Ray Blanchard

This content was last updated Nov. 15, 2023, 9:38 p.m. UTC

Ray Blanchard is an American-Canadian sexologist who worked for many years at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). In the 1980s he came up with a theory that all trans women are motivated to transition for sexual reasons. In a series of 1980s papers, Blanchard sought to show that there are only two types of trans woman, one that seeks transition in order to have sex with straight men, the other “autogynephiles” who transition out of a sexual attraction to the idea of themselves as a woman. While Blanchard’s research methods were dubious and the theory was never accepted by the mainstream of his field, it has had a wide-ranging influence due to popularizers who have written books about it for the general public and is a favorite theory of activists opposed to transgender rights.

Blanchard has also published papers about pedophilia and male homosexuality. He contributed to the fourth and fifth editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

I mean, how many people who make a joke about trannies consult the DSM first?

Blanchard, in an interview for Vice, 11 April 2013

Education and Work

Blanchard earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1967, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology from the same institute in 1973.

After attaining his doctorate, Blanchard worked as a psychologist at the Ontario Correctional Institute from 1976 to 1980. In 1983 he joined the University of Toronto’s Department of Psychiatry as a status-only professor and researcher, a role he remains in as of this writing.

In 2006, Blanchard published a study suggesting that incidence of homosexuality in men may be more likely if they have multiple older brothers. He also worked on the DSM-4 for the gender identity disorders sub-working group, and served as chair of the paraphilia sub-working group for the DSM-5, and published a book called Clinical Management of Gender Identity Disorders in Children and Adults in 1990. He has published multiple studies on homosexual men, transgender people, and pedophiles.

Inventing Autogynephilia

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Blanchard worked on the pseudoscientific theory of autogynephilia, which he would become best known for: a psychology typology that pathologized transgender women’s desire to transition. Blanchard’s 1985 paper suggested that there were two kinds of transgender women; those attracted exclusively to men, and those who sexually fetishized themselves as women by crossdressing. Blanchard considers both typologies of transgender women to actually be men.

Blanchard’s theory was not widely accepted in the field, going largely unnoticed until 2003, when J. Michael Bailey published his anti-transgender pop science book, The Man Who Would Be Queen. Though the book and Bailey received tremendous criticism and backlash from the scientific community and transgender activists, Blanchard’s work became popular with activists who oppose transgender rights. 

Despite being rejected by medical organizations and professionals who provide gender affirming care to transgender people, autogynephilia has been repeatedly used as a cudgel against transgender women’s identity by anti-transgender activists since its popularization.

Blanchard, along with Bailey, were exposed as being members of the neo-eugenics group Human Biodiversity Institute by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2003.

Work at CAMH

In 1980, Blanchard joined the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, which later became known as the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH was the source of numerous patient complaints, with one former patient describing being repeatedly called by her old name, breaking down crying in harsh interviews, and an overall approach she described as “completely lacking in empathy.”

Though Blanchard worked as the head of Clinical Sexology Services at CAMH, he has expressed familiarity with colleague Kenneth Zucker's work in CAMH’s Gender Identity Clinic. After Zucker’s firing from CAMH and GIC’s temporary shuttering, Blanchard publicly came to his defense, describing him as “a close friend.”

Some of the evidence on CAMH seems to be degrading due to the passage of time. A claim that 90 percent of trans people who applied to transition at CAMH was referenced in multiple places on the web, but the TDL team was unable to locate a high quality source for this claim. If you know of such a source, please send it to us using our suggestion form.

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