A California psychologist whose license to practice was threatened after she spoke out against teaching transgender ideology to third-grade students, as well as statewide lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic, said leaving the state was the best option.
Dr. Shannae Anderson, a clinical and forensic psychologist with 23 years of experience, was heckled by trans activists at a local school board meeting in Thousand Oaks, California, last June and harassed on social media. She said she received death threats and was targeted by leftwing extremist groups, including Antifa.
“I got a phone call from a friend of mine who works for the FBI who said my name came across his desk because Antifa was creating a list of people to go after,” she told The Epoch Times.
Anderson moved to Virginia in September to become the co-director for ethics and advocacy of the American Association of Christian Counselors, which bills itself as the world’s largest faith-based mental health organization.
School Board Controversy
Anderson, a native of Thousand Oaks, confronted the board at a Conejo Valley Unified School District meeting in June 2022, alleging that 8-year-olds were being exposed at school to sexual issues beyond their comprehension.
“At that age, children operate with concrete thinking. They don’t have abstract thinking, so they can only think in black and white. They don’t understand gray,” she told The Epoch Times. “And so, if you’re talking about these abstract concepts, such as transgender ideology, it’s just going to confuse them. They’re not going to understand.”
The following week, as Anderson was preparing for another meeting on June 20, she received a call from a local city council member alerting her to an email that showed a transgender activist who advises a school board committee had filed a 51-page complaint against Anderson to the California Board of Psychology.
The activist stated in the complaint obtained by The Epoch Times that Anderson presented an “imminent risk of substantial harm to students and families” within the school district and to all residents of Thousand Oaks and Ventura County and accused her of “making claims about transgender people that reinforce bigotry, exclusion and harmful acts.”
The same night, Anderson spoke at a Thousand Oaks City Council meeting and referred to the gender issues of a patient, whom she did not name, as a “red herring.” The complaint refers to a video of the meeting and accuses Anderson of actions “perceived by the local community … to conflate all transgender people as suffering from a mental disorder.”
She was also accused of citing clinical examples suggesting transgender children should be treated for mental disorders, contradicting policies of the American Psychological Association, according to the complaint.
Anderson later discovered the activist had not only filed the complaint to the licensing board but emailed it to local Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Camarillo), the school district superintendent, the entire Thousand Oaks city council, and the city attorney.
“I was devastated,” Anderson said. “I have been licensed since 1999. I have had an impeccable record as a psychologist. I’ve been trained by some of the best clinicians in the world. I now supervise and train others. I’ve been a professor, and so to have my license assaulted like this was very upsetting.”
At the height of the pandemic in 2020 in California, where the lockdowns were more severe than in many other states, Anderson warned about the effects of social isolation from the lockdowns and masking on children and expressed her concerns to the school board.
“All of that was just creating a profound mental health crisis that I knew we were going to be seeing. We obviously are recognizing it now,” she told The Epoch Times.
After consulting with friends and Pastor Rob McCoy at Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks about the “suffering” she had witnessed from her clients during the pandemic, she—like McCoy—criticized the state-imposed lockdowns, which she also believes were a violation of her religious freedom and right to worship.
“I have a very high acuity patient load and so it was very difficult for me to go virtual,” she said. “I really only did virtual work for maybe about a month, and then I started seeing people back in my office, and I started noticing that the level of pathology just increased dramatically.”
Anderson appeared weekly on McCoy’s “fireside chats” and scrutinized government policies banning large gatherings, including worshiping at churches, as well as mask and vaccine mandates.
“We’re not meant to be locked away and not have any interactions and not to see each other’s faces and not hug,” she said.
Anderson also went to freedom rallies, including Reopen California, where she cited research showing physical touch boosts the immune system, while social isolation decreases immunity. She was later dropped by one of her patients who had seen her name listed as a speaker, she said.
“I was quoting medical research that we’ve known for decades that due to this fear just got thrown out the window in the last few years. A lot of research has shown the lockdowns have caused an increase in anxiety, depression, trauma, eating disorders, substance abuse, all sorts of addictions, suicidality, self-harm—you name it,” she said. “Now we’re recognizing it [as] a mental health crisis in our country that we’ve never experienced before, and it’s a direct byproduct of the lockdowns.”
Anderson, who holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Southern California, was recently asked to testify as an expert witness in a case involving parents who had been found guilty of child abuse for refusing to call their child by their preferred pronouns. She testified that refusing to use a child’s “preferred pronouns” is not child abuse, and the parents won the case.
Despite the complaint against her license, Anderson spoke at another local school board meeting.
“I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do. It almost caused me to retreat, finding out that my license, which is my livelihood, could be in jeopardy. It did almost silence me,” she said.
“There were probably about 500 people outside the meeting, and inside the building, there were protesters [and] rumors of Antifa. There were people with signs screaming, yelling. I had to walk through a gauntlet of people screaming obscenities at me.”
Anderson and her husband recruited a bodyguard from their church to walk them through the crowd to get inside the building, where she “called out the school board” for supporting the complaint against her, she said.
The Andersons called in two more bodyguards before they exited the meeting into the parking lot where activists were waiting as they approached their vehicle.
“They were trying to doxx us,” she said.
Later Anderson received “fraudulent referrals” from people asking if she did conversion therapy or “non-affirming” transgender therapy, she said.
