Leo Wollman lived almost his entire life on Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island, Brooklyn, except for his medical education in Edinburgh. He married in 1936, and he and his wife, Eleanor, frequently travelled back and forth to Scotland for a few years. Eleanor sailed home in September 1939 as war broke out, but Leo stayed in Scotland until 1942. ++They had two sons Arthur (1943 - 2019) who became a urologist in San Diego, and Bryant who became a mailman. Arthur in turn has a son who also became a doctor. In the mid-1950s Eleanor died, and Leo remarried and adopted his new wife's daughter.
Leo became a gynecologist at the Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn. He was also a hypnotist and interested in psychosomatic dentistry. In some newspaper accounts he is described as a psychiatrist.
|Wollman (right) at a Hypnosis Conference in Mainz, 1970.|
In the mid-1960s Wollman became an associate of Harry Benjamin, and they shared a practice. Wollman started running a group session where transsexuals could meet and exchange ideas and experiences. He also used hypnosis to determine whether a transsexual was authentic.
In Benjamin's 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomenon, Wollman is described as a "noted gynecologist and student of hypnosis". He is quoted and what he said is found at the bottom of this article.
In December 1966 Dr Carl Coppolino, anesthesiologist and hypnotist, was on trial for the murder of his lover's husband. The now jilted lover claimed that Coppolino hypnotized her into injecting her husband with succinylcholine which caused a heart attack. Leo Wollman testified that under hypnosis:
"It's impossible to have a subject do something they feel they are morally unable to do".Coppolino was acquitted, but four months later he was convicted of murdering his own wife by an injection of succinylcholine. He served 12½ years.
|WBI Boston 1968 with Dr Leo Wollman. Presenter Bob Kennedy|
Wollman contributed a paper on post-operative care of the neo-vagina to Richard Green & John Money's 1969 book, Transsexualism and Sex-Reassignment.
In 1970 he flew up to Toronto for the release of Dianna Boileau's autobiography. He rather dominated the event and predicted that transsexual women would be able to become pregnant within 10 years. At this time he claimed 110 sex change patients with only one case of regret. He estimated 5 male-to-females for each female-to-male.
In the early 1970s he was President of The American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine.
Lyn Raskin's 1971 autobiography, Diary of a Transsexual uses the pseudonym "Dr Len Williams" for Dr Wollman. He sent her to Dr Burou in Casablanca for surgery. A few years later Wollman's patients were having surgery in the New York area, at Yonkers Hospital, by plastic surgeons Benito Rish and David Wesser. Eventually both Rish and Wesser had their licenses lifted by the state medical board, although their work with transsexuals was not cited as the reason.
Another associate of Wollman was Garrett Oppenheim, a cis-heterosexual who had previously been a journalist on the New York Herald-Tribune. He then became a hypnotist and sex counselor. He and his wife sold counseling cassette-tapes, ran an organization for transsexuals called Confide, and published an associated newsletter called Transition.
In 1971 the Erickson Educational Foundation sponsored the production of a 28-minute documentary, I am Not This Body, which featured a discussion in the EEF office between Zelda Suplee, Leo Wollman, two trans women and actress Pamela Lincoln (who was purportedly seeking information about transsexuals). Suplee and Wollman had previously known each other through their mutual interest in hypnosis. Around this time Suplee introduced Wollman to the exploitation film director, Doris Wishman, who was interested in making a film about transsexuals.
In 1973 Wollman published an article advocating female circumcision as a cure for frigidity.
In 1977 Renee Richards was obliged to go to court to establish her right to play in women's tennis. Both her surgeon Dr Roberto Granato and Dr Wollman testified on her behalf. Wollman stated that he had treated over 1,700 transsexual patients and that
"It is his view that Dr. Richards should be considered a female... despite the fact that the chromosomes may appear to be that of a man, if she has the external genital appearance, the internal organ appearance, gonadal identity, endocrinological makeup and psychological and social development of a female, she would be considered a female by any reasonable test of sexuality."
