Erica E. Anderson is a conservative American psychologist who believes people under age 26 should not get trans healthcare under an informed consent model. She believes trans and gender diverse youth should endure a year or more psychological gatekeeping from her before getting access to healthcare in “straightforward” cases. Anderson calls her style of gatekeeping “gender exploratory therapy.” The American Academy of Pediatrics calls it “delayed transition” and advises against it.
Anderson also claims that some young people are transitioning because it’s “trendy” or because of peer influence and social contagion. This disease model of gender diversity has been criticized by many of her peers, and she resigned from WPATH and USPATH in 2021 in protest.
Anderson is transgender herself and is licensed in California, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania. She currently practices conservative gatekeeping in the San Francisco Bay area in California.
Erica Elizabeth Anderson was born on January 24, 1951 in Minneapolis, Minnesota and has two sisters. Her father was an advertising executive and her mother was a schoolteacher before becoming a homemaker. An avid Boy Scout and church youth leader, Anderson graduated from public high school in Minneapolis as class president and earned a summa cum laude bachelors degree from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She then earned a masters degree in theology and a doctorate in clinical psychology in 1978 from the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.
From 1979 to 1984, she had a private therapy practice in Minneapolis/St. Paul. During that time, she also served as Assistant Professor & Coordinator of Training in Aging at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
She worked at Kiel Clinics/Professional Services Inc., served as Vice President, Manager Health Care at Columbia General Life Insurance Company, and served as Senior Vice President of LifeLink/Treatment Centers of America. From 1986 to 1991 she served as as Chief Operating Officer of LifeLink division of Pacific Care Health Systems (now part of UnitedHealth). From 1991 to 1994 she served as Senior Vice President at College Health Enterprises. From 1994 to 1996, she served as Senior Vice President of Medco Behavioral Care & Continuum at Merck-Medco (now part of Magellan Behavioral Health) as well as Executive Vice President & General Manager of American Biodyne. She served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Integra from 1997 until abruptly resigning for personal reasons in June 2001.
She has also worked at The Psychological Center in Pasadena, Minneapolis Children’s Health Center (now Chidren’s Minnesota), the Veterans Administration Hospital in Long Beach, Los Angeles County USC Medical Center, and University of Minnesota Health Sciences Center.
Anderson was married for 30 years before divorcing and has two adult children. She made a gender transition in her 50s in 2011. She served as Professor in Graduate Psychology at John F. Kennedy University from 2012 until its 2021 closure.
In 2015 she established her private practice as Anderson Health Strategies, LLC. She moderates groups for trans women, their partners, and Trans female: Permission to be yourself. In 2016, she appeared in season 6 of Allt för Sverige, a reality show about Swedish Americans who return to their Swedish roots. She has been a member of the American Psychological Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. She has served as President of USPATH, and in that capacity was a signatory of a 2020 statement critical of proposed legislation to ban trans healthcare for minors.
She holds California license PSY28349 and Minnesota license LP1719. She is working on a memoir and a book on transgender sexuality.
2018 Atlantic article
As Singal scoured the country and the internet for material that fit his narrative, he came across a mention of Anderson in the Washington Post:
The controversy — whether gender dysphoria is permanent or ephemeral — has occasionally made its way into the UCSF clinic, with clinical psychologist Erica Anderson — herself a transgender woman — sometimes playing devil’s advocate.
“I think a fair number of kids are getting into it because it’s trendy,” said Anderson, who was married for 30 years and fathered two children before transitioning seven years ago.
“I’m often the naysayer at our meetings. I’m not sure it’s always really trans. I think in our haste to be supportive, we’re missing that element. Kids are all about being accepted by their peers. It’s trendy for professionals, too.”Solovich (2018)
Anderson appears twice in Singal’s Atlantic piece, first describing her personal experiences with gatekeeping of trans health services:
Erica Anderson, a trans woman and clinical psychologist who works at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center, at UC San Francisco’s Benioff Children’s Hospital, had no luck when she tried to get hormones from an endocrinologist in Philadelphia just a decade ago. “Even I, with my education and resources, was denied care and access,” she told me. “The endocrinologist simply said, ‘I don’t do that.’ I offered to provide her the guidelines from her own Endocrine Society,” Anderson said. “She refused and wouldn’t even look me in the eye. No referral or offer to help. She sent me away with nothing, feeling like I was an undesirable.”
