This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1700 persons worthy of note, both famous and obscure, are discussed in detail, and many more are mentioned in passing.

There is a detailed Index arranged by vocation, doctor, activist group etc. There is also a Place Index arranged by City etc. This is still evolving.

In addition to this most articles have one or more labels at the bottom. Click one to go to similar persons. There is a full list of labels at the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. There is also a search box at the top left. Enjoy exploring!

29 October 2012

James Howard (165? - 168?).

James Howard is known only in that he married the child-prodigy vocalist and lutenist, Arabella Hunt (1662 – 1705) who was employed at the royal court as a performer and as a music teacher to Anne Stuart, the future queen. John Blow and Henry Purcell wrote music for her, William Congreve wrote an irregular ode: "Mrs Arabella Hunt singing".

Arabella was courted by the young man James, and they married in 1680. Arabella increasingly realized that James ‘went under the suspition of one of a double gender’, that she was also Amy Poulter, née Gomelson, and was married to one Arthur Poulter, who had died only recently.

Arabella appealled for an annullment on the ground that her husband was a hermaphrodite. However in 1682 five midwives examined Amy Poulter and found her to be a ‘perfect woman in all her parts". The marriage was annulled but neither partner ever re-married. Howard died shortly afterwards.
  • Valerie Traub. The Renaissance of Lesbianism in Early Modern England. Cambridge University Press, 2002:49.
  • "Arabella Hunt". Mss Brilliant Mistake: Being a Smattering of Text, Images, and Sound Devoted to Notable Women Composers & Musicians.

26 October 2012

Deirdre Farmer (1966 - ) fraudster, inmate.

Douglas Farmer left home at 16, lived in a Baltimore hotel with trans prostitutes and started to transition. In 1985 she was diagnosed as HIV+. She was taking black market hormones, and had visited an illegal doctor in New York who removed her testicles and implanted silicone gels in her breasts. She never went back for the second appointment.

In 1986 she was arrested for passing bad checks. Against her counsel’s advice, she did not impersonate a man for the trial, and was found guilty of credit-card fraud and Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. gave her an 18-year sentence in a federal prison, to be followed by a 20-year sentence in a state prison for writing bad checks.

She was first sent to the men’s maximum-security penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, which sensibly rejected her. After several transfers she ended up at USP Terre Haute, Indiana. She has had no hormones after that, and within a week she had been raped at knife-point.

Acting without a lawyer, Farmer filed a complaint in the US District Court against the Federal Bureau of Prisons, its regional director and several wardens and administrators who had put her in USP Terre Haute. The case was dismissed by U.S. district judge, John C. Shabaz, a justice with a history of conservative rulings. Her appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal was also dismissed, again by Shabaz.

Still acting alone, Farmer appealed to the US Supreme Court. In 1994, the American Civil Liberties Union was appointed to represent her, and Stop Prison Rape submitted an amicus brief. SCOTUS ruled unanimously that officials have a responsibility to safeguard prisoners from violence. They must not exhibit 'deliberate indifference". However there were caveats. Green explains:
"The decision said that, for prison officials to be at fault, they must have had subjective knowledge, not objective, that the transsexual prisoner would be assaulted. In other words the prison officials must have known it would happen. An objective test, that is that any reasonable prison official would surmise that assault would result when you place a male transsexual in a male prison, was not sufficient."
The case was returned to the district court, and Farmer got Shabaz again who was able to use to caveats to again dismiss the case.

Human Rights Watch wrote in 2001:
"The legal rules that the courts have developed relating to prisoner-on-prisoner sexual abuse create perverse incentives for authorities to ignore the problem".
In 1996, the US Government passed the Prison Litigation Reform Act to make it further difficult for other prisoners to sue as Farmer had done by requiring prisoners to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a claim (even if this means seeking redress from the abuser), and to demonstrate that they experienced physical harm prior to filing. It also limited attorney fees for representing prisoners, and barred prisoners from seeking damages for sexual harassment, invasions of privacy such as strip searching, and inappropriate sexual touching.

In 2005, Farmer, having completed her federal sentence, again appeared before Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr. who agreed to release her on probation as she was dying of AIDS.

The next year Farmer was charged five times with mail fraud and twice with aggravated identity theft, and then with presenting false information for entry on a death certificate to avoid other charges. By this time he had returned to living as a man. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months.

23 October 2012

Leslie Nelson (1957 - ) warehouse worker, sex worker, inmate.

Glenn Nelson was regarded as an emotionally disturbed child as early as kindergarten. During his teen years he became increasingly reclusive, relating to no-one other than his mother. He identified as female, and from 1984 was considering a sex change. In 1986 he twice traveled to Colorado to consult with Dr Biber, and began taking female hormones.

The same year Nelson was robbed at knifepoint in Philadelphia, and in response purchased a handgun. In 1987 he was arrested for felony possession of a weapon and dum-dum bullets. He served sixty days, received probation and had to have psychological evaluation. It was now illegal for him to possess a firearm.

He contemplated suicide. He resumed taking estrogens, and had breast augmentation. Leslie completed the sex change in 1992, despite a sex therapist declaring that psychological problems remained, although she was at risk of suicide if denied the change. The transgender program at Pennsylvania Hospital rejected her because she had a depressive disorder, and they felt that she did not feel like a woman in a man's body.

On returning to her warehouse job, Leslie was severely harassed and quit. She tried to be an exotic dancer, but was clumsy, and also failed to pass as female. She became a hooker in Camden, New Jersey.

On April 20, 1995, Nelson shot and killed two police officers, John McLaughlin and John Norcross, and wounded a third, Richard Norcross, John's brother, in a shootout at her parent’s home at Haddon Heights, New Jersey. She had refused to produce her gun, an AK-47 assault rifle on the policemen’s first visit after a neighbor had suggested that she had fondled her niece, and when they returned with a warrant she opened fire.

Leslie Nelson, with public defender Joe Krakora,
She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murder of Officer John Norcross and life in prison with thirty years of parole ineligibility for the Murder of Investigator John McLaughlin. She was given a consecutive ten-year term with five years of parole ineligibility for the second-degree assault of Detective Richard Norcross. For a while she was the only transsexual on death row in the US in an all-male institution. Nelson's lawyers contended that a) she was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance; b) her capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct was significantly impaired as the result of a mental disease, but not to a degree that would allow her to plead the insanity defense. They also cited the civil suit filed by the surviving officer, Richard Norcross, to the effect that police guidelines for such high risk situations were inadequate.

The New Jersey Supreme Court twice ruled that executing ‘such a mentally ill and psychologically disturbed person’ would be cruel and unusual punishment., and with the agreement of the prosecution, she was sentenced to three life sentences, with a 65-year bar on parole. This permitted her to be transferred to the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, in Clinton, New Jersey.

She was Inmate of the Month at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility in August 2005 for tutoring other inmates.

*Not Leslie Nielsen, the Hollywood comedy actor.

The Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women quite sensibly employed only female guards.  The following is from the Wikipedia page:
A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of male correctional officers alleging that the policy of only employing female officers was discriminatory. In 1991, the state entered into a consent agreement allowing male correctional officers to work at Edna Mahan.
The addition of male officers resulted in problems leading to additional legal action. Officers were disciplined, fired, or criminally prosecuted for offenses including exchanging sexual favors for gifts or money.

21 October 2012

How not to count trans people

This week Gallop reported that using the following method:

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup Daily tracking survey June 1-Sept. 30, 2012, with a random sample of 121,290 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling
it had put the following question, and received responses as indicated:

The report acknowledges: 
As a group still subject to social stigma, many of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender may not be forthcoming about this identity when asked about it in a survey. Therefore, it's likely that some Americans in what is commonly referred to as "the closet" would not be included in the estimates derived from the Gallup interviews. Thus, the 3.4% estimate can best be represented as adult Americans who publicly identify themselves as part of the LGBT community when asked in a survey context.
And furthermore:
Transgender status can be an identity but can also include consideration of behaviors regarding gender nonconformity and an individual's internal sense of gender.
They also asked the respondents to choose between a mishmash of race and language, and reported: *

Let me consider how I would have answered the question if some stranger rang my phone and put it to me.  Well I probably wouldn't, as I usually have no time for intrusive phone calls.  But suppose that I was in a particularly good mood.  I am a married woman, so do I go in the 'no' column?   On the other hand, I am an alumna from Gay Lib, so does that put me in the 'yes' column?  Perhaps I was gay and transgender until I transitioned, but not after?  How does Gallop record that?

The pioneer sexologists, Kinsey, Benjamin, Hirschfeld etc, asked what people did.  Not what they identified as.  Secondly they broke questions down.  Are you gay; are you transgender?  You can be either without the other, neither or both.  This is not allowed for by Gallop. 

How did Gallop expect a heterosexually-married transvestite to answer?  What about a heterosexually married man who goes to the gay baths now and then?  What about a heterosexually married man who pays to be bottomed by a trans prostitute?  The last two types are sort of bi, but rarely speak up at bi-pride events, and almost certainly would opt for the 'no' column.

Then there is that very small word: 'or'.  Easily missed when spoken. How many gays and lesbians said 'no' because they are not transgender?  How many trans said 'no' because they do not identity as gay or lesbian?

I would love to know how many men said that they are lesbian, and how many women that are gay men.

Note how in the race-language mishmash the 'yes' column and the 'DK' column almost add to 10% (Kinsey's estimate).

It is interesting that the "non-Hispanic whites"  gave fewer 'yes' answers.  This is counter-intuitive based on what one sees at gay events.  However given the bad design of the question, the result  doesn't mean much.

Given the size of the sample one would expect over 100 of the respondents to be, or to have been some flavour of trans.  However because of the bad design of the question, Gallop are not able to confirm this.

I suspect that the question was proposed by a Gallop manager, and that his underlings don't feel comfortable enough to point out that the question was a dumb question.

* This type of race-language mishmash is commonly used in the US.  However one must ask a) where are the native Americans?** b) what do Chinese, Indian and Arab have in common such that they are one group?  c) are Spanish-speaking Blacks, Black or Hispanic?

** Native Americans are particularly relevant for the question asked because the Two-Spirit tradition.

16 October 2012

Robertina Manganaro (1958 - ) aristocrat, doctor, model, designer.

Manganara was born to a noble and rich family in Calabria, her mother a French psychoanalyst, her father a surgeon. She was taking hormones at 14, and was even permitted, at her private school, to wear a skirt.

Her mother, thirty years younger than her husband, left him and returned to Paris. Robertina and her father moved to Milan, where she was known as his daughter. She became a model for the avant-garde artist, Enrico Baj (1924- 2003). At age 20 she had genital surgery at a private clinic in England.

Following the family tradition, she qualified as a doctor, as did her brothers, and did an internship under the supervision of a friend of her father. However it did not work, even though she was Dottoressa Manganaro. Her proclivity for dressing in high fashion with high heels and jewels did not help.
Robertina returned to modelling which she found more friendly. She lived on the family money. She met Count Gianfranco Torelli, a wealthy aeronautical engineer, and they dated for a couple of years until he declared that he wanted to have a child with her. The next evening she told that she was transsexual, and did not see him again for a few years. Eventually she met him again at a dinner party. He chased her and took her to one of his estates for the weekend. Eventually he accepted her, and they were married in 1993.

Gianfranco encouraged Robertina to become a stilista. At age 35 she opened a studio in Paris, using her title Comtessa. At age 42 had her first show at the Milan Pret-a-porter, which cost her a million francs. "I do not do fashion to make money. I have money to make fashion". Even so there are limits: "If I have ever been discriminated against as a transsexual, it is as a fashion designer".

*Not Roberta Manganaro the dancer.

13 October 2012

Siobhan Fredericks (193? - ?) scientist, activist

Fred Shaw of New York City was working towards his PhD in a science in the mid 1960s, and was the editor of a scientific trade journal.

Darrel Raynor describes Shaw's other persona, Siobhan Fredericks:
"He did not orbit the Downtown Branch [Gail Wilde's apartment]. Siobhan was possibly the one of the most successful in the city at getting away with public appearances. A fairly heavy young man in his thirties, he made himself into the exact facsimile of the stylish stout. Nobody would have suspected a male identity in a hundred years, and he would promenade in dress along Fifth Avenue, shop for hours in the big department stores, try on dresses, and even hold credit plates in his femme name."
Siobhan published Turnabout  irregularly from 1963-7. This was in competition to Virginia Prince's Transvestia, and attracted crossdressers who were critical of Virginia Prince, her ideas and her list of femme* words. It was also more open to transsexuality and of activities that Prince regarded as fetishistic. In contrast to Transvestia, Turnabout did not feature autobiographies, especially those that catalogued the writer's wardrobe and measurements. Harry Benjamin, using Siobhan's male name, described Turnabout as the "more objective approach". Renée Richards described it as "a poor thing, on newsprint as I recall". Benjamin also referred Richards and other clients to the support group held in Siobhan's home.

In 1964 Prince and Fredericks came together when Felicity Chandelle was arrested under an obscure New York law for simply walking down the street. They raised over $1,200 to finance an appeal. Siobhan sent out 500 letters to Turnabout subscribers. They persuaded the American Civil Liberties Union file a brief as amicus curiae, and got the New York Times to carry a sympathetic story. However the appeal hearing was denied, by the New York appeal court and by the US Supreme Court.