From 1971 Wollman had been working with Doris Wishman (1912 – 2001) one of the very few female exploitation film directors of her generation. Their joint project/film first came out as Adam or Eve, 1971, but was later recut with additional footage and released in 1978 under the title Born A Man... Let Me Die A Woman. Cinematography was done by Casa Susanna regular Andrea Susan Malick. It was advertised, misleadingly, as: 'All true! All real! See a man become a woman before your eyes'. In a cross between a documentary and pornography, Dr Wollman, who reminds us of his MD, his PhD and his DD, shows us scenes where a transsexual explains that she will get a womb transplant and have a baby; dramatized scenes where trans women pick up men for sex; gory close-ups of vaginoplasty; dramatized suicides and self-castrations. Incorrect biological explanations are given, e.g. that homosexuality and transsexuality are both the result of incorrect development of glands. The film contains footage from Wishman's previous films, and has continuity errors. The credits are misleading: only some of the real trans women are listed; porn star Harry Reems (who did not know that he was in the film) is listed as Tim Long; porn star Vanessa del Rio is not listed at all. It was banned in the UK. Kleinhans argues that the reels are in the wrong order, and that Wishman "constantly undermines the doctor's discourse of tolerance with footage that presents transsexuals as freaks and staged episodes that exploit transsexualism for sensationalistic effect". However there is no record of Wollman disassociating himself from the film or complaining about Wishman's final cut. Wishman was quoted in Psychotronic Video 26.:
|Wollman in Let me Die a Woman|
“I found the transsexuals to be very sad and lonely people. Because of that, I paid them more than anyone else, to ease my conscience, I guess. I didn’t want to think that I was exploiting them, although I really wasn’t. They were all very happy to be in the film.”There is a paperback tie-in to the film by MJ Lucas (who may be either Wishman or Wollman).
In 1979 Rosalyne Blumenstein, then 15 but claiming to be 16, took the bus and train out to Mermaid Avenue to see who she describes as "a sweet little old doctor" who gave her a bottle of Provera. However she never went back.
Along with Paul A. Walker, Ph.D., Jack C. Berger, MD., Richard Green, MD., Donald R. Laub, M.D., Charles L. Reynolds, Jr., M.D., Wollman was a co-author of the first Harry Benjamin Standards of Care which was approved at the Sixth International Gender Dysphoria Symposium, San Diego,California, February 1979.
Dr Leo Wollman died in 1998, aged 84. His widow donated his papers and other material to Transy House which established the Wollman Archives of Transgender History and Culture.
The 1999 article by Teresi & McAuliffe claims that Wollman treated 2,800 transsexuals, and that he hormonally primed one of his patients to breastfeed his own child. The patient was still with her wife and they took turns feeding the child.
*Not the economist
- "Hypnosis in Weight Control". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 4,3,1962: 177-180. DOI:10.1080/00029157.1962.10401892.
- "How Prenancy Tests Work". Sexology: Modern Guide to Sex Knowledge, 31, March 1964.
- "Hypnosis for the Surgical Patient". American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 7,1,1964: 83-5. DOI: 10.1080/00029157.1964.10402397.
- "A Brief Note on the Origin of the Psychoprophylactic Method (PPM) in Obstetrics." American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 7.1,1964: 85-86.
- Quoted in Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. New York: Julian Press, 1966. New York: Warner Books Edition 1977: 161-2 Online at: www2.hu-berlin.de/sexology/ECR6/benjamin and at www.mut23.de/texte/Harry%20Benjamin%20-%20The%20Transsexual%20Phenomenon.pdf.
- "Brief statistics on female adolescents." Journal of Sex Research 2.1,1966: 25-26.
- "In contrast to the schizoid, the normal individual maintains his unity and identity through the strength of his impulses and feelings. The difference in the two conditions can be contrasted diagrammatically in terms of impulse formation and muscular activity. Collapse of schizoid rigidity plunges the individual into a schizophrenic." Fertility and Sterility 17.2,1966: 273-277.
- "Transsexualism: Gynecological Aspects". Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 29: 463, 1967. doi: 10.1111/j.2164-0947.1967.tb02280.x
- "Surgery for the Transsexual." Journal of Sex Research 3.2,1967: 145-147.