Many trans people have stories like Anderson’s. For this reason, among others, trans communities can be skeptical of those who focus on negative transition outcomes.Singal (2018)
Singal later presents Anderson and fellow clinicians Laura Edwards-Leeper and Dianne Berg as gatekeeping therapists who have “concerns” that more affirming care for minors may lead to negative transition outcomes. Edwards-Leeper said that her gatekeeping and assessment methods had given her a reputation, and critics nearly threw things at her at conferences:
Those conference troubles signaled to Edwards-Leeper that her field had shifted in ways she found discomfiting. At one conference a few years ago, she recalled, a co-panelist who was a well-respected clinician in her field said that Edwards-Leeper’s comprehensive assessments required kids to “jump through more fiery hoops” and were “retraumatizing.” This prompted a standing ovation from the audience, mostly families of TGNC young people. During another panel discussion, at the same conference with the same clinician, but this time geared toward fellow clinicians, the same thing happened: more claims that assessments were traumatizing, more raucous applause.
Edwards-Leeper isn’t alone in worrying that the field is straying from its own established best practices. “Under the motivation to be supportive and to be affirming and to be nonstigmatizing, I think the pendulum has swung so far that now we’re maybe not looking as critically at the issues as we should be,” the National Center for Gender Spectrum Health’s Dianne Berg told me. Erica Anderson, the UCSF clinician, expressed similar concerns: “Some of the stories we’ve heard about detransitioning, I fear, are related to people who hastily embarked on medical interventions and decided that they weren’t for them, and didn’t thoroughly vet their decision either by themselves or with professional people who could help them.”Singal (2018)
Singal has continued to cite Anderson as “one of my favorite” youth gender clinicians, bringing her on his podcast in 2021 and referring her to fellow Substack contrarian Matt Taibbi for an interview. Dan Savage from The Stranger has cited this interview as evidence of Singal’s supportive views of trans people.
2018 “ROGD” criticism
Anderson was a signatory on a statement critical of “rapid onset gender dysphoria,” a disease model of gender diverse youth proposed by Lisa Littman. The letter was prompted by a Psychology Today article “Why Is Transgender Identity on the Rise Among Teens?”
2021 60 Minutes interview
Anderson was a source for a 60 Minutes piece on “detransition” by Lesley Stahl, Alexandra Poolos, and Collette Richards titled “Transgender Healthcare” on May 23, 2021. That report was described by GLAAD thus:
Tonight 60 Minutes / Lesley Stahl aired a shameful segment fearmongering about trans youth. Parents of trans youth could walk away with the false belief that young people are being rushed into medical transition. That is simply untrue. As the piece noted, every major medical association supports affirming, age-appropriate care for trans youth and the guidelines for that care are safe and well-established. And yet, the majority of the story was devoted to ‘raising concerns’ about youth accessing that care. [60 Minutes] heard concerns from several trans leaders and, after spending months on the segment, they delivered a piece which still promulgates the same anti-trans dog whistles that we hear from anti-LGBTQ activists and in state legislatures like Arkansas.
2021 Abigail Shrier interview
In October 2021, Anderson and WPATH President-Elect Marci Bowers chose to express their concerns about healthcare for gender diverse minors to Abigail Shrier, one of the most prominent figures in the conservative gender critical movement. In a Substack newsletter published by Bari Weiss, Shrier called the article “probably the most important piece of my career thus far.” Anderson’s views were once again widely reported in the conservative press, including the Daily Mail, the Christian Post, The Federalist, and the Patriot Post.
In response to Anderson’s ill-informed decision, USPATH and WPATH released a joint statement:
The United States Professional Association for Transgender Health (USPATH) and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) stand behind the appropriate care of transgender and gender diverse youth, which includes, when indicated, the use of “puberty blockers” such as gonadotropin releasing hormone analogs and other medications to delay puberty, and, when indicated, the use of gender-affirming hormones such as estrogen or testosterone. Guidelines for the assessment of transgender and gender diverse youth, as well as for the use of pubertal delay and gender affirming hormone medications have been published by reputable professional bodies, including the Endocrine Society, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, and the American Psychiatric Association.
