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Toronto’s Clarke Institute (now CAMH) and eugenics

Below is archived information about The Clarke Institute’s Gender Identity Clinic, first drafted in the 1990s. In order to distance themselves from their checkered past and first-hand reports, in 1998 they renamed themselves the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

The Clarke Institute is a Toronto mental institution charged with serving gender-variant clients in the area. Under the direction of Ray Blanchard, it has become widely known as one of the most notorious facilities in the world in terms of controlling access to medical services.

According to their website they offer services, including for “those who wish to manage their cross-gender feelings and the expression of those feelings while remaining in their original gender role.” This is another way to describe reparative therapy similar to groups who claim to “cure” gays and lesbians.

Much of the anti-trans thinking in the world today emanates from The Clarke, long nicknamed “Jurassic Clarke” in the trans community for its regressive policies.

The Clarke Institute is named after Charles Kirk Clarke (1857-1924). Clarke oversaw the two largest Canadian mental hospitals before accepting a government mental-health post. In addition to his desire “to keep this young country sane,” he sought to advance the psychiatric profession’s influence in making medical and political decisions.

Typical of “professionals” who are unable to see (or worse) unconcerned about larger systems which influence their realm of expertise or narrow interests, Clarke was an early proponent of eugenics, emphasizing the importance of restrictive laws that would limit the immigration and marriage of the “defective.” [2] During his tenure, foreign-born patients made up more than 50 percent of the institutionalized population in Canada. [3]

As Katherine Wilson notes:

Psychiatric diagnosis on the basis of social, cultural or political affiliation evokes the darkest memories of medical abuse in American history. For example, women suffragettes who demanded the right to vote in the early 1900s were diagnosed and institutionalized with a label of “hysteria” (Mayor, 1974). Immigrants, Bolsheviks and labor organizers of the same era were labeled as socially deviant and mentally defective by prominent psychiatric eugenicists, such as Dr. Charles Kirk Clarke. [4]

Christened with his name, the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry opened for business in 1966. A young staff member recalls those early days:

My first impression of psychiatry in Toronto was that it was rather parochial in outlook and had a distinct British socio-biological emphasis and little interest and much scepticism about psychoanalysis. […] The Clarke, instead of being an ivory tower, seemed more like a cold cement fortress. [5]

Some of the key players involved with the Clarke Institute are:

Commentaries on Blanchard

 (05-04-2003) “Male gender dysphorics, paedophiles, and fetishists”: How Ray Blanchard sees us

 (01-19-2002) LINK: Autogynephilia: New Medical Thinking or Old Stereotype? (by Katherine Wilson, Ph.D.)

 (05-06-2003) Ray Blanchard and the Clarke Institute: patient experiences

 (07-01-1995) LINK: Access denied: TG healthcare in Ontario (by Ki Namaste, Ph.D.)

 (07-01-2003) LINK: Clinician, Heal Thyself (report on James Cantor lecture) (via

 (07-01-2003) LINK: Much ado about Bailey (via

 (05-20-2003) My Experiences at the Clarke Institute (by Lesley Carter)

 (05-18-2003) Lack of medical data in prestigious journals means sloppy work like Blanchard’s goes unchallenged (By KS)

 (04-23-2003) The Bailey Flap (by Ruth)

 (10-03-2003) International Academy of Sex Research

Toronto Star, Tuesday, November 27, 1984
Trans-sexuals happier after operation, MD says
By Lillian Newbery
Toronto Star
Page H2

The vast majority of men and women who had surgical sex changes in Toronto say they prefer their new gender.
Most support themselves in society without welfare or unemployment insurance.

Dr. Mary Steiner, head of the Gender Disorder Clinic and the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, said recently the favorable results probably reflect the strict evaluation given those who seek such surgery. Only 1 in 10 men who request it are approved.

The Gender Identity Clinic assesses individuals who dress as the opposite sex, long to be the opposite sex or believe that inside they really are the opposite sex, research co-ordinator Leonard Clemmensen said during a recent research open house at the institute on College St.

In the most extreme cases, called trans-sexuals, the sense of belonging to the opposite sex is “longstanding and unalterable” and leaves them feeling constantly unhappy.

“If the patient has been definitely diagnosed as trans-sexual, has no other major psychiatric disorder and has proven ability to function in society as a member of the opposite sex, then the clinic may recommend sex reassignment.”

The Gender Identity Clinic contacted 38 women who became men and 41 men who became women, representing 77.5 per cent of all sex reassignments coordinated through the provincial institute in the past 15 years.

The study included only people who had the surgery a year or more before and the average time between the date of surgery and follow-up was 47.4 months.

Only one of the group said she was “unsure” if she still wanted to live as a female and none said they wish they hadn’t had the sex change. All but five said they prefer their current gender and would undergo such surgery again. One homosexual male changed to a female, three heterosexual males changed to females and one female changed to a man said they would “probably” choose the change if they had the decision to make over again.

One of the aims of the program has always been to end up with people who are self-supporting in society, Steiner said. Usually they hold jobs on a lower level than before the sex change, although some have returned to their old jobs.

Of 79 studied, 69 sustain themselves in society without welfare or unemployment insurance benefits.

All the 38 women who underwent the sex change had been attracted to females before the surgery. Of the 41 men: 32 known as homosexual trans-sexuals had been attracted to other males before surgery; nine known as heterosexual trans-sexuals has been attracted to females. 
Thirty-nine of the 79 live with a member of their own biological sex in a stable relationship.

If you had dealings with the Clarke Institute and the Gender Identity Program, particularly with Ray Blanchard, we hope you’ll contact me to share your story.


2. Keeping America Sane: Psychiatry and Eugenics in the United States and Canada, 1880-1940. Ian Robert Dowbiggin. Cornell University Press, 1997.


4. (citing Dowbiggin, 1997, pp. 133-177).


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