- "Abstracts of Current Literature." American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 11.2, 1968: 132-134.
- "Office Management of the Postoperative Male Transsexual". In Richard Green & John Money (ed). Transsexualism and Sex-Reassignment. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969.
- "Hooded Clitoris: Preliminary Report". Journal of American Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine,20, 1973: 3-4.
- "Female Circumcision". Journal of American Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine, 20, 1974: 130-1.
- "The Effect of Deviate Behavior on a Marriage". Osteopathic Physician, 41,5, 1974: 111.
- "Nonverbal communication for prevention of mental illness." Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry & Medicine, 22,2,1975: 51.
- With Paul A. Walker, Ph.D., Jack C. Berger, MD., Richard Green, MD., Donald R. Laub, M.D. & Charles L. Reynolds, Jr., M.D. Standards of Care: The hormonal and surgical sex reassignment of gender dysphoric persons. The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Inc. 1979. Online at: www.genderpsychology.org/transsexual/hbsoc_1990.html.
- With Erwin DiCyan, George Goldberg & Arthur Hastings. "Holistic approaches to oral health and dentistry". Health for the whole person: the complete guide to holistic medicine (1980): 333.
- With Laurence Lotner. Eating Your Way to a Better Sex Life: The Complete Guide to Sexual Nutrition. Pinnacle Books, 1983.
- "Coppolino May Take Stand: The Defense Rests". The Norwalk Hour, Dec 14, 1966. Online at: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1898&dat=19661214&id=TuogAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qW8FAAAAIBAJ&pg=4953,3405220.
- Kathleen Rex. "Canada's first sex-swapper asks for understanding: Doctor sees day coming when transplants will enable fathers to become mothers". The Globe and Mail. Sept 16, 1970.
- Lyn Raskin. Diary of a Transsexual, Olympia Press, 1971.
- Dianna as told to Felicity Cochrane, with an Introduction by Leo Wollman. Behold, I Am a Woman. New York: Pyramid Books, 1972.
- Michael Salem. How to Impersonate a Woman; A Handbook for the Male Transvestite. NY: M. Salem Enterprises, 1973.
- Jack O'Brien. Schenectady Gazette, 2 Nov 1973
- "Richards v. US Tennis Assn". Leagle, August 16, 1977. www.leagle.com/decision/197780693Misc2d713_1654.
- Doris Wishman (dir). Born A Man... Let Me Die A Woman. Hosted by Leo Wollman, with trans persons Leslie, Lisa Carmelle, Deborah Harte, Ann Zordi, and porn stars Harry Reem, Angel Spirit and Vanessa del Rio. Scientific and medical advisor: Dr Leo Wollman. US 78 mins 1978.
- M.J. Lucas. Let Me Die A Woman: The Why and How of Sex-Change Operations. New York: Rearguard Productions. 1978. The book that goes with the film. Leo Wollman consulted.
- Thomas Waugh. "Medical Thrills: Born A Man... Let Me Die A Woman". The Body Politic, 49, Dec 1978-Jan 1979: 41-2. Reprinted in The Fruit Machine: Twenty Years of Writings on Queer Cinema. Durham (N.C.): Duke university press, 2000.: 72-3.
- Dick Teresi & Kathleen McAuliffe. ""Male Pregnancy"Omni, 8, 1985. Reprinted in Patrick D Hopkins (ed), Sex/Machine: Readings in Culture, Gender, and Technology. Indiana University Press, 1999.
- F. Hodges. "A Short History of the Institutionalization of Involuntary Sexual Mutilation in the United States" in George C. Denniston & Marilyn Fayre Milos (eds). Sexual Mutilations; A Human Tragedy. Springer, 1997: 32.
- Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge, Ma, London: Harvard University Press, 2002: 214, 216, 222, 227, 252.
- Rosalyne Blumenstein,. Branded T. 1st Books Library, 2003: 70.
- Michael J. Bowen. " 'StrangerHer': The Peculiar Saga of Let Me Die a Woman". Booklet included in Synapse DVD release of Let Me Die a Woman, 2005.