USPATH and WPATH support scientific discussions on the use of pubertal delay and hormone therapy for transgender and gender diverse youth. We believe that such discussions should occur among experts and stakeholders in this area, based on scientific evidence, and in fora such as peer-reviewed journals or scientific conferences, and among colleagues and experts in the assessment and care of transgender and gender diverse youth. USPATH and WPATH oppose the use of the lay press, either impartial or of any political slant or viewpoint, as a forum for the scientific debate of these issues, or the politicization of these issues in any way. Furthermore, individual decisions about gender affirming interventions and treatments for transgender and gender diverse youth should be made only among the patient, their parent(s) or guardian(s), their medical and mental health provider(s), and any other identified stakeholders on a case-by-case basis, and opposes any attempts to dictate or restrict, by statute, judiciary, or otherwise, access to such treatment when recommended according to accepted standards and guidelines.Joint Letter from USPATH and WPATH
Rather than collaborate with colleagues on best practices, Anderson resigned from both organizations in order to continue litigating her views in the lay press.
2021 Washington Post op-ed
Anderson again joined fellow conservative clinician Laura Edwards-Leeper to denounce what they consider insufficient gatekeeping in healthcare for trans and gender diverse youth.
In response, DC-area parents Rachel Cornwell and Liz Matthews wrote:
As parents of transgender youths, we are deeply concerned by Laura Edwards-Leeper and Erica Anderson’s Nov. 28 Outlook essay, “The mental health establishment is failing trans kids.” Though we agree with their conclusion that improvements in care for gender-diverse youths are needed, their alarmist concerns about insufficient psychological evaluations for gender-affirming care are unfounded and sensationalized.
The writers based their opinion on anecdotal experiences and even admitted that “providers and their behavior haven’t been closely studied.” They pointed to a single study of an extremely small number of people who have detransitioned to support their argument in favor of delaying or even denying gender-affirming medical care to gender-diverse youths. They recklessly conflate safe, reversible medical interventions such as hormone blockers with more permanent gender-confirmation treatments such as surgeries, which are typically not performed on minors in the United States. And they dangerously play down the risk of suicide that can result from denying gender-affirming care.
Thousands of trans youths are now thriving because of gender-affirming care. Thankfully, our children are among that number because of the intervention of mental health providers and physicians, as well as the support of our communities. Trans kids need all the support they can get because they live in a world that too often denies and degrades them. That is why it’s such a shame that the authors would increase barriers to accessing gender-affirming care, rather than expand access for all who need it.
Clinician AJ Eckert, who was identified in the piece, wrote:
The essay misrepresented gender-affirming care, which is nuanced, complex and comprehensive. The writers mischaracterized transgender youths and pushed a damaging pseudoscientific narrative that serves to further limit health care for an already underserved, marginalized and vulnerable population. The writers leaned on the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards of care but failed to note that the standards acknowledge the damaging and irreversible consequences of an incongruent puberty, reject the stereotype of trans psychopathology and include harm-reduction strategies.
Contrary to the anti-trans arguments spread throughout mass media and repeated by the writers, research shows that detransition and regret are rare, trans youth suicide rates are alarmingly high, and trans children supported in their identities have better mental health outcomes. One of their most egregious lies was that those opposed to gender-affirming care are being silenced. This article was proof that isn’t true.
Trans children deserve love, support and thoughtful medical care as much as cisgender children do. Pieces such as this are responsible for the closure of gender clinics, anti-trans sentiment and the spate of laws and regulations targeting trans youths.
2022 San Francisco Examiner op-ed
Anderson revealed in 2022 that she does not believe trans healthcare should be offered under an informed consent model if people are under age 26.
Turning 18 does not mean one attains adult competency — particularly for life-altering medical decisions like gender transition.
Yet across hundreds of college campuses and Planned Parenthood clinics, an 18 year old can present for hormones and, at the first visit, obtain a prescription and begin a full medical gender transition. Sometimes this happens with no mental health screening or evaluation beyond the opinion that they are competent to consent by a medical provider.
It is widely known that the executive function of the brain — specifically in terms of planning and anticipation of consequences — is not fully mature until approximately age 25. That is why so many parents, and often progressive parents who strongly support LGBTQIA+ rights, express concern when their child announces they are trans and have started hormones without undergoing gender exploratory psychotherapy.
Anderson’s opinion was widely criticized by the trans community.
2022 Los Angeles Times profile
Mainstream media once again uplifted and rewarded Anderson for sharing their retrograde views on trans healthcare. Her profile in the Los Angeles Times by Jenny Jarvie has Anderson looking at herself in a mirror backstage at a studio, an apt distillation of her motivation.
The piece describes what young people brought to Anderson must endure:
Some cases, she says, are relatively straightforward. After a year of weekly conversations with Liz, a 15-year-old who had no mental health issues and had long questioned her gender before she came out as a girl, Anderson wrote a letter of support this year for a puberty blocker implant and estrogen patches.
