By Kim Pearson, Executive Director, TransYouth Family Allies
I was honored to represent TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA) at the 2011 World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Conference in Atlanta Georgia. I attended this conference, along with TYFA board member Dr. Johanna Olson, to represent our families and children. Conversations, learning and sharing continued over breakfast, lunch, dinner and into the wee hours thereafter. Dr. Olson and I were all about THE KIDS, all of the time!!
Friday was a day for providers only and Dr. Olson participated extensively. Saturday and Sunday the WPATH Conference overlapped with the GLMA and Southern Comfort Conferences so many of the presenters from all three venues joined forces and presented a broad spectrum of information regarding transgender culture, history, advocacy and human rights. Monday and Tuesday we really started getting down to the key information regarding the care of transgender children and youth.
Presenters and attendees included: Dr. Diane Ehrensaft, Dr. Norman Spack, Dr. Scott Leibowitz, Dr. Peggy Cohen-Kettenis, Dr. Kenneth Zucker, Thomas Steensma, Dr. Jamison Green (former TYFA board member), Dr. Madeline Deutsch, Dr. Becky Allison, Joel Baum, Dr. Michele Angello, Arlene Istar Lev, Mara Keisling, Dr. Marci Bowers, Dr. Pierre Brassard, Dr. Laura Edwards-Leeper, Dr. Stephen Rosenthal, Drs. Fred and Randi Ettner, Irwin Krieger, Susan P. Landon, Dr. Rob Garofalo, Dr. Marvin Belzer, Jean Malpas. I apologize if I overlooked anyone, no slight intended.
You may have noticed I included Dr. Kenneth Zucker in the above list. I know the type of strong emotion the very mention of his name evokes, so I’m going to share with you my first hand experience of meeting with him. Monday afternoon, Dr. Zucker approached Drs. Olson and Belzer just after one of the youth focused presentations. It seems he is interested in collaborating with the Dutch and American doctors on a research project. As the doctors spoke, a group started to gather around them (including me) so they could hear the conversation. The “hot topic” was research on children who socially transition before the age of 10. I made a statement that I had access to that demographic and Dr. Zucker asked “are you Kim?” Hmm, seems he knew my name! The conversation was cut short as the next presentation was starting, but before departing Dr. Zucker asked if I would meet with him privately at 5 PM and I consented.
[More below the fold.]
Dr. Zucker and I found a quiet corner for our 5 PM meeting. After a few formalities we got down to the business of what he wanted, which was for TYFA families to participate in research with him. My response, as best I can recall was, “I’m fairly certain that TYFA families will not participate in ANY research project that is associated with your name.”
He then asked why, to which I responded, “…because the research you have published thus far makes their lives a living hell.” We talked a bit more, and I asked him if he really believed that anything he could have said or done would have changed my own child’s gender identity. He said that was a complex question, he was tired, and wished to continue our conversation the following day. We never did…
On Tuesday, Dr. Zucker attended the presentation on “Early Childhood Transition” by Dr. Olson and me. I passed him in the hall about 15 minutes after we finished and he asked if I would share the data from our slides. I replied that we could “discuss that possibility later.” We never did get back to that question. Just for the record, it was my intention to tell him that I would be happy to share the data with him and the rest of the community…just as soon as it was published. So there you have it. I wasn’t swayed by Dr. Zucker and his seemingly earnest desire to collaborate on a research project. He did suggest that TYFA families would participate in a project designed with the Dutch, Canadian (him) and American doctors if TYFA endorsed it. I think he may have under estimated how strongly our families feel about his life’s work.
Tuesday evening was the gala, and it was fabulous. Everyone had been working very hard and it was wonderful just to let go and enjoy the evening. There are a few pictures posted on the TYFA Facebook Page at http://www.facebook.com/imatyfa if you would like to check them out.
Based on our experience at the conference it is clear that we are breaking new ground for the next generation of transgender people, and the entire community is watching. You will hear much more about our future plans in the coming months as we prepare to take TransYouth Family Allies to the next level. We anticipate many exciting challenges and changes in the organization, and we plan to present at the 23rd WPATH Biennial Meeting 2014, Bangkok, Thailand!
Thank you all for your support FOR THE KIDS!! Now, I’m off to apply for my passport!
Note from Autumn: The following are documents relating to Dr. Kenneth Zucker:
* Statement on Dr. Kenneth Zucker and Gender Identity Disorder (May 23, 2008)
* Statement from National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Transgender Law and Policy Institute (TLPI), Transgender Law Center (TLC), and TransYouth Family Allies (TYFA) on the DSM committee (May 28, 2008)
Note from Autumn: Further reading/listening:
* National Public Radio: Two Families Grapple with Sons’ Gender Identity; Psychologists Take Radically Different Approaches In Therapy (May 7, 2008 – Dr. Zucker psychiatric treatment of one child is one part of the two parts of this story)
* Bay Area Reporter: DSM controversy could overshadow opportunities (May 29, 2008)
* Gay City News: Flap Flares Over Gender Diagnosis (May 15, 2008)
* Ex-Gay Watch: Zucker & Bradley (May 27, 2007)
* View From (Ab)Normal Heights: Documenting The DSM-V Controversy (June 3, 2008)