“I believe that people were calling to set me up because, in the state of California, you’re not allowed to do non-affirming therapy,” she said.
Dr. Karl Benzio, a board-certified psychiatrist in New Jersey, told The Epoch Times many clinicians across the nation fear they could lose their licenses or face disciplinary action if they dare question the “gender-affirming” model of care, despite strong indications that Europe is shifting away from it.
“There are people posing as fake patients just trying to see what a therapist will do in that process,” he said.
Some proponents of gender theory have labeled non-gender-affirming care as “conversion therapy,” a practice once used by non-clinicians to help people quit smoking or deter same-sex attraction.
“It’s certainly not a practice of Christian clinicians, or faith-based clinicians, or any even non-faith-based clinicians to practice in that kind of way,” he said. “That is not the way clinical psychotherapy is done.”
About a decade ago, California and New Jersey were among the first states to ban “pro-heterosexual therapy” to minors who felt uncomfortable with same-sex attraction impulses, Benzio said.
In the New Jersey court case, testimony from faith-based clinicians who wanted to talk about psychotherapy being a healing modality for somebody with unwanted same-sex attraction was not allowed, Benzio said.
“So, we’re not even talking about somebody with wanted same-sex attraction,” he said. “They didn’t even allow any testimony to be heard from many practitioners who were faith-based that presented an opposing view—that this was a choice, and not an innate characteristic.”
Because people suffering from sexual abuse and addictions often struggle to find purpose and identity, gender confusion is one of the “repercussions” that can happen as they search for love and a sense of belonging, Benzio said.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey, let’s look at the science and … our understanding of psychological dynamics that occur inside a person’s inner being in their mind,’ we’ve said, ‘Hey, let’s just care for these people’ and because a six-year-old believes that they’re a female when they were born a boy, or that they believe they’re an animal when they were born a human, they must be right and we can’t contradict that. We can’t tell them no,” he said. “[W]e should be able to recognize that this is dysfunctional, not healthy.”
“Gender-affirming care” and transitioning schoolchildren are not the answer, Benzio said.
“We need to come alongside and provide them opportunities for healing, and those … certainly are not social transitioning—letting them think that they are a different sex … with chemical transitioning [and] its incredible dangers, and then surgical transitioning,” he said.
“Good, sound psychotherapy” can help people heal and to see a much clearer and healthier view of themselves, their sexuality, their gender, and relationships to be able to move forward in life, he said.
‘This is Not Normal’
Because Anderson specializes in trauma, personality disorders, eating disorders, and addictions, she has seen many teenage girls who are struggling with a “burgeoning sense of identity” and experiencing body image issues.
“It’s just part of the process of what happens when you are raised in a highly objectifying culture where you’re dealing with … how a woman is supposed to look,” Anderson said.
It’s common for teenage girls, especially those who’ve been sexually abused, to say they hate their bodies and wish they were boys, Anderson said. But, because teenagers don’t have a fully formed prefrontal cortex, they often don’t have the capacity to reason things out, she said.
“They’re very dramatic and very emotional,” she said. “They make claims in the moment that can change in two days.”
In most cases, it doesn’t really mean they want to undergo a gender transition, she said.
In the last two decades, Anderson has witnessed several harmful fads or “contagions.” Twenty years ago, the social contagion among girls and young women was eating disorders and 10 years ago it was cutting and self-mutilation, she said.
But today, it has become trendy for troubled teens—especially girls—to say they are transgender, or gender neutral, Anderson said.
“They are now being told that their angst has a reason and a purpose—that their body hatred, their depression, their confusion around identity and sense of self isn’t just a natural part of adolescence or a byproduct of other psychological disorders. It’s actually its own entity: transgender,” she said.
While gender dysphoria is not her area of expertise, Anderson said gender identity has surfaced more frequently in her counseling sessions.
“I am seeing it pop up in individuals who actually are presenting with eating disorders, personality disorders, and unresolved sexual abuse,” she said. “They’re already experiencing psychological struggles, but what I’m seeing is they want to pin all their problems on this issue.”
In today’s culture, it’s easier for some sexual abuse victims to say their body image problems are because they’re in the wrong body rather than connecting it with the trauma they’ve experienced because transgenderism is presented as normal and healthy, Anderson said.
“It makes them cool as opposed to having a mental illness,” she said.
Andersons said she and her husband had contemplated leaving the state long before the controversy erupted.
“We had been wanting to get out of California … but we really didn’t feel that God had released us yet, because we were very active in the fight in California,” she said.
With her livelihood threatened in a state that has been at the forefront of the push for “gender-affirming care” and facing escalating harassment and threats for more than a year and a half, the couple finally decided to leave the state last fall.
Anderson said she isn’t backing down, but rather taking her fight for liberty to the national level.
“I do feel like God is calling me to a bigger platform,” she said. “I know there are not many people who have been in this fight for religious freedom. There are not many psychologists or counselors nationwide that have been doing this.”
She doesn’t miss what she calls California’s cancel culture mentality.
“It was nice to get away from the insanity,” she said of her exit. “People have no idea that this is going on, and they need to know. I’m not special. The fact that they’ve come for me means … they’re going to be coming for everybody else. This is just how it starts.”