Kenneth J. Zucker is an American-Canadian psychologist whose ideology has caused profound harm to sex and gender minorities over a long career. Zucker has created several disease models to describe these minorities and has promoted many more sex and gender “disorders” as editor of The Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Zucker developed a non-affirming model of care for gender diverse youth that has been described as “child abuse.” Zucker was fired by employer CAMH in 2015. Zucker’s clinic was shut down, and non-affirming models of care have been outlawed in many jurisdictions.
After I was defamed in Archives of Sexual Behavior in 2007, I personally began working in earnest to get Zucker fired. Below is the last major exposé I wrote prior to that firing:
Kenneth J. “Ken” Zucker was born on December 29, 1950 to Eugene M. Zucker (1922–1997) and Sara Miller Zucker (1924–2020). Zucker has one sibling, Barbara Ann Zucker-Romanoff aka Barbra Zucker (born 1957). The family lived in Skokie, Illinois. Zucker married Rochelle Fine, also from Niles Township. Their child Simone Zucker is a Toronto-based filmmaker and their child Josh aka “Concentration Camp” is guitarist in Toronto band Fucked Up.
Zucker attended Southern Illinois University during the Vietnam War and was one of the key campus leaders in the anti-war protest movement there, staging mock trials and declaring people war criminals in absentia (Lagow 1977). Zucker earned a bachelor’s degree there, then a master’s degree at Roosevelt University in 1975.
Zucker headed to Canada eventually just to be safe. Zucker’s frequent collaborator Richard Green had the same impulse for self-preservation: “I left Los Angeles in 1964 to avoid the Vietnam War by going to NIMH [National Institutes of Mental Health]” (Green 2004). Green handed over the editorial control of Archives of Sexual Behavior to Zucker, to continue pushing their ideology about sex and gender minorities. Zucker earned a doctorate from University of Toronto in 1982.
Physical attractiveness of children “research” (1993–1996)
Zucker was a psychologist at the Clarke Institute (aka “Jurassic Clarke”) in Toronto. Zucker is infamous for forcing gender-diverse children into reparative therapy to conform to his expectations for gendered behavior in children. Zucker considers a gender transition a “bad outcome.”
Zucker had access to hundreds of children through the Clarke and took photos of all children brought to the clinic. In one particularly troubling “study,” Zucker wanted to see how “physically attractive” these children’s faces and upper torsos were. Adults were shown images of children in Zucker’s care and asked to rate their attractiveness.
Zucker’s conclusion: “Boys with gender identity disorder were judged to be more attractive than were the clinical control boys.”
Zucker repeated the “research” with the remaining children a few years later, concluding the “Girls with gender identity disorder had significantly less attractive ratings than the normal control girls for the traits attractive, beautiful, and pretty.”
Both studies were published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, the journal Zucker now edits.
Other harmful views
Zucker is a darling of the ex-gay movement because of his work “curing” gender-diverse children. He was frequently cited by ex-gay groups like NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuals) and Leadership U.
As the rest of the world begins to understand and accept gender diversity as a difference and not a disease, Zucker has been increasingly cast as the old-school holdout in press coverage. As noted in the New York Times:
Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and head of the gender-identity service at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, disagrees with the “free to be” approach with young children and cross-dressing in public. Over the past 30 years, Dr. Zucker has treated about 500 preadolescent gender-variant children. In his studies, 80 percent grow out of the behavior, but 15 percent to 20 percent continue to be distressed about their gender and may ultimately change their sex.
Dr. Zucker tries to “help these kids be more content in their biological gender” until they are older and can determine their sexual identity — accomplished, he said, by encouraging same-sex friendships and activities like board games that move beyond strict gender roles.Brown (2006)
Zucker thinks that an important goal of treatment is to help the children accept their birth sex and to avoid becoming transsexual. His experience has convinced him that if a boy with GID becomes an adolescent with GID, the chances that he will become an adult with GID and seek a sex change are much higher. And he thinks that the kind of therapy he practices helps reduce this risk. Zucker emphasizes a three-pronged treatment approach for boys with GID. First, he thinks that family dynamics play a large role in childhood GID—not necessarily in the origins of cross-gendered behavior, but in their persistence. It is the disordered and chaotic family, according to Zucker, that can’t get its act together to present a consistent and sensible reaction to the child, which would be something like the following: “We love you, but you are a boy, not a girl. Wishing to be a girl will only make you unhappy in the long run, and pretending to be a girl will only make your life around others harder.” So the first prong of Zucker’s approach is family therapy. Whatever conflicts or issues that parents have that prevent them from uniting to help their child must be addressed.