Many cases are more complicated. Take Cody, a 16-year-old with tousled pink hair and a high, lilting voice, who identifies as trans male.
After asking Cody more about his history of gender distress, his chats with his parents and what might ease his discomfort, she arranged to meet him the following week.
It would likely take months of exploration or longer to decide whether Cody was ready for hormone therapy.
After his first session with Anderson, he complained to his mom that he felt interrogated.
But Anderson starts from the premise that questions are the key to understanding.
In her view, gender-affirming care is not accepting everything a teen says at face value, but engaging with the patient in an empathetic, open-minded way. She thinks of it as something of a detective game — listening to the kids and parents and piecing together the history.
After asking Cody more about his history of gender distress, his chats with his parents and what might ease his discomfort, she arranged to meet him the following week.
It would likely take months of exploration or longer to decide whether Cody was ready for hormone therapy.Jarvie (2022)
Clinician AJ Eckert, who was quoted in the piece, replied
Therapy is often a crucial part of the gender-affirming approach, helping families accept and nurture their trans child and helping the child develop coping skills and deal with dysphoria-related distress. In the gender-affirming framework, being trans is not considered a disorder that needs to be reversed.
Gender-affirming care is multilayered and looks different for everyone, depending on age, the timing of puberty and family attitudes.
Extensive therapy is not supported by evidence and often delays lifesaving interventions. Gender exploration is essential for all youth and should be encouraged when desired and led by youth. Coercing trans youth into it rides the fine line of conversion therapy.Eckert (2022)
Following the profile, longtime activist Robert Lansing opined in the Los Angeles Blade: “Dr. Erica Anderson is a deeply damaged person bent on inflicting the same cruelties on the next generation of trans people as a warped right of passage.”
2022 New York Post profile
The New York Post ran a top trending story on April 15 showcasing Anderson’s conservative views, garnering over 100,000 views in the first 24 hours and being widely featured throughout the conservative media landscape.
Anderson was quoted in conservative outlet Breitbart saying that educators should be obligated to out their children to parents, even if the child is concerned about backlash like being kicked out of the house.
I’ve been very vocal about this for some time — the concern that professionals are too quick to facilitate transitions and even medicalization. I think we have to distinguish between the ordinary exploration of identity that kids go through especially adolescence and gender questioning, and distinguish that from transgender identity or a need to transition. But I don’t think that differentiation is happening routinely yet.Starr (2022)
Anderson reiterated that she believes adults should not be allowed to make informed consent choices about their own bodies.
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Brown, Lee (April 15, 2022). Trans doctor who helps teens transition says it’s now ‘gone too far.’ New York Post https://nypost.com/2022/04/15/transitions-have-gone-too-far-trans-psychologist/
Starr, Penny (July 27, 2022). Transgender Psychologist: Parents Should Be Informed About Child’s ‘Transitioning’. Breitbart https://www.breitbart.com/politics/2022/07/27/transgender-psychologist-parents-informed-childs-transitioning/
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Anderson, Erica (March 21, 2022). Opinion: The health establishment is failing young adults who question their gender. San Francisco Examiner https://www.sfexaminer.com/opinion/opinion-the-health-establishment-is-failing-young-adults-who-question-their-gender/
Edwards-Leeper, Laura; Anderson, Erica (November 24, 2021). The mental health establishment is failing trans kids. Gender-exploratory therapy is a key step. Why aren’t therapists providing it? Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2021/11/24/trans-kids-therapy-psychologist/
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Smith, Jennifer (May 26, 2021). Lesley Stahl defends CBS 60 Minutes episode about transgender people rushing into treatment then regretting it: Young man was castrated after taking female hormones for just THREE MONTHS. Daily Mail https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9621959/Lesley-Stahl-defends-CBS-60-Minutes-episode-transgender-teens-rushed-it.html
Solovich S (January 21, 2018). When kids come in saying they are transgender (or no gender), these doctors try to help. Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/when-kids-come-in-saying-they-are-transgender-or-no-gender-these-doctors-try-to-help/2018/01/19/f635e5fa-dac0-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html
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Dr. Erica Anderson (drericaanderson.net)
UCSF Benioff Childrens Hospital (ucsfbenioffchildrens.org)
University of Minnesota Libraries Tretter Collection (lib.umn.edu/tretter)