Controversial psychologist tells B.C. hearing he feels a duty to speak out on transgender issues

A hearing for a B.C. nurse facing potential discipline over her public statements about transgender people has turned into a debate over whether a controversial psychologist is qualified to testify as an expert witness.

Amy Hamm of New Westminster, B.C., is fighting allegations of unprofessional conduct for a series of social media posts, writings, podcast appearances and videos in which she denies the gender identities of transgender people.

A citation from the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives alleges Hamm has “made discriminatory and derogatory statements regarding transgender people” while identifying herself as a nurse. Hamm frequently refers to transgender women as “men” and has suggested she is the subject of a “witch trial.”

Over the last two days of hearings, a college disciplinary panel has been taken through a close reading of Toronto psychologist James Cantor’s CV, learning about his history of research into pedophilia and other “atypical” sexualities or “paraphilias.”

The nurse Amy Hamm is shown in an orange-toned selfie. She is white with long brown hair and large, dark-rimmed glasses.
Nurse Amy Hamm is the subject of disciplinary proceedings at the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives related to her public statements about transgender people. (Amy Hamm/

The panel has also heard about the dozens of appearances Cantor has made in U.S. courts on behalf of states defending laws that restrict medical care, bathroom use and participation in sports for transgender people.

Hamm’s lawyer, Karen Bastow, has told the panel it’s “clear” Cantor should be qualified as an expert witness, but the college’s legal team is arguing against accepting his evidence.

Bastow asked Cantor on Tuesday to explain his objections to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2018 policy supporting access to gender-affirming care for youth.

“Somebody was getting the science of my field wrong — very, very wrong,” Cantor replied. “There are very few people willing to overlook the emotions and politics of this … I essentially felt if I don’t do this, nobody is going to do this.”

In a published objection to the policy, Cantor cited 11 studies. He testified Tuesday that they all concern follow-ups with children who had previously presented with gender dysphoria.

“The research shows, 11 out of 11 studies … these kids mostly turn out to be gay and lesbian” — not transgender, Cantor said.

In U.S. court appearances, lawyers have pointed out that those studies are relatively dated — seven were published in the 1970s and ’80s and none came out in the last decade. Much of the research also concerns young people characterized as “effeminate” males, “sissy boys” or tomboys, rather than children who identified as transgender.

A more recent study of 317 transgender youth, published last year, found that 94 per cent continued to identify as transgender five years after they began their social transitions.

Expert’s CV ‘very thin’ on transgender issues: college

As cross examination of Cantor began on Tuesday, college lawyer barbara findlay, who spells her name without capital letters, attempted to play video of a recent interview he’d done with CBC’s The National.

In that video, Cantor, who is gay and an atheist, addresses his unlikely alliance with religious conservatives in the U.S., and estimates that he has more than doubled his income this year by providing testimony in support of laws limiting the rights of transgender people.

But after Bastow objected to the video as “inflammatory,” the panel ruled against playing it at this point in the hearing.

WATCH | James Cantor speaks to CBC’s The National:

Why James Cantor works with the Christian right to defend anti-trans laws in court

Featured VideoToronto psychologist James Cantor is an unlikely ally of the Christian right in defending anti-trans laws, but says they have a common cause.

Later, findlay suggested that Cantor’s resume is “very thin” when it comes to research about transgender people. He disagreed with that characterization, suggesting there is frequent overlap between gender dysphoria and the sexualities that he studies.

In his testimony in the U.S., Cantor has questioned the safety and effectiveness of gender-affirming care and suggested that many teens who identify as trans are really just insecure about fitting in and growing up.

On Tuesday, he acknowledged to findlay that he has never treated anyone under the age of 16 who identifies as transgender.

She also asked him about a document on his website titled “A Bill of Transsexual Rights,” in which Cantor says people who transition genders “have the right to be recognized as their new sex in all situations,” as well as a letter he wrote to Alberta’s health minister in 2009 supporting coverage of gender reassignment surgery in the public health plan.

After reading from those documents, findlay asked if they still represent Cantor’s beliefs.

“Yes and no,” Cantor replied, explaining that he holds those views when it comes to adults, but not adolescents.

“Since the onset of social media, roughly 2012 … the type of people coming in expressing gender dysphoria is very, very different,” Cantor suggested.

He testified that he has seen about a dozen transgender patients at his Toronto sexuality clinic since 2015, but they were for concerns unrelated to their transgender identities.

Objections to college’s expert witness

Earlier in Tuesday’s proceedings, Bastow registered an objection to the college’s plans to have epidemiologist Ayden Scheim testify as a rebuttal witness to counter Cantor’s evidence, should he be qualified as an expert.

As Bastow pointed out, this week’s hearings began on Monday with a warning that anyone who expects to give evidence later in the hearing should not be in the audience.

Halfway through the day, it was revealed that Scheim had been watching the proceedings for hours, and the panel asked him to leave.

“This shocking admission should disqualify Dr. Scheim as a witness,” Bastow argued.

The panel has not ruled on that objection.

The hearing is scheduled to continue on Wednesday.

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