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19 January 2016

Joy Shaffer (1955–) doctor.

Shaffer did a BS in biology at the California Institute of Technology. She was a college room-mate of Kay Brown. In 1979 Joy had transgender surgery.

In 1980 Mary Elizabeth Clark, Jude Patton, Joy Shaffer, Carol Katz, Dianne Saunders and Kay Brown founded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California Transsexual Rights committee, building on what Vern Bullough had done with the ACLU in the area on the 1960s.
Joy and Kay mid 1980s

In 1981 Joy started medical school, and had an MD from Stanford University in 1985. In 1995 Dr Shaffer founded Seahorse Medical Clinic in San Jose, California. She worked with Anne Lawrence, and introduced Lawrence to Kay Brown.

That same year she was quoted in an article in the New York Times on the brain research of Dutch researcher Dick Swaab which had made claims of a brain difference in MTF transsexuals. She said that Swaab's results corresponded to what she and her colleagues were finding using magnetic resonance imaging technology to scan brains.

Joy wrote the foreword for Transgender Care, 1997. Dr Shaffer was a member of HBIGDA/WPATH, the American College of Physicians, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.

The clinic in San Jose continued until 2005, and was a major resource for transsexuals in that area.

She emigrated to Aotearoa/New Zealand,  and worked at a rural medical clinic which served mainly Maoris.

Some accounts say that Joy was the 1st known trans person in medical school in 1981. There is equivocation around the word 'known' but James Barry graduated MD from Edinburgh in 1812; Mary Walker from Syracuse in 1855; Eugene Perkins in the 1890s; Madeleine Pelletier in 1903; Alan Hart from Oregon in 1917; Ewan Forbes from Aberdeen in 1944; Gloria Hemingway from Miami in 1964; Camille Cabral from Recife in the 1970s; Anne Lawrence from Minnesota in 1974; Robertina Manganaro in the early 1980s. However despite this list, Joy was still a pioneer.

Kay Brown in 1999 wrote: “Shaffer, in an as yet unpublished study, used MRI data from a large pool of controls, MTF and FTM transsexuals to demonstrate that the corpus callosum showed sexually dimorphic structures that, on a statistical basis, correlated with gender identity”. I presume that it was never published, in that I cannot find it in Google Scholar or WorldCat.


  1. I remember Dr. Shaffer. She eventually moved to New Zealand and took a job at a rural medical clinic which primarily served the Maori population.

  2. Have any contact info? I am past patient at Seahorse.

  3. Having corresponded with Kay via e-mail, it is correct that Joy currently lives in New Zealand, she is also now married to another trans woman, this information could warrant a trivia mention. Also her name is misspelled as "Jay" in the image caption.

    1. Misspelling in picture caption corrected.

  4. Shelley Marlow30/3/23 14:35

    I would love to be in touch with Dr. Joy Shaffer. She bought one of my paintings in the 1990s. An image of a half moon at night. I would like to buy the artwork back or at least get a photo of it. please email me at sfmarlow at mindspring dot com if you have a way to reach her.

  5. Allison, Gina, If possible, can you please pass on my contact info to Joy. I sold a painting to her in the 1990s. She may have not taken it with her to New Zealand. my email is sfmarlow000000 at gmail dot com

  6. The name of Dr. Shaffer's current spouse is Karen Sutton, who is also trans.


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