Siobhan also had her own press, Abbé de Choisy Press, which published transvestite fiction, and wrote a series of novellas.
  • Siobhan Fredericks,. The Best of Both Worlds: A Novel of Transvestism. New York: Abbé de Choisy Press, 1965.
  • Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, 1966. New York: Warner Books Edition 1977: 55. 
  • Darrell Raynor. A Year Among the Girls. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1966. New York: Lancer Books, 1968: 90.
  • Siobhan Fredericks,. Turnabout Island: A Story of Transvestism. New York: Abbé de Choisy Press, 1968.
  • Siobhan Fredericks. A Transvestite in Paris. New York City: Wholesale Books, 1970.
  • Siobhan Fredericks,. Adventures of a Transvestite. Jersey City: Mutrix Corp, 1970.
  • Siobhan Fredericks. Shemale Mail. Jersey City: Mutrix Corp, 1970.
  • Siobhan Fredericks. One Summer in Petticoats: A Story of Transvestism. S.l: Turnabout Books, 1980.
  • Renée Richards with John Ames Second Serve: the Reneé Richards Story. Stein and Day 1983: 167.
  •  Robert S. Hill. As a man I exist; as a woman I live’: Heterosexual Transvestism and the Contours of Gender and Sexuality in Postwar America. PhD Dissertation. University of Michigan. 2007: 63, 203, 324-7.
  • Renée Richards with John Ames. No Way Renée: the second half of my notorious life. New York: Simon & Schuster 2007: 78-9.


According to Worldcat, Yale University Library is the only institution to have a set of Siobhan's fiction.

Siobhan would have no trouble meeting Rose White's major criterion for HBS: she loved to shop.

 In Renée Richards' first autobiography, Second Serve, Siobhan's male name is given as Art Stallings.

11 October 2012

Harry Benjamin. Part 4: transsexualism since 1966

Part 1: beginings
Part 2: rejuvenation
Part 3: transsexualism to 1966
Part 4: transsexualism since 1966
Part 5: rereading of The Transsexual Phenomenon.

Harry Benjamin's The Transsexual Phenomenon, came out in 1966, with an appendix and bibliography by Richard Green. Much of the early two chapters on transvestites reflect the writings of Virginia Prince. Benjamin proposed a 6-point scale inspired by Kinsey's sexual-orientation scale, with the caveat that the types overlapped and blurred. He labeled the six types: Transvestite (Pseudo) Transvestite (Fetishistic), Transvestite (True), Transsexual (Nonsurgical), Transsexual (Moderate intensity),Transsexual (High intensity). In chapter 8, he summarized his work in the field:
"By the end of 1964, a total of 249 male transvestites were observed in my offices, either in New York or in San Francisco. Of these, 152 were diagnosed as transsexuals. This figure, however, may actually be higher as some transvestites do not reveal their true intentions during the first few interviews. In some others, an apparent transvestism may gradually seem to progress into transsexualism with or (more likely) without any treatment and patients originally diagnosed as transvestites (of the II or III type in the S.O.S.) are actually transsexuals (V or VI on the S.O.S.). A few of them are among the 51 cases operated upon.
These patients were, in the earlier years, mostly operated upon in Denmark, Holland, or Sweden, and a few in Mexico. Then, Dr. Elmer Belt in California performed a series of such operations. In approximately half of them I could observe the results. Dr. Belt discontinued this type of surgery a few years ago, largely for personal reasons. During the last three or four years, most conversion operations among patients I know were done in Casablanca, Morocco, by a French surgeon, Dr. Georges Burou. Reports have reached me of operations being done occasionally, rather secretly, in the United States, rather freely in Japan, occasionally in Mexico,and a few in Italy. (p146)"
Also in 1966, Benjamin referred Phyllis Wilson who was the subject of the first sex-change operation by Howard Jones at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He also witnessed an operation by Jones. John Money said:
"Without the evidence of Harry Benjamin's pioneering success in the hormonal and the surgical sex reassignment of transsexuals, there would have been no program set up for the treatment and rehabilitation of transsexuals at Johns Hopkins ... The Johns Hopkins transsexual program was a source of immense satisfaction to Harry Benjamin, for it vindicated and authenticated his otherwise lonely advocacy of a group of patients generally despised and ridiculed by the medical establishment. Conversely, the public repudiation of this program by medical moralists who were not members of the gender-identity team was to him a source of immense sorrow. I knew about that sorrow from my periodic phone calls and occasional visits with Harry Benjamin. (Memorial: 16)"
In 1967 Benjamin gave brief talks at Stanford University, at Palo Alto Medical Clinic, and met with the new transsexual counseling group organized by the San Francisco Health Department, where his ex-patient Wendy Kohler was active. Later that year he spoke at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago, and witnessed another operation there, and wrote an introduction for Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography. The Harry Benjamin Foundation presented eight separate papers at its first meeting at the prestigious New York Academy of Sciences in 1967, mainly considering etiology based on pre and post examinations of Benjamin's patients.

In 1968 Benjamin and Reed Erickson were in disagreement, mainly over money and who was to decide what, and after that year there was no more funding, and Benjamin had to vacate the large office.

Wendy Carlos became the world's best-selling electronic musician and was also in transition with Benjamin, as was Lynn Conway, the informatics engineer. In 1969 Charles L.Ihlenfeld arranged to cover Benjamin's New York practice while he was in San Francisco for the summer, and stayed for 7 years.

In 1969 Benjamin wrote an introduction for Richard Green and John Money's Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment in which he summarized his work on transsexualism to that date. He also met Suzan Cooke and referred her to the Palo Alto Clinic.

In 1970 Rupert Raj started transition with a prescription from Charles Ihlenfeld. Diane Kearny was referred by Benjamin to Roberto Granato for surgery.

In the early 1970s, Benjamin befriended the psychoanalyst Ethel Person and gave her access to his patients. He asked her to write about him after his death. She interviewed him over several months. She also recruited a sample of his patients for two papers that she wrote with Lionel Ovesey that came to conventional psychoanalytic conclusions that transsexualism derived from separation anxiety.

Benjamin was a friend of the writer David/Gail Wilde and offered to talk to his girlfriend Joan Bennet about David's crossdressing.

Benjamin finally did retire on his 90th birthday in 1975, and Ihlenfeld took over the practice for a short while. The New York Times commented that Benjamin: "must be one of the last New Yorkers who receives visitors to his home attired in a silk smoking jacket".

++The practice passed to Eugene/Jeanne Hoff, who fired the existing staff.  She was starting her own transtion.   Her most noted patient was the punk musician, Jane County.   By 1980 there were very few patients and the practice was discontinued. 

The fourth International Symposium on Gender Identity, which was held that year at Stanford University Medical Center, was the first to use Benjamin's name, and with his blessing. At the 5th Symposium at Norfolk, Virginia, the demise of the Erickson Educational Foundation was announced and it was decided to create a new body named after Harry Benjamin. Two years later, in San Diego, the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA) was formally inaugurated.

Connie wheeler and Leah Schaefer interviewed Benjamin in 1979 about the history of the SSSS, he took to them and trusted them with his files. They read all the 1500 or so files, and started meeting regularly with him to discuss what they found.

Harry turned 100 in 1985. He told people that the first thing he was going to do when he awoke on the morning of his 100th birthday was to look in the mirror: "Because I've never seen a 100-year-old man before!"

He died at 101, and was survived by Gretchen. They never had children. His younger brother, Walter, and sister, Edith, also lived into their nineties, and also had no children. Their mother Bertha had lived to 97. Altogether Benjamin had 1560 trans patients.

