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Concerns About Dr. Anne Lawrence (2004)

Concerns About Dr. Anne Lawrence (2004)

©2004, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (2004, Spring). A word from the editor: Concerns about Dr. Anne Lawrence. Transgender Tapestry, 105, p. 13.





Concerns About Dr. Anne Lawrence

By Dallas Denny


In June 2003, Andrea James published on her website,, a disturbing article about Anne Lawrence’s behavior. Although James’ article is in part an ad hominem (i.e. personal) attack, her allegations about Lawrence’s conduct mirror our own long-held apprehensions and provide corroborating evidence to previous allegations we have received about Lawrence’s behavior.

The Swedish Hospital Incident

In her on-line article, James also describes an incident that occurred in 1997. Lawrence, who was employed as an anesthesiologist at Seattle’s Swedish Hospital, allegedly performed an inappropriate and unauthorized vaginal inspection of an unconscious patient. This action resulted in an investigation by Washington officials and was followed by Lawrence’s resignation from the hospital staff. Lawrence no longer practices as an anesthesiologist.

Lawrence told Transgender Tapestry, “The circumstances of my departure from Swedish Hospital were investigated in detail by the Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission. The commission found no evidence of unprofessional conduct. I was not reprimanded or disciplined in any way and there was no action taken against my license. I maintain and have always maintained an unrestricted Washington state medical license.”

This statement is true. However, Lawrence did not deny that the incident had occurred.


The Vaginal Photography Incidents

James also describes an incident of alleged inappropriate boundary crossing in Lawrence’s photography of James’ genitals for Lawrence’s website <>. She says Lawrence was inappropriately seductive to her while she had her clothes off. Lawrence denies this.

There’s more to the story. A year or so ago, Donna Cartwright, another transsexual woman, described to Tapestry an experience virtually identical to that reported by James. At that time we chose not to go forward with an unverified allegation. This allegation has now been substantiated, in the form of James’ complaint. Lawrence denies this incident as well.

While a photography session is not a medical treatment setting, the specialized vaginal photography done by Lawrence sets up a clear power differential, with the subjects being of necessity unclothed and vulnerable. Certainly a licensed physician should be aware of and respect this vulnerability.


Credentials for Counseling

There is another concern. Lawrence provides counseling for considerable numbers of transgendered and transsexual clients. Counseling is, of course, another setting fraught with power-over dynamics.

Lawrence is trained as a physician, an anesthesiologist. She recently attended the Institute for the Study of Advanced Study of Human Sexuality at San Francisco, where, in 2001, she earned a Ph.D. degree in human sexuality. While it’s laudable that she took this training; the Institute offers only limited clinical training and supervision. So far as we have been able to determine, Lawrence has never been in a counseling or psychotherapy training program and does not have the training and has not had the clinical supervision necessary to properly do this sort of work— nor does she seem to have a license to do counseling.

Because an M.D. confers wide privilege, and because we are unfamiliar with the licensing laws in Washington State, where Lawrence has based her practice, we won’t say that what Lawrence is doing is illegal, but it is in our estimation improper and unethical for her to operate in a sphere in which she has not been trained and credentialed, and doubly inappropriate in light of her past behavior.

Considering Lawrence’s history of apparent inability or unwillingness to control herself in clinical and clinical-like settings, we can only wonder to what dangers Lawrence’s clients are subjecting themselves.