- Tania Modleski "Women's Cinema as Counterphobic Cinema: Doris Wishman as the Last Auteur"; Chuck Kleinhans "Pornography and Documentary: Narrating the Alibi" in Jeffrey Sconce. Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste. Duke University Press, 2007:60-2, 112-4, 119.
- SJ Parker. Emails to Zagria, 22,28 September 2013.
What should we make of Dr Leo Wollman? Was he a second Harry Benjamin who helped almost 3,000 transsexuals on their way, or was he a hypnotist conman who associated with dubious practioners and took the patients whom Benjamin was unsure about. Or was he a mixture of the two. His involvement with Doris Wishman in producing a film that is best regarded as camp has not helped his reputation. Either way there were no eulogies after his death as there were for Benjamin. His publications are mainly short, and there is no biography of him.
The Carl Cappolino trial was in December 1966. 18 months later Robert Kennedy was assassinated, purportedly by Sirhan Sirhan. This assassination is frequently cited as a hypnotic subject being compelled to kill. Philip H. Melanson's. The Robert F. Kennedy Assassination: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover-Up, 1968-1991. S.P.I. Books, 1994 actually quotes Leo Wollman on the topic as ironic background while arguing for the opposite.
Female circumcision is, among other reasons, condemned in that it, far from curing frigidity, removes the clitoris and thus any possibility of sexual pleasure.
The Wollman quote in Benjamin's The Transsexual Phenomenon is:
"Before irrevocable surgery makes the transition from male to female physically permanent, it is essential that a psychiatric evaluation and a psychological examination be done. This is indicated for the protection of the physician as well as the patient. Also a period of observation under estrogen therapy to reduce libido and tension is recommended.
It is suggested, as an avant garde technique, that hypnotic progression might be an important asset in the true evaluation of the transsexual's needs and aspirations. This projection into the future may, in some cases, dispel certain faulty attitudes and provide the faltering future female with second thoughts before definitive surgery.
Following the preparatory estrogen hormone therapy to provide breast tissue and decrease the male libidinous feelings, the transsexual embarks upon a new life immediately after the surgical removal of the external male sexual apparatus and the creation of a functional vaginal sheath. Many varying surgical procedures have been divised and are being carried out with equivocal results. However, in those cases where medicine and surgery have successfully created a phenotypic female, the "gynecological" problems of the male-to-female individual merit special attention.
For this patient, patient understanding and gentle treatment are necessary. The most frequent complaint after the operation, excluding the painful convalescence, is urinary frequency usually due to a urethro-cystitis. Antibiotic treatment will effect a rapid surcease from the disquieting urinary signs and symptoms.
A rather unusual urinary complaint is the control of the direction of the urine stream flowing from the urethra. If the urethral opening remains high, the flow will run over the rim of the toilet seat. This messy condition may be prevented by adjusting the tilt of the pelvis to permit the urine to flow into the bowl.
Another common complaint is the inability of the transsexual (now a female) to consummate sexual intercourse. This may be due to many factors. Notable among these are 1) an artistic vagina, 2) a narrow introits, 3) a thin vaginorectal septum, 4) an insufficiently lubricated vaginal canal, 5) vaginal bleeding from the apex of the freshly scarred vaginal pouch after vigorous coitus.
Treatment for these aforementioned dyspareunic states will vary with the condition found. Simple hygienic measures, proper lubrication methods, new coital techniques, dilatation by means of a Kelly aluminum dilator or a bakelite Young's dilator or a solid plastic mold worn with a flattened superior surface to protect the urethral passage, and sensible advice usually meted out to newly-weds are some of the physical and psychophysiological treatments found effective.
Above all, it is imperative for the gynecologist to regard his patient as a "female" - as "she" so rightly deserves to be considered after the lengthy and costly efforts to become a physical female. A great deal of research is indicated by the medical and psychological investigators before more consistent help can be offered to these male transsexuals, now ostensibly functioning females. The Harry Benjamin Foundation is now actively engaged in a research program of this type."