Canadian broadcaster pulls controversial BBC transgender ‘cure’ documentary

Nick Duffy December 14, 2017
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Canada’s state broadcaster has pulled a planned airing of a controversial BBC documentary that features a doctor who allegedly attempted to ‘cure’ children of being transgender.

Contentious documentary ‘Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?’ first aired on BBC Two in the UK in January, claiming to “present different views from experts and parents on gender dysphoria in children”.

The programme uncritically featured disgraced doctor Kenneth Zucker, who was sacked from a gender identity clinic following a damning review of his treatment of transgender children.

The controversial doctor had focused treatment on convincing transgender youth to “feel more secure about his or her actual gender” while encouraging parents to “set limits on things like cross-dressing” and stop them playing with “girlish” toys.

In the documentary, the doctor claims that autism might cause children to believe they are transgender.

Canadian broadcaster pulls controversial BBC transgender ‘cure’ documentary

The documentary led to a string of complaints from activists who alleged that it left viewers with a false impression that children could be ‘cured’ of being transgender.

Some of the families who took part in the documentary also completely disavowed it, branding it inaccurate and misleading.

And leading medical experts in the UK – including NHS England, the UK Council for Psychotherapy, the Royal College of GPs, the British Psychoanalytic Council and British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy – later signed a Memorandum of Understanding disvowing all attempts to ‘cure’ transgender people.

The documentary was set to be shown this week in Canada, as part of a deal with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

However, the network pulled the documentary just hours before it was meant to go to air.

A spokesperson for CBC said: “In light of our own further review of the doc, coupled with the audience reaction we’re seeing today, we have decided not to air Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best.

“We think that there are other docs that better offer insight into the realities of the transgender community and we look forward to airing those in the future.”

The decision led to a furious response from Sam Bagnall, the documentary’s executive producer.

Mr Bagnall, a senior BBC TV exec, took to Twitter to lambast the decision to pull the doc.Canadian broadcaster pulls controversial BBC transgender ‘cure’ documentary

He said: “Shame on @cbcdocs for censoring a film airing parents’ and clinicians’ concerns about the treatment of kids with gender dysphoria. You have been captured by a single issue pressure group.

“The more you read this the more disturbing it actually is. Incredible that they responded to ‘audience reaction’ before the film was aired. Feels like political interference in @cbcdocs editorial integrity or else why schedule the film in the first place?”

The documentary maker appears to have strong personal views about transgender people. He has recently posted a number of tweets sharing trans-critical articles about the “transgender trend” and a “possible social contagion among ‘transgender’ teenage girls”.

Canadian broadcaster pulls controversial BBC transgender ‘cure’ documentary Canadian broadcaster pulls controversial BBC transgender ‘cure’ documentary

He also shared a profile of about Alex Bertie, a male transgender YouTuber – with a tweet referring to “teenage girls”.

The film has also previously been pulled from airing in Australia, after the broadcaster was made aware of the objections from participants and medical personnel.

Dr Zucker served as the head of the Gender Identity Service at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) but was dismissed from his position following a review of his practices.

After the doctor’s dismissal CAMH disavowed his work and issued an apology to every patient who had ever been treated by him, explaining: “At CAMH, excellence is our starting point – we expect CAMH’s services to reflect the latest and best practices in the field.

“We want to apologize for the fact that not all of the practices in our childhood gender identity clinic are in step with the latest thinking.

“CAMH agrees with the reviewers that this is an opportune and somewhat natural time for re-visioning of our child and youth gender identity services. There is a tremendous need for services such as this, clinically and academically.”

His work has long been contentious.

In 2003 Dr Zucker, who was then editor of Archives of Sexual Behavior, published a controversial study from a researcher arguing for reparative therapy to “cure” homosexuality, though Dr Zucker strongly denies personally advocating reparative therapy for gay people. The study’s author later recanted the study’s conclusions.


The filmmakers said previously: “With a rise in the number of children being referred to gender clinics, this programme sensitively presents different views from experts and parents on gender dysphoria in children.

“For more than 30 years Dr Kenneth Zucker ran Canada’s biggest child gender clinic and was considered a recognised authority on childhood gender dysphoria until he lost his job. He believes he was fired for challenging the gender affirmative approach.

“This documentary examines Zucker’s methods, but it also includes significant contributions from his critics and supporters of gender affirmation, including transgender activists in Canada and leading medical experts as well as parents with differing experiences of gender dysphoria and gender reassignment.”

More: Americas, BBC, Canada, Doc, documentary, LGBT, Television, Trans, Transgender

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