In 1994 Tom Reucher co-founded the Association du Syndrome de Benjamin, in homage.

In 2006, HBIGDA changed its name to World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

From 2005, Charlotte Goiar and Diane Kearny created the Harry Benjamin Syndrome movement that attempted to change Benjamin's legacy into an ideology of separation and intolerance that is quite alien to Benjamin's approach. In 2010 Rose White vanity published a book, Harry Benjamin Syndrome Review, that purported to follow Benjamin's work, but instead was obsessed with supposed dangers of oral sex, and claims that the practical test for HBS is an enthusiasm for shopping.

In 2011, the Harry Benjamin Resource Centre Europe was announced with a mainly Norwegian direction. It would seem to be an alternate to WPATH that intends to be much like what HBIGDA was before.

*++There is a different Harry Benjamin who wrote Better Sight without Glasses, 1929 and other books.   Some sites (Gender Trender, TS Roadmap and NO.Wikipedia) have confused the works of the two Harry Benjamins. 

So how high were Benjamin's fees? This never seems to be discussed. Leah Cahan Schaefer & Connie Christine Wheeler in their article on Benjamin's first 10 cases almost boast: "Socioeconomic levels were exclusively middle class, with 3 from upper-class backgrounds". When you read the biographies of less well-off New York area trans people, Benjamin is rarely mentioned. That is the Warhol trans women, the Stonewall participants, the Paris is Burning voguers. Tri-Ess members like David Wilde could afford to be a friend of Harry Benjamin, but not Candy Darling, Elizabeth Coffey, Rachel Harlow, Dorian Corey, Sylvia Rivera, Ajita Wilson, Anjie Xtravaganza etc. Some went to Leo Wollman instead, and others who couldn't afford Wollman's fees went to Jimmy Treetop for hormones. However Phyllis Wilson, Patricia Morgan and Suzan Cooke apparently had little money when they approached Benjamin. I assume that he sometimes waived or reduced his fees.

Virginia Prince, one of the many friends of Benjamin, lived to be 96. Did he the gerontotherapist aid her in this?

There are three biographies of Magus Hirschfeld (by Charlotte Wolff, Ralf Dose and Elena Mancini), an autobiography and three biographies of Havelock Ellis (by Phyllis Grosskurth, Chris Nottingham, Arthur Calder-Marshall, John Stewart). Why is there no book length biography of Harry Benjamin?

Given Benjamin's antipathy to psychoanalysis, it is noteworthy that he developed a friendship with Ethel Person, gave her access to his patients and asked her to write a short biography of himself. This is the same Person who with Lionel Ovesey wrote two papers in 1974 proposing the term Primary Transsexuals for non-sissy asexuals, and Secondary Transsexual for those with homosexual or transvestic experience. Person and Ovesey claim that "in male transsexualism, the child resorts to a reparative fantasy of symbiotic fusion with the mother to counter separation anxiety. In this way, mother and child become one and the anxiety is allayed, but the cost is an ambiguous core gender identity. (The Sexual Century:111).
  • Harry Benjamin & Albert Ellis. "Prostitution Re-assessed". International Journal of Sexology, 5, 1952: 41-42.
  • Harry Benjamin. "Transsexualism and transvestism as psychosomatic and somatopsychic syndromes". American Journal of Psychotherapy 05/1954; 8(2):219-30.
  • Frederic G. Worden & James T. Marsh. "Psychological Factors in Men Seeking Sex Transformation: a Preliminary Report". Journal of the American Medical Association, 157, 15, 1955: 1292-8. Abstract.
  • C.V. Prince, with a preamble by Harry Benjamin. “Homosexuality, Transvestism and Transsexuality: Reflections on Their Etiology and Differentiations”. The American Journal of Psychotherapy, 11, 1957: 80-5. Reprinted in Richard Ekins & Dave King (eds) Virginia Prince: Pioneer of Transgendering. The Haworth Medical Press, 2005: 17-20 and the International Journal of Transgenderism, 8,4, 2005: 17-20. 
  • Harry Benjamin. In Time--We Must Accept. Los Angeles: Mattachine Review, 1957.
  • Harry Benjamin. "Nature and Management of Transexualism, with a Report on 31 Operated Cases", Western Journal of Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynecology, 72, 1964: 105-11.
  • Harry Benjamin & Robert E. L. Masters. Prostitution and morality: a definitive report on the prostitute in contemporary society and an analysis of the causes and effects of the suppression of prostitution. Julian Press, 1964. 
  • Harry Benjamin. Nature and Management of Transsexualism: With a Report on Thirty-One Operated Cases. Seattle, Wash.?: s.n, 1964.
  • Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, 1966. New York: Warner Books Edition 1977, with a bibliography and appendix by Richard Green. Online at: and at Page references are to the 1977 Warner edition.
  • Christine Jorgensen with Lois Kibbee. A Personal Autobiography. With an Introduction by Harry Benjamin. New York: Paul S. Eriksson, 1967, New York: Bantam Books (pb) 1968.
  • Harry Benjamin. "Introduction". Richard Green & John Money (ed). Transsexualism and Sex-Reassignment. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press,. 1969.
  • Harry Benjamin. Reminiscences. 12th Annual Conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, November 1st, 1969.
  • Jan Morris. Conundrum. London: Faber, 1973: 49-50.
  • Charles L. Ihlenfeld. "Dedication to Dr Harry Benjamin at the Fourth International Conference on Gender Identity". Archives of Sexual Behavior, 7,4,1978.
  • Erwin J. Haeberle interviews Harry Benjamin. “The Transatlantic Commuter”. Sexualmedizin, 14, Jan 1985. Online at:
  • “Harry Benjamin (1885-1986)”. Archive for Sexology.
  • Charlotte Wolff. Magnus Hirschfeld: A Portrait Of A Pioneer In Sexology Quartet Books. 1986: 126, 245, 259, 277, 279, 284, 365-8.
  • Connie Christine Wheeler & Leah Cahan Schaefer. "Historical overview of Harry Benjamin's first 1500 cases." Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Tenth International Symposium on Gender Dysphoria, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1987.
  • “Memorial for Harry Benjamin”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 17, 1, 1988.
  • Leah Cahan Schaefer & Connie Christine Wheeler. “Harry Benjamin's first ten cases (1938-1953): a clinical historical note”. Archives of Sexual Behavior 24:1 Feb 1995. Online at
  • Friedemann Pfaefflin. "Sex Reassignment, Harry Benjamin, and some European Roots ". The International Journal of Transgenderism, 1,2, Oct-Dec 1997.
  • Ethel Spector Person. “Harry Benjamin and the Birth of a Shared Cultural Fantasy”. In The Sexual Century. Yale University Press, 1999: 347-366.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press, 2002: 30, 45-8, 51, 70, 98, 102-4, 106, 107, 108-9, 112, 113, 117-8, 120, 121, 123, 124, 133-4, 153, 154-5, 156, 165, 175-6, 189, 211, 214-7, 219, 222, 223, 225, 241-2, 256, 279-280, 297n100.
  • Richard Green. "The Three Kings: Harry Benjamin, John Money, Robert Stoller". Archives of Sexual Behavior, 38, 2008: 610-613. 

