Kenneth Zucker's legal threats:

Part of a pattern of silencing transgender critics
 

Investigative Report by Lynn Conway

Copyright © Lynn Conway 2009. All rights reserved

Posted 2-18-09 [V 2-18-09] 

 

Contents:

The Conway Letter

The Worley Letter

The Forrester Letter

An appeal to others who’ve received similar threats

The wider pattern of lawsuit threats against transgender critics

Some final thoughts

References

 

 

The Conway Letter:

 

On January 30, 2009 Lynn Conway received an e-letter from Peter M. Jacobsen, an attorney representing Ken Zucker of the “Centre for Addiction and Mental Health” (CAMH) [1]:

 

http://www.joellerubyryan.com/db1/00058/joellerubyryan.com/_download/LetterToLynnConway.pdf

 

The letter from Jacobsen threatened Lynn with a lawsuit for libel, claiming that “Your website contains very serious false and defamatory allegations of criminal conduct and sexual abuse by Dr. Zucker.” The letter was also sent to the University of Michigan's Information Technology User Advocate, in an attempt to disrupt Lynn's postings on the internet.

 

Upon direct examination of Lynn’s website, it became obvious that Zucker’s accusation was a falsehood. Lynn called Zucker’s bluff by posting a webpage exposing the letter, entitled “Lynn Conway's Trans News Updates: The webpage Zucker attempted to suppress” [2].

 

Subsequent LGBT news coverage exposed Zucker’s attack in reports such as a Queerty article entitled “Dr. Kenneth Zucker’s War on Transgenders.” [3]

 

And something else has begun to happen:

 

Other transwomen have begun coming forward, revealing that they too had received similar threats from Zucker’s attorney. Two women have already agreed to allow their letters to be posted on the internet and under their real names.

 

It seems that Lynn wasn't singled out to receive such a letter after all. Her letter was instead part of a pattern of threats and intimidation that CAMH has been using to silence critics of Zucker’s reparatist therapy.

 

 

The Worley Letter:

 

Kristen Worley is a former client of CAMH who reports that she broke-off contact there out of great concern for the way she was being treated. She went on to complete a successful transition with the help of private caregivers. As a result of her experiences at CAMH, Kristen became outspoken about the poor treatment she’d received there, and expressed her criticisms in e-mails sent to friends and colleagues.

 

CAMH became aware of Kristen’s criticisms, and on July 14, 2005 sent her a letter threatening her with legal action. The threatening letter quoted a few phrases from her e-mails out of context, without forwarding the e-mails themselves or even indicating who the e-mails had been sent to. While the phrases contained strong rhetoric, they were not libelous.

 

We have posted the Worley Letter at the following link. You can confirm for yourselves the nature of the threat against Kristen and the ‘evidence’ upon which CAMH based the threat [4]:

 

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/Zucker/Letters_to_others/Kristen/Kristen_Worley_7-14-05.pdf

 

Although greatly concerned about the possibility of legal action, Kristen ignored the threat and continued her criticism of CAMH. No legal action was ever taken against her.

 

 

The Forrester Letter:

 

Roslyn Forrester reports that she was a participant in the launching of a petition in Ontario in protest of CAMH’s treatment of apparently gender variant children and adults. PetitionOnline.com announced the petition on May 24, 2008 as follows [5]:

 

“The Against human rights violations of apparently gender variant children and adults Petition to To the Honourable George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for Ontario was created by Organisation Intersex International /www.intersexualite.org/ Canadian Transexuals Fight For Rights http://www.ctffr.com/ and Friends and written by Rosalyn Forrester . . .  This petition was hosted at www.PetitionOnline.com as a public service.”

