest them is shockingly disturbing in my opinion and you should think about the bigger picture and the 100 other groups of people before you go bashing an important program like this for having a Dr who doesn’t have the same views as you. Who cares where the money goes it’s about the coming forward and breaking the stigma associated with mental illness

    • N_Bi

      There are updates at the top of the post explaining that this information is outdated as it was first posted last year and the doctor is no longer associated with the campaign.
      However, I think criticising the doctor that used to be at CAMH is valid considering how conversion therapy in trans youth leads to severe mental illness and often suicide in patients. Any campaign regarding mental illness needs to be inclusive to everyone who experiences mental illness. Having a doctor, that was chief psychologist, that alienates trans children is extremely detrimental and exclusionary. Exposing issues in such a campaign does not diminish its benefits towards you or others. But a campaign like this is harmful to those who already had their voices taken away do to transphobia. The criticism is not coming from a place of wanting to silence people with mental illness but to ask for an inclusive atmosphere for all who experiences mental illness, including lgbtqa+ people and those effected by conversion therapy.

  28. Tom

    Bell Let’s Talk is a marketing stunt. I tried and tried to find a number or an email to tell them directly how this campaign is a joke, but could not find one. Who cares if Howie Mandel is scared of hugs/touching? He is loaded. It’s the poor people that suffer in silence. How come we don’t see real life people with mental health issues being interviewed instead of seeing the same crap over and over? I am talking about people that cannot even leave their basement because their anxiety is so bad. I think it’s funny how Bell encourages you to ‘talk’ when most people with real issues will not want to or be able to talk. Regarding the GID, there is no treatment for that. You are who you are.

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