The second prong is therapy for the boy, to help him adjust to the idea that he cannot become a girl, and to help teach him how to minimize social ostracism. Zucker does not teach boys how to walk in a manly fashion, but he does give them feedback about the likely consequences of taking a doll to school.
The third prong is key. Zucker says simply: “The Barbies have to go.” He has nothing against Barbie dolls, of course. He means something more general. Feminine toys and accoutrements—including Barbie dolls, girls’ shoes, dresses, purses, and princess gowns—are no longer to be tolerated at home, much less bought for the child. Zucker believes that toleration and encouragement of feminine play and dress prevents the child from accepting his maleness. Common sense says that a boy who wants to play with dolls so much that he is willing to risk his father’s wrath and his peers’ scorn is unlikely to change his behavior due to inconsistent feedback, sometimes forbidding, sometimes tolerating, and sometimes even encouraging it. Inconsistent parenting like this is ineffective in stamping out any kind of unwanted behavior.
Failure to intervene increases the chances of transsexualism in adulthood, which Zucker considers a bad outcome. … Why put boys at risk for this when they can become gay men happy to be men?Bailey (2003), pp. 31-32
Zucker considers gender transition a bad outcome for these children and blames poor family dynamics and maternal psychopathology for gender-nonconforming behavior. He claims this phenomenon is more likely in non-white children with lower IQs. As J. Michael Bailey noted:
Ken Zucker, whom we met in Chapter 2, has tried to predict which boys with gender identity disorder (GID) would still have the disorder when they become adolescents. Adolescents with GID are much rarer and presumably much closer to being transsexual. Zucker found several predictors of adolescent GID: lower IQ, lower social class, immigrant status, non-intact family, and childhood behavior problems unrelated to gender identity disorder.Bailey (2003) pp. 178-179.
Zucker’s alleged “desistance” rate hides the fact that many children brought to Zucker’s clinic are hardly success stories in terms of quality of life outcomes:
Yet Zucker’s approach has its own disturbing elements. It’s easy to imagine that his methods—steering parents toward removing pink crayons from the box, extolling a patriarchy no one believes in—could instill in some children a sense of shame and a double life. A 2008 study of 25 girls who had been seen in Zucker’s clinic showed positive results; 22 were no longer gender-dysphoric, meaning they were comfortable living as girls. But that doesn’t mean they were happy. I spoke to the mother of one Zucker patient in her late 20s, who said her daughter was repulsed by the thought of a sex change but was still suffering—she’d become an alcoholic, and was cutting herself. “I’d be surprised if she outlived me,” her mother said.Rosin (2008)
Lagow, Larry Dwane (1977). A history of the Center for Vietnamese Studies at Southern Illinois University. Ph.D. dissertation; typescript in Hoover Institution Archives.
Staff report (December 29, 1997). Obituary: Eugene Zucker. Chicago Tribune
Eugene Zucker. 75. beloved husband of Sara, nee Miller; loving father of Dr. Ken (Rochelle) Zucker and Barbra (Steven) Romanoff; devoted grandfather of Joshua and Simone Zucker and step-grandfather of Samantha Sprigel: fond brother of Howard (Shirley) Zucker; dearest uncle of Deborah, Adina, David, and Ellen. Mr. Zucker was a life-long intellectual.
Sandeen, Autumn (May 20, 2009). GID Reform Now Protest At Annual APA Meeting. Pam’s House Blend
Conway, Lynn (April 5, 2007). “Drop the Barbie”: Ken Zucker’s reparatist treatment of gender-variant children.
Conway, Lynn (April 30, 2009). “The War Within: CAMH scathing internal report Zucker’s and Blanchard’s gender clinics
Conway, Lynn (February 18, 2009). Kenneth Zucker’s legal threats: Part of a pattern of silencing transgender critics.
Grant, Japhy (February 6, 2009). Dr. Kenneth Zucker’s War on Transgenders. Queerty https://www.queerty.com/dr-kenneth-zuckers-war-on-transgenders-20090206
Gender Madness in American Psychiatry: Essays from the Struggle for Dignity
Staff report (July 1997). Childhood Gender-Identity Disorder Diagnosis
Under Attack. http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/narth/childhood.html [archive]
Brown, Patricia Leigh (December 2, 2006). Supporting Boys or Girls When the Line Isn’t Clear. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/02/us/supporting-boys-or-girls-when-the-line-isnt-clear.html
Rosin, Hannah (November 2008). A Boy’s Life. The Atlantic https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/11/a-boys-life/307059/
Kenneth J. Zucker (kenzuckerphd.com)