 

http://www.petitiononline.com/hrights/petition.html

 

 

On September 19, 2008, Peter M. Jacobsen wrote an e-letter to Ms. Forrester threatening her with legal action for writing that petition. The e-letter failed to reach Ms. Forrester, and Jacobsen followed up with another e-letter on Nov. 24, 2008 – reiterating his threat of legal action on behalf of Ken Zucker and Ray Blanchard of CAMH. A copy of Jacobsen’s letter to Ms. Forrester is posted at this link [6]:

 

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/Zucker/Letters_to_others/Rosalyn/Rosalyn_Forrester_11-24-08.pdf

 

Jacobsen attached the Petition to the Forrester letter, underlining several statements in the Petition and claiming that those lines were causing irreparable damage to CAMH’s reputation (misquoting the Petition in the process). However, readers will find those statements to be matters of opinion as part of a free and open debate in a public forum.

 

Jacobsen demanded that the petition be taken down and threatened Ms. Forrester with a lawsuit if she did not do so, in a clear attempt at intimidation and suppression of her right of free speech.

 

If transgender and intersex people cannot even use online petitions to make their opinions and grievances known, what else are they ‘not to do’? Are there any limits to the forms of criticism CAMH might try to suppress?

 

 

An appeal to others who’ve received similar threats:

 

We believe that many other people have received similar threats of lawsuits from Jacobsen at CAMH.  We appeal to those people to come forward and contact us, and work with us to further expose what has been going on.

 

We realize how frightening it can be to receive such a threat, especially if you are in stealth or woodworked. In such cases, we will work with you to find ways to reveal your letter without publicly revealing your name.

 

The best way to stop this evil practice is to expose it at every turn. If you have received such a letter, please contact Lynn by e-mail.

 

 

The wider pattern of lawsuit threats against transgender critics:

 

The deployment of formal letters threatening lawsuits by CAMH’s attorney is part of a larger pattern of threats of lawsuits against transgender critics by CAMH/Northwestern employees. We will be exposing more of these threats as time goes by. For now, see the following examples:

 

In 2007, J. Michael Bailey threatened a lawsuit against a transgender critic on SEXNET, the sexology community’s list-serve – as documented by Charles Moser, Ph.D., in the ASB [7]:

 

“As I am writing this commentary, Bailey is taking part in radio interviews (August 22, 2007; http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R708221000) , giving interviews to the press (New York Times, August 21, 2007), and calling one critic ‘‘...a big fat ugly liar, and I am thinking of suing her’’ (Bailey to Sexnet, p.e.c., August 22, 2007). This only reinvigorates the opposition. In my opinion, Bailey is not clearing his name, but fomenting further controversy. . .”

 

– Charles Moser, Ph.D

 

 

Bailey and his Northwestern colleague and close confidant Alice Dreger went a step further in October 2007, by making a series of rash lawsuit threats on-the-record in an interview in the Bay Area Reporter [8]. Here is some of what they said:

 

“"I think that Deirdre McCloskey is Joe McCarthy trapped in a female body," said Bailey about one of the transgender women who allegedly led the vicious Internet campaign against Bailey.

 

Dreger told the B.A.R. that Conway and McCloskey are waging a similar attack against her due to her article as well as blogs she's posted on her Web site. She plans to fight back legally if necessary.

 

"I'm not going to put up with them doing this to me," said Dreger. "I'm sending [Conway] a legal letter notifying her otherwise that if she keeps it up she's going to get sued by me. She's completely ridiculous. She just makes this stuff up."

 

Bailey told the B.A.R. that he is considering filing a lawsuit against Conway, James, and McCloskey.”

 

Bay Area Reporter, Oct. 4, 2007.

 

 

Notice how Bailey and Dreger engage in outrageously defamatory statements about McCloskey, James and Conway – while threatening to sue us for simply reporting on their actions against us. And what exactly could Dreger have possibly meant by “if she keeps it up”? Keeps what up? Exercising her freedom of speech as she's doing in this investigative report?

 

Just as in Zucker’s attacks, these were empty threats aimed at intimidating transgender critics. No ‘legal letters’ were sent. No lawsuits were filed.

