Episode 59

Published on:

21st Jan 2022

59 - Pioneers Series: 46 Years of Treating GD in Kids with Kenneth Zucker

Dr. Zucker is a registered clinical psychologist in Ontario. He received his Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in Developmental Psychology in 1982. He is a Professor (Status Only) in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto, and in private practice. He was the Chair of the 2013 DSM-5 Work Group on Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders. He is a past President of the International Academy of Sex Research and has been the Editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior since 2002. Since 1976, Dr. Zucker has worked clinically with children and adolescents with gender dysphoria and their families. His research spans a variety of areas, including epidemiology, diagnosis, and assessment, associated mental health challenges, causal mechanisms, and long-term follow-up.


In our discussion, Ken describes the early years of working with childhood gender issues starting in the 1970s. We talk about the changes he’s seen in the kinds of kids, families, and therapists in the field. Politics has always been present in the world of gender identity treatment, but this came to a head for Ken when he was fired from his position at the CAMH hospital in Toronto 2015 after activists made some wild accusations and hospital administrators became fearful for their positions. After a three-year legal battle, he was finally vindicated and compensated. Even with his decades of leadership in the field, Zucker was not protected from this early cancel-culture manifestation. We talk about what his story means for individuals in practice and the field more broadly.


Dr. Zucker’s Website: 



Sexual Identity Conflict in Children and Adults: 


Extended Notes

  • Ken talks about how he accidentally got into the studies of gender identity disorders.
  • He shares about when he met Sue Bradley and joined her gender identity clinic for children and adolescents at the Clark Institute of Psychiatry in Toronto that she just started in the early ’70s.
  • What was it like working with this study, it being taboo at the time?
  • Ken also talks about the parents that brought their children to their clinics. What led them to seek help?
  • Anxiety about sexual orientation is still an issue that many parents struggle with.
  • Ken shares the shift in focus of their research studies from the ’70s to the early 2000s between children and adolescents.
  • How much impact do social media and the internet have with rapid onset gender dysphoria? Ken also shares his insights on this.
  • Ken talks about his experience and the various views of the subcommittees within the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) during his involvement with them.
  • Ken gets into more details when their clinic got closed in 2015, being one of the early targets of cancel culture.
  • With newer administrative heads in their child program, the criticisms they received in 2015 would have been taken differently if it was still managed with Sue Bradley and their former bosses.
  • Ken shares what were his thoughts at this time. Did he think that his career would be ruined thereafter?
  • Ken also talks more about the lawsuits he then filed against newspapers, the hospital, and one of the administrators of their program due to libelous comments and defamation, among other things.
  • People being accused of things and these things going viral get them canceled as opposed to having an exchange of ideas has become a pervasive issue in the last years.
  • Ken also shares his interactions with both new and old colleagues and how they fear for their jobs if they don’t adhere to a particular point of view.
  • The consequence of the legal issues and politics within this field is terrorizing clinicians from wanting to work with this population.
  • Following his pursuit, clinicians are now pushing back and taking more risks in complicated fields and being more thoughtful in their process.

This podcast is sponsored by ReIME and Genspect. Visit Rethinkime.org and Genspect.org to learn more.


For more about our show: Linktr.ee/WiderLensPod

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About the Podcast

Gender: A Wider Lens Podcast
Two therapists explore the expanding concept of "gender" from a psychological depth perspective.
Gender dysphoria has become a minefield for public discussion, with many afraid to express their views or question the narrative. Our mission is to examine this important and complex topic from a range of perspectives, but always through a psychological lens. By openly considering and examining gender identity, transition, and the transgender umbrella, we hope to give all interested parties permission to engage these fascinating topics with less fear and more honesty. Interviews and discussions will involve clinicians, medical professionals, academics, transgender people, parents, detransitioners and other interesting individuals whose lives have been touched by the concept of gender.

Conversations between two practicing therapists give listeners an opportunity to contemplate gender from a depth perspective not currently taken up in most of today’s accessible debates. As a result of their work with gender dysphoric therapy clients as well as their personal divergent experiences with gender, Stella and Sasha hold a refreshing and informed perspective.

Is gender identity a facilitation of development and expression of creativity, or can it be a defense against painful existential realities of living in a human body? What can we discover about masculinity, femininity, identity, gender performance, and sexuality when we peer beneath the surface and dive into a deeper psychological exploration? What is the relationship between body, mind, identity, culture, and psyche?

This podcast engages listeners in an intimate and fascinating behind-the-scenes inquiry about a topic as taboo as it is salient today.

* We are sponsored by ReIME and Genspect.
Rethink Identity Medicine Ethics (ReIME) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving long term care for gender variant individuals. To learn more, visit https://rethinkime.org/

Genspect is an international alliance of parent and professional groups whose aim is to advocate for parents of gender-questioning children and young people. Parents are concerned that their kids are not receiving appropriate treatment and support; many do not feel free to speak out about their concerns.
To learn more, visit https://genspect.org/
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About your hosts

Stella O'Malley

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Stella O’Malley is a psychotherapist and author who works in private practice in Ireland. Her work focuses on parenting, family dynamics and working with teenagers.

Much of Stella’s counselling and writing focuses on mental health and the importance of well-being and she is a regular contributor to the media. She is also the resident psychotherapist for the current TV series, Raised by the Village, a family programme that helps troubled teenagers reconnect with themselves and their families.

Stella's first book, Cotton Wool Kids, was released in 2015 while Bully-Proof Kids: Practical tools to help kids grow up confident, resilient and strong was released in 2017. Stella’s latest book Fragile, was released in 2019 and focuses on overcoming anxiety and stress.

Stella was the presenter of the documentary Trans - Kids: It’s Time To Talk broadcast on Channel 4 in November 2018 and she contributed a chapter to the 2019 book, Inventing Transgender Children and Young People.

The Jungian analyst, Lisa Marchiano, and Stella launched Secrets of the Motherworld in September 2019, offering thoughtful exploration of the most intimate aspects of motherhood in a bid to help mothers feel less alone.

Stella is a Clinical Advisor for the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners. She is also the lead facilitator for the Gender Dysphoria Support Network.

Stella holds a B.A. in Counselling and Psychotherapy and a M.A. in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Sasha Ayad

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Sasha Ayad is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works in private practice, and has treated adolescents for over 10 years. Her work focuses on teens and young adults struggling with issues of gender dysphoria and gender identity.

She became interested in the sharp rise in teenagers who declare a trans identity for the first time during adolescence. She discovered, through working with hundreds of families, that many teens were developing gender dysphoria only after adopting a transgender identity. She questions the practice of medical transition for children and teenagers, and her clinical work focuses on developmentally appropriate, least-invasive-first talk therapy.

Sasha is also a founding member and Clinical Advisor in the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine and a founding member of the International Association of Therapists for Desisters and Detransitioners.

Sasha’s previous work experience includes:
- School counselor for middle and high school students at a charter school for underserved communities

- Behavioral therapy with children on the autism spectrum

- Individual and group counseling for women and children impacted by domestic abuse and sexual violence

- Developed and ran the first counseling program at a large state supported living facility for adults with intellectual disability

Sasha holds a B.S. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Counseling Psychology.