09 October 2012

Harry Benjamin. Part 3: transsexualism to 1966

Part 1: beginings
Part 2: rejuvenation
Part 3: transsexualism to 1966
Part 4: transsexualism since 1966
Part 5: rereading of The Transsexual Phenomenon.

Virginia Allen and her doctor husband first met Harry Benjamin at a lecture that he gave in Atlantic City in 1950. When she moved to New York two years later, she phoned him, and although he could not remember who she was, he went to lunch with her. Shortly afterwards she became his assistant, at first part time. He was in the process of moving to a smaller 'retirement' office on East 67th Street. She typed the many drafts of Prostitution and Morality. One day while rearranging his files, she asked about a small group by itself where each patient had both a male and a female name. He decided to pay more attention to them.

Benjamin, like everybody else, read about Christine Jorgensen in December 1952. He wrote to Louise Lawrence:
"The papers here are full of the Jorgensen case, the boy who went to Denmark to be operated on and is now coming back as a girl. I'll probably see the party when she gets home".
He wrote to Christine:
Dear Miss Jorgensen:
These lines are written to you in the interest of some of my patients and naturally also of those whose emotional problem nobody understands better than you do.
Frankly, I am worried over the effect your story and publicity may have in some instances. I had a few rather frantic phone calls and letters recently. Therefore, I would be grateful to you if you would tell me how you are handling the innumerable communications that undoubtedly came to you. Don't they all indicate hopefulness yet utter frustration ?
In my many years of practice of sexology and endocrinology, problems similar to yours have been brought to me frequently. I need not tell you how profoundly disturbed some of these people are. Naturally, they identify themselves with you. Can I tell them that you will answer their pleas with a personal note, a friendly non-committal form-letter perhaps, but—for psychological reasons—bearing your signature? That would help enormously. Or have you formulated another plan? Can I be of assistance? If so please feel free to call on me.
Most sincerely and earnestly yours,
Harry Benjamin, M.D. (Jorgensen: 190-1)
A meeting was set up at the home of Tiffany Thayer, the Fortean author. Benjamin became her endocrinologist and worked with her on the avalanche of mail that she had received from other transsexuals. Both she and Dr Christian Hamburger in Copenhagen referred patients to Benjamin. When in New York Christine would have dinner with Harry and Gretchen, and meet his other patients. In her honor he referred to transsexuals as cris-crosses (Person: 348).

Benjamin later summarized this period:
“While there was no way for me to help with any surgery or even a referral to a surgeon, some earnest professional attention to their complaints, psychological guidance, and cautious hormonal feminization went a long way toward making life a bit easier for them. In some cases, my efforts undoubtedly prevented attempts at suicide or self-mutilation - yet, by no means in all cases. These few instances of attempted self-castration by definitely non-psychotic individuals impressed me greatly. Their desperation as well as the entire clinical history with their vain search for help, often from childhood on, made me realize that the medical profession truly treated these patients as ‘stepchildren’. Educational and medical lectures and scientific publications were urgently needed. That became clear to me as I saw more and more the suffering of these tormented people. (Benjamin's Introduction to Green & Money: 3)”
In 1953 Benjamin, at the suggestion of Emil Gutheil, psychoanalyst and editor of the American Journal of Psychotherapy (AJP), arranged a symposium on transvestism and transsexualism. It was held at the New York Academy of Medicine: Benjamin read his paper, "Transsexualism and transvestism as psychosomatic and somatopsychic syndromes", and Gutheil and the others responded from their respective experiences and standpoints. This was the first time that Benjamin used the term ‘transsexual’. David Cauldwell had used the term, with one ‘s’, in a 1949 paper, and Louise Lawrence had introduced Benjamin to Cauldwell’s writings. “Whether I had ever read that article and the expression remained in my subconscious, frankly, I do not know”. The term had also been used earlier that same year in Ed Wood’s film, Glen or Glenda. In his paper, Benjamin argued that psychotherapy aimed at dissuading a transsexual is unproductive, and that the etiology is probably a combination of constitutional, psychological and hormonal influences. He identifies three types of transvestite: 1) the psychogenic transvestite 2) the intermediate type 3) the somatopsychic transsexualist. Gutheil reported that reprints of the paper were in unusually large demand, particularly by army doctors. By now Benjamin was getting as many new referrals through physicians as through other patients.

Tamara Rees like Jorgensen had surgery in Europe, arrived back in the US to media acclaim, and also became a Benjamin patient, and also received much mail which she answered by referring correspondents to Dr Benjamin.

In 1955 Frederic Worden & James Marsh published "Psychological Factors in Men Seeking Sex Transformation" in the Journal of the American Medical Association, wherein they described their five research subjects as having "an extremely shallow, immature and grossly distorted concept of what a woman is like socially, sexually, anatomically and emotionally", and dismissed their co-operation with the project as a "need for recognition", and concluded that the desire for surgery served as "an escape from ... sexual impulses". They also distorted what Benjamin had written. He replied both publicly and privately. In a letter to Kinsey he wrote: "Worden's sole interest is psychoanalytic research. He is not interested in helping any patients." Four of the five wrote to Benjamin expressing outrage at how they had been treated by Worden and Marsh.

By then Benjamin had met Virginia Prince, and helped her with “parental and marital problems”, put her on female hormones, and arranged for her to meet Christine Jorgensen. Prince came to consider him a personal friend. In 1957 C.V. Prince wrote a paper for The American Journal of Psychotherapy where she was introduced by Benjamin:  
"Dr Prince is known to me personally. I have met him in his male as well as his female role. I have had lengthy and stimulating discussions with him. He is highly educated with a fine cultural background."   
Prince presented three types of ‘males’ who may share ‘the desire to wear feminine attire’ (p82), that is homosexuals, transvestites and transsexuals. Much of that paper was recycled into Benjamin's 1966 book.

In 1960 Benjamin went to Chicago to give a legal deposition on behalf of a trans man, Tommie, who was attempting to change his birth certificate. Benjamin gave his usual explanation of the different sexes: genetic, anatomical, endocrine, psychological, social and assigned for rearing. The judge deferred to Benjamin's expertise. Benjamin wrote to Elmer Belt: "Isn't it encouraging, that occasionally we encounter an intelligent judge".