 

 

Some final thoughts:

 

When reflecting on CAMH’s use of intimidation tactics to silence their transgender critics, it’s important to visualize the great asymmetry in power involved. Kelley Winters provides some perspective on that asymmetry as follows [9]:

 

“We trans people who transition to affirmed roles, who do not acquiesce to the bonds of our assigned birth-roles-- we lose our jobs, our homes, our children, our health care and our civil justice to defamatory stereotypes of mental disorder and sexual deviance promoted by the CAMH. Now, those of us who do not acquiesce to these maligning stereotypes, who dare to speak out against our own oppression, are threatened by the same CAMH with the loss of our life savings, our homes and our possessions by punitive litigation.

 

For those of us who grew up beneath the fists of schoolyard bullies, the message is clear: whenever we are not sufficiently impoverished, marginalized, pathologized, and sexualized into submissiveness toward our psychiatric policy masters, we will be impoverished by aggression through the courts.”  

 

– Kelley Winters, Ph.D.

 

 

Also consider the serious conflict of interest involved when Zucker threatens his transgender critics in this way – given that the American Psychiatric Association has appointed him to a position of authoritarian control over our lives and identities [9]:

 

Dr. Zucker's reputation might be better served if he and CAMH reconsidered the extreme conflict of interest that would ensue if a DSM-V Work Group chairman were in the business of litigation for monetary judgment against the very people whose lives and civil liberties were impacted by his Work Group.

 

– Kelley Winters, Ph.D.

 

One thing is clear: the Center for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto has engaged in the systematic issuance of falsely-concocted threats of libel suits as a means of intimidating and silencing Zucker’s transgender critics.

 

We wonder how Zucker’s colleagues in the Ontario Ministry of Health, American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Psychological Association (APA), Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), International Academy of Sex Research (IASR), and other relevant professional and licensing organizations will feel about this highly unethical practice - and the extreme conflicts of interest involved.

 

 

 

References:

 

[1] “CAMH re: Ken Zucker and Lynn Conway”, File No. 300566, Peter M. Jacobsen, Center for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada, Jan. 27, 2009.

http://www.joellerubyryan.com/db1/00058/joellerubyryan.com/_download/LetterToLynnConway.pdf

 

[2] “Lynn Conway's Trans News Updates: The webpage Zucker attempted to suppress”, Lynn Conway, Lynnconway.com,  Feb. 3, 2009. En Espańol, En Français

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/Zucker/The_webpage_Zucker_attempted_to_suppress.html

 

[3] "Dr. Kenneth Zucker's War on Transgenders," Japhy Grant, Queerty, February 6, 2009.

http://www.queerty.com/dr-kenneth-zuckers-war-on-transgenders-20090206/

 

[4] Letter “Delivered by Process Server With Prejudice to Ms. Kristen Worley” from Peter M. Jacobsen, Center for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada July 14, 2005.

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/Zucker/Letters_to_others/Kristen/Kristen_Worley_7-14-05.pdf

 

[5] “Notice of Libel to Rosalyn Forrester”, File No. 300476, Peter M. Jacobsen, Center for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto, Canada, Nov. 24, 2008.

http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/US/Zucker/Letters_to_others/Rosalyn/Rosalyn_Forrester_11-24-08.pdf

 

[6] "Against human rights violations of apparently gender variant children and adults", Petition To the Honourable George Smitherman, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care for Ontario, created by Organisation Intersex International, Canadian Transexuals Fight For Rights and Friends and written by Rosalyn Forrester, Petitiononline.com, May 24, 2008.

http://www.petitiononline.com/hrights/petition.html

 

[7] "A Different Perspective", Charles Moser, Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol.37, No.3, June 2008, p.472-475.

http://www.springerlink.com/content/m56671v244q26m13/?p=c8273c8cd3444d00be7f50ec6adc4507&pi=19

 

[8] “Controversy dogs sexuality researcher”, Heather Cassell, Bay Area Reporter, Oct. 4, 2007.

http://ebar.com/news/article.php?sec=news&article=2274

 

[9] "Surrender Dorothy: the Clarke Wags a Broomstick at the Trans-Community", Kelley Winters, The Bilerico Project, Feb. 16, 2009.

http://www.bilerico.com/2009/02/surrender_dorothy_the_clarke_wags_a_broo.php

 

 


 

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