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Letter to APA Monitor (1998)

Letter to APA Monitor (1998)

©1998, 2013 by Dallas Denny, Jack Boyan, Jan Roberts, Erin Swenson, & Virginia Erhardt

Source: Denny, Dallas, Boyan, Jack, Roberts, Jan, Swenson, Erin, & Erhardt, Virginia. Letter to the editor. APA Monitor.

The Monitor is the newsletter of The American Psychological Association. I don’t know if this letter was published.



10 September, 1998




Dear Editor:


We are writing in response to P. McGuire’s article “San Diego Therapist Murdered at Work by Patient” in the July 1998 APA Monitor. We would appreciate it if you would print the following.

The murder of San Diego therapist Rita Powers by one of her clients and the subsequent suicide of the client was a tragedy, and we deplore the actions of the client. However, we find insensitive and unprofessional the Monitor’s use of male pronouns and descriptive terms like “gunman” and “the man” to describe the client [SAN DIEGO THERAPIST MURDERED AT WORK BY¬†PATIENT, IN JULY 1998 LETTERS]. The Associated Press Style Book and guidelines circulated by the American Educational Gender Information Service call for the use of language consistent with the self-identity and life situation of transsexuals. Ms. Powers’ client, who lived much of the time as a woman, and who died in women’s clothing, should have been referred to as a woman.

The murder/suicide calls into question the treatment dynamics inherent in therapy with transsexuals, over whom, as this case shows, therapists literally have life-and-death gatekeeping power because of the “therapist letter” required for access to medical treatments like hormones and sex reassignment surgery. We certainly do not wish to suggest Ms. Powers was less than professional in her relationship with her client, but many transsexuals report, and we have first-hand knowledge of, therapists who play power games, holding the client hostage to the therapy letter. We at the American Gender Institute believe this power relationship is in need of renegotiation, for the current imbalance can place both the client and the therapist at risk.




Dallas Denny, M.A., Licensed Psychological Examiner
Jack Boyan, M.Ed., LMFT
Janice Heckler, M.A.
Erin Swensen, Th.M., Ph.D., LMFT
Virginia Erhardt, Ph.D [APA MEMBER]