Hedy Jo Star, Patricia Morgan and Aleshia Brevard saw Benjamin in 1961, and were referred to Elmer Belt in Los Angeles for surgery, although Hedy then made other arrangements. In Aleshia's case, Benjamin even phoned her parents to explain. Ira Pauly was then at the New York Hospital, and having just seen his first transsexual patient, checked the scant literature that was then available and found Benjamin's name and address, and phoned to introduce himself. For much of that year, he attended Benjamin's Wednesday afternoon clinic.
"I never met anybody who seemed to care about his patients that way. It was almost as though they were all his family. How totally comfortable they were with him and thus with me, simply because I was somehow connected with Harry. During my previous 4 years with patients, I had always thought that it was important to achieve some professional distance from patients. Not to get too close was somehow the appropriate stance to seek vis-a-vis patients. Well, Harry showed me that was certainly not the case. He epitomized what I consider to be the ideal doctor-patient relationship. From that moment forward he was my model and I strived to achieve that level of comfort, intimacy, and caring that he so admirably demonstrated for me. (Memorial: 17)"
In 1963 Benjamin was invited by Dr Robert Hotchkiss, the urologist, to read a paper at New York's Bellevue Hospital. He also read a paper at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex (of which he was a charter member). That year Reed Erickson became a Benjamin patient and started transition. The next year he donated money to the newly created Harry Benjamin Foundation. The money from Erickson enabled a move to a larger office at 86th and Park. Benjamin began to share his practice with gynecologist and hypnotist Leo Wollman. Benjamin also worked with sexologist Robert Masters, endocrinologist Herbert Kuppermann and psychologist Wardell Pomeroy, previously of the Kinsey Institute.

Benjamin met monthly with John Money and Richard Green in New York under the auspices of Reed Erickson’s EEF, where the idea was raised of applying the kind of surgery being done on intersex patients to transsexuals as well. Green described his first meeting:
"I was introduced to Harry Benjamin by John Money. ... From 1964 to 1966, I would see Harry’s patients in his New York office on Saturdays. For some, I wrote letters endorsing sex-change surgery in Europe. It was unavailable in the U.S. In retrospect, this may not have been a safe step at the beginning of my psychiatric career. Harry seduced me deeper into transsexualism. At our first clinical day, he introduced me to a beautiful post-operative patient. She had been operated on by George Burou in Casablanca. She allowed me to conduct a pelvic examination. I was astounded at the excellence of the surgery. The three of us went to an elegant Manhattan restaurant. I have never had a companion who caught the eye of so many admiring, lustful men. This was not because she appeared as a sex-change. She was a genuine woman stunner. I still receive her Christmas greetings. She is still beautiful. (Three Kings: 610)"
In 1964-5 meetings with the New York Health Department failed to clear the way for re-issued birth certificates, however John Money, who was agitating to open the first Gender Identity Clinic in the US at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, brought three postoperative patients of Benjamin to meet with his colleagues, Howard Jones and Milton Edgerton. Also in 1964  both Jan Morris and Renée Richards came for their first visits.

Morris, who would hesitate for 8 years before finally finding her own way to Dr Borou in Casblanca, describes the encounter with Benjamin in her autobiography, Conundrum, 1974:
"The first person I met who really seemed to understand something of the predicament was Dr Harry Benjamin of New York, to whose clinic in Park Avenue, wearied by the struggle, I eventually found my way. Dr Benjamin was then in his sixties, I suppose, and looked like a white gnome – white-haired, white-jacketed, white-faced. He seemed too small for his desk, and he talked with a scholarly Viennese accent, like a psychiatrist in a film. "Sit down, sit down – tell me all about yourself. You believe yourself to be a woman? Of course, I perfectly understand. Tell me something about it – take it easy, take it easy – now, tell me, tell me ..(p49-50)".
Richards, who was still in the US Navy, and also avoided surgery until 1974, later described the meeting:
"When I met Dr. Benjamin, I think that all of my nervousness and anxiety disappeared. ... I was confronted by a short man who was balding at that time, who wore very thick glasses and who wore a tong white coat and shook my hand warmly and escorted me to a chair opposite him at the same level, seeing eye to eye, to speak to me in consultation. And he was, to my view, a physician that I was looking at and he treated me with respect, as an equal, as a patient, as someone in need. And for the rest of my relationship with him, that's the way he treated me. He asked me the age-old question, "How long have you had this problem?" And I gave him the answer that all transsexual patients give, "As long as I can remember." And he folded his hands in front of him and he said, "Yes, that's right, that's what transsexual patients say. He was making his diagnosis of true transsexualism. (Memorial: 22)"
++Benjamin finally published his book Prostitution and Morality, co-written with REL Masters.  The book has a few passing references to trans prostitutes, and unlike his 1966 book, does acknowledge 'homosexual transvestites'.

++Also in 1964 Benjamin published Nature and Management of Transsexualism: With a Report on Thirty-One Operated Cases.  

By then Benjamin felt that he had enough clinical material to write a definitive book on transsexuals.

Other sexologists who started new activities in their sixties: Harold Gillies was 60 when he first operated on Michael Dillon, and 69 when he operated on Roberta Cowell; Howard Jones was 68 when he left Johns Hopkins and started a new career in in vitro fertilization at Eastern Virginia Medical School; Herbert Bower was 60 when he, with Trudy Kennedy, initiated the clinic that grew into the Monash Gender Identity Clinic. 

Both Benjamin and Prince refer to each other in their writings. It is therefore odd that Docter's biography of Prince mentions Benjamin not even once.

07 October 2012

Michael Semeniuk (18??-1909) head-waiter.

Michael Semeniuk was head waiter at one of the most prestigious restaurants in Czernowitz in Austria-Hungary (Cernăuți in Romania after 1918, and Chernivtsi (map) in the Ukraine since 1944). He was well-regarded and popular.

In 1909 he fell ill. Neighbours summoned a doctor, but he met with such resistance when he attempted an examination that he had to leave without making a diagnosis. Michael poisoned himself overnight. Examination of the body disclosed that he was female-bodied.
  • Arthur Koestler & Norman Haire based on the work of Magnus Hirschfeld. Sexual Anomalies and Perversions Physical and Psychological Development, Diagnosis and Treatment : a Summary of the Works of the Late Professor Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld. London: Encyclopaedic Press, 1952: 223.

05 October 2012

Harry Benjamin: part 2: rejuvenation.

Part 1: beginings
Part 2: rejuvenation
Part 3: transsexualism to 1966
Part 4: transsexualism since 1966
Part 5: rereading of The Transsexual Phenomenon.

Harry Benjamin became intrigued by the burgeoning new field of endocrinology and joined the New York Neurological Institute. In 1920 there was enormous publicity about Sergei Voronoff of the Collège de France who rejuvenated old men by transplanting monkey glands. Benjamin thought to meet with Voronoff, and in 1921 had the opportunity of accompanying a female patient, all expenses paid, to Vienna. There he discussed the idea with Max Herz, the appropriately-named heart specialist in Vienna, who thought that Eugen Steinach of the Vienna Vivarium was the real pioneer in the field.

Steinach proposed that ligation of the vas deferens, while causing atrophy of spermatogenic tissue, would produce additional testosterone. This vasoligation, unlike the similar vasectomy, was done on one testicle only, and most patients reported increased vigour and sexual power. He also apparently did ‘sex changes’ on guinea pigs with castrations and gland transplants. Benjamin met with Steinach and was duly impressed. Also in 1921, Benjamin returned to Berlin for the International Conference for Sexual Reform on a Sexological Basis, and again met its organizer, Magnus Hirschfeld, and also his assistants and collaborators, one of whom, Arthur Kronfeld briefly psychoanalyzed him. Benjamin became Steinach’s US disciple.

Benjamin delivered a lecture on Steinach and his work at the New York Academy of Medicine in late 1921, and screened the Steinach film in 1923. In 1922 he  published two articles in medical journals. Benjamin performed over 500 Steinach operations in new York (unlike Steinach who never did the surgery himself), but many US doctors, especially Morris Fishbein at the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) violently opposed the operation as quackery.

Benjamin had many rich, powerful and famous patients, and himself became rich and a celebrity. He had a twelve-room suite of offices at 728 Park Avenue at 71st Street, (Google street view) and he lived in a deluxe duplex apartment with a sweeping marble staircase. He had servants and a chauffeur.

Along with Steinach, Benjamin pioneered an equivalent operation for women, diathermy, applied to one ovary, supplemented by x-ray treatment of the area. The prolific and celebrated novelist, Gertrude Atherton, then in her sixties, credited Benjamin’s treatment in overcoming writer’s block. She wrote the experience into a new novel, Black Oxen, 1923,with a renowned scientist-doctor who was a composite of Steinach and Benjamin. The novel was filmed the same year.

Harry married in 1925.  Six months later Harry’s mother, Bertha, came from Germany to live with them after Harry's father died. (Person:359)

Atherton continued as a devoted patron, and introduced Benjamin to San Francisco society. This led to his summertime practice in San Francisco that he continued for 37 years. Until Atherton died in 1948, his first dinner in San Francisco was always with her. Benjamin also visited Europe nearly every summer during the inter-war period.

Steinach arranged for Benjamin to meet Sigmund Freud. They both had had the Steinach operation. Benjamin mentioned his analysis with Kronfeld, but Freud regarded him as a ‘very bad character’. Benjamin made the joke that disharmony of the emotions may well be caused by dishormony of the endocrines. He also revealed to Freud that he had impotence problems with his wife. Freud leapt to the conclusion that Benjamin was a latent homosexual. As he regarded himself as a ladies’ man this annoyed Benjamin, and was the start of his deploring psychoanalysis as unscientific.

Charlotte Charlaque, who was one of Hirschfeld's patients, later claimed that she had visited Benjamin in his New York office and been advised to go to Berlin, but Benjamin did not recall this.

Benjamin gave papers again at a Hirschfeld-arranged conference, and at two conferences, the first in 1926, arranged by Hirschfeld’s opponent, Albert Moll on geriatric and potency problems. One of the latter conferences was in London, and Benjamin established a friendship with Norman Haire.

In 1929 Benjamin had dinner at the Algonquin Hotel with Ben Lindsey, judge and author of The Companionate Marriage, the night before Lindsay attended service at the Cathedral of St John the Divine where he was denounced and calumnied, and arrested for disturbing a church service.

Benjamin, Hirschfeld, Thorek - Chicago 1930
In 1930 Harry and Gretchen were largely responsible for arranging Magnus Hirschfeld’s visit to the US. In New York he stayed at their home and gave 'private lectures' in Benjamin's office. Benjamin continued with him to Chicago where Max Thorek, also a Berlin emigrant, was the host. In 1933 Benjamin attempted, unsuccessfully, to organize a congress of the World League for Sexual Reform in Chicago.

Benjamin was one of the few doctors to speak up in favor of prostitutes in this period. He also used his good relationships with prostitutes to arrange therapy for inhibited young men who could not otherwise function. This was many years before Masters and Johnson contemplated doing the same thing.

Benjamin’s private practice with wealthy patients continued paying very well until the late 1930s. Benjamin was also the consulting endocrinologist at City College in New York. However new physicians were also offering the same services, and, ironically, Benjamin had arranged financing from his wealthy patients for Casimir Funk, the Polish biochemist, then in Paris, who first isolated androgen from human urine. Benjamin was one of the first to inject himself with the extract. From then androgen treatments would replace the Steinach operation. In addition psychoanalysis was becoming the fashionable alternate treatment.

In 1937 Benjamin visited Havelock Ellis at home in London, only two years before Ellis died.

One of Benjamin’s patients was Otto Spengler, who had been featured as an example of a transvestite in a 1913 paper by Bernard Talmey. However only in 1938, while treating him for arthritis, did Benjamin realize that he was a transvestite. At Spengler’s request he prescribed the new German drug Progynon and x-ray sterilization of the testicles.

Vienna, March 1938
Benjamin was in Vienna on 12 March 1938 when German troops arrived to enforce the Anschluss. Steinach and his wife happened to be in Switzerland at that date, and wisely chose not to return home.

The gynecologist and hiker Robert Dickinson knew Benjamin and in 1945 he introduced him to Alfred Kinsey . Three years later Kinsey and Benjamin were both staying at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Kinsey had encountered the person later referred to as Sally Barry, who had a strong desire to be a women, and asked Benjamin to examine her. The mother wished to help rather than punish her child. Benjamin realized that this was a different condition to ‘transvestism’ which was the only classification then in use. He prescribed the newly available estrogen, and helped arrange for Sally and her mother to go to Germany for surgery, but then lost contact.

The next year, 1949, Kinsey sent the married couple Barbara and Lauren Wilcox who were both advanced in their transitions. Benjamin became their hormone provider and later introduced them to Elmer Belt for surgery. Then Kinsey introduced transvestite organizer Louise Lawrence who had been working with Karl Bowman at the Langley Porter Clinic. She informed Benjamin about David Cauldwell’s earlier writings on the topic. She introduced him to other trans women, including Bambi and Coccinelle in Paris.

In 1951 a new patient, Frank, arrived. He thought that he was sick to have transvestic urges, and equivocated for 20 years. Benjamin at first counselled him himself, and then referred him to the psychotherapist Albert Ellis. Benjamin and Ellis also co-wrote an article on prostitution that year.

In 1952 Norman Haire visited New York and was honored in Benjamin’s office. Shortly afterwards he was taken ill with heart problems, and had to be hospitalized. Benjamin and Kinsey together visited him in hospital. He died a few months later back home in London.

Benjamin was now 67 years old and about to launch a new career.

When did Benjamin become a US citizen? When he travelled in Germany and Austria in the 1930s, did he use a German or a US passport?

More on Voronoff. His second wife was Evelyn Bostwick, the mother of transman Joe Carstairs, the power boat racer. Voronoff would validate his claims to rejuvenation in 1934, at the age of 68, by marrying his third wife, the 20-year-old Gerti Schwartz, related to Romanian royalty.

Harry was 40 when he married Gretchen, two decades younger. From her name one would assume a probability that she was of German descent. Harry described himself to Ethel Person as a 'ladies' man', however the only previous actual girlfriend mentioned in the accounts that I have read was the one who introduced him to Kriminal-Kommissar Dr Kopp, and her name remains unknown. Ethel Person (p359) summarized what he told her: "But there was blight in his life, both romantic and sexual.  He describes his love life as always tragic, beginning from the time he was fifteen and fell in love with a thirty-year-old actress.  It was love at a distance since she was engaged to a German officer.  His second great love was a lesbian, a musical comedy star, and their relationship lasted ten years with never a kiss.  He describes  himself as having long relationships and staying in love with hopeless cases. He married Gretchen, a woman he never fell in love with but whom he felt responsible for."  There are other hints about Harry's private life: Ihlenfeld told Person that Gretchen had told him that after Harry's mother came to stay, "their bedroom door remained open" (again p359). Green told Meyerowitz that some patients and colleagues knew that Harry had a fetish for long hair on women (p217). Unlike Freud I will not draw any conclusions.  Unlike many marriages contracted upon love, the Benjamins remained married 61 years until Harry's death.

In both the First and the Second World War the US interned German citizens and German-Americans. Benjamin doesn't seem to have encountered this.

In Richard Docter's book on Christine Jorgensen, Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco has become the St Francis Hotel. !!

By tradition the hereditary part of Judaism is passed via the mother and thereby Benjamin was not Jewish. However to the Nazis he would have been, from his father's origins, certainly Jewish. Benjamin had two younger siblings, Walter and Edith, who lived till their nineties. Were they in Germany in the Nazi period? Did they follow him and their mother to New York? The accounts that I have read did not even ask this question. And what about other relatives on his father's side? Did they flee or die? We know about Erich Benjamin, mentioned in the notes to Part 1, who did flee to the US, although we don't know if he was related.

Neither de.Wikipedia nor en.Wikipedia on Eugen Steinach care to mention his US disciple.

01 October 2012

Harry Benjamin (1884 - 1986) endocrinologist, gerontotherapist, sexologist. Part1: beginings.

Part 1: beginings
Part 2: rejuvenation
Part 3: transsexualism to 1966
Part 4: transsexualism since 1966

See also:
a rereading of The Transsexual Phenomenon
Harry Benjamin's other books
The other Harry Benjamin
Benjamin's first 10 patients: a disambiguation 

Harry Benjamin was born in Berlin, the eldest of three children. His father, Julius Benjamin, was a prosperous stockbroker, initially Jewish, who had converted to Lutheranism, and Harry was raised in the latter, and his family never spoke about sex. From early childhood, Harry wanted to be a doctor. His parents were among the first to own a phonograph, and he developed a passion for opera that he retained all his life.

He attended the Königliches Wilhelm Gymnasium, where half the students were from the nobility. The non-Jewish students thought that Benjamin was Jewish, and the Jews though that he was a goy. He changed school at 15, and so did not acquire the duelling scars that distinguished the graduates of the Wilhelm Gymnasium.

Benjamin in Prussian Guard uniform, with his mother.
He had a crush on the opera singer Geraldine Farrar, whom he saw at the Royal Opera House, and even danced with her once. He attached himself to the house physician of one of the opera houses and thus came to be acquainted with the opera stars of the period, and on one occasion examined Enrico Caruso’s throat. He did pre-medical studies in Berlin and Rostock, and served in the Prussian Guards.

In 1905, at the age of twenty, Harry read the newly published Die sexuelle Frage. Eine naturwissenschaftliche, psychologische, hygienische und soziologische Studie für Gebildete (The Sexual Question) by the Swiss sexologist Auguste-Henri Forel. This book confirmed for him that existing concepts of sex were wrong and unscientific, and could indeed be questioned.

A girlfriend introduced Benjamin to Kriminal-Kommissar Dr Kopp, the Berlin police official for sexual offences, who took both him and Magnus Hirschfeld to the Eldorado bar and other gay and drag bars in Berlin.

Benjamin completed his studies in medicine in 1912 at Tűbingen, Baden-Württemberg, with a dissertation on tuberculosis. He did a year of post-graduate work and met Carl Ludwig Schleich, the poet and surgeon who developed local anaesthesia. Schleich recommended that Benjamin become assistant to Friedrich Franz Friedmann who had developed a cure for tuberculosis of the joints by passing the tubercule baccilli through turtles. The results of his work were exaggerated in the press, and a New York banker offered a very large sum to treat his son in the hope that the treatment would work for tuberculosis of the lung also. Friedmann, his brother, Benjamin and a former Hearst reporter acting as secretary and press agent sailed for New York in early 1913 on the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie. After a media fuss, the good results proved to be transitory, and Benjamin refused to fudge the findings. He resigned and Friedmann refused to pay for his voyage home.

He found a lab job at a New York hospital, and was asked to go to Germany and report on the results of the Friedmann cure there. He was mid-Atlantic, again on the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie, when France mobilized on 1 August 1914, and the UK declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914. The ship was carrying $15 million of gold and silver for European banks, and so the captain turned back to avoid confiscation. The ship was interned at Bar Harbor, Maine, and the passengers proceeded by rail to Boston and New York, and the gold was returned to the New York banks. Benjamin was still officially a member of the Prussian Guard, but as he was stuck in the US for the duration of the war, he returned to New York, where he opened a medical practice, and where he stayed for the next 72 years.
How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press, 2002: 45-8, 297n100   ____________________________________________________________

The DE.Wikipedia article on Königliches Wilhelms-Gymnasium does not list Harry Benjamin among its outstanding students, but does list an Erich Benjamin (1880-1943), a pediatrician and psychologist who died in Baltimore. One wonders if they were cousins?

Person, Matte and Meyerowitz say that Benjamin was raised as a Lutheran. Previous EN.Wikipedia article alone says that he was raised as an Askenazi Jew. It gives no citation to support this claim.

"Harry” is of course an English rather than a German name. DE.Wikipedia has an article on the name: "Harry ist ein englischer männlicher Vorname", and actually lists two Germans with the name: an East German bureaucrat and an economist (but not Benjamin).

Benjamin told Erwin Haeberle that his ship in 1914 was arrested and taken to the UK, and that he was permitted "with my last dollars" to return to New York. This is repeated in most accounts about Harry Benjamin. However he told Ethel Person that he sailed on the SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie. This ship is well documented in Wikipedia and elsewhere in that litigation of many years followed its internment in Bar Harbor. This ship definitely was not taken to the UK. He gave a third version to Leah Schaefer where he didn't even get on a ship: "However, he did not have enough money to return to Germany and, as Harry said, 'that was the luckiest thing because it forced me to remain in the United States, thereby avoiding two wars in Germany, plus the depression and most importantly of all, Hitler.' (Memorial:13)"
One presumes that Benjamin, being educated at elite schools in Germany, learned his excellent English there. However this is not confirmed.
Haeberle: How did you get a foothold in America?
Benjamin: At first, it was not easy. After various attempts, in 1915 I simply opened a consultation room, in which I also slept. My income was not substantial: $ 2 for a consultation, $ 3 for a house call. The rent was $ 6 per week.
Really. Was it that simple? Did New York State not require a doctor to obtain a license, and to demonstrate proficiency in English?