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26 December 2018

Two early pioneers in Los Angeles

Annette Dolan

Annette Dolan had been told by doctors that “there was no ‘help’ for me, and I accepted this [as] gospel”.  After the news about Christine Jorgensen in 1953, she consulted with Harry Benjamin who suggested that she go abroad for castration, after which a US surgeon would be willing to complete the operation.

 However she could not afford such a trip. She decided to perform the operation herself. She read medical texts and bought the appropriate equipment.  "I learned to ligate, suture and anesthetize. I studied the surgical procedure step by step and memorized its sequence”.

She presented her doctor with the successful result and in 1954 she went to the UCLA medical center for completion surgery with Elmer Belt. However she was disconcerted to see her confidential records left open on the business manager’s desk.

Annette sent an account of her self-surgery to Harry Benjamin and it was later published in Sexology magazine, under a different pseudonym.

In 1955 she participated in the Worden and Marsh project, and like other participants was angered by the way that they used her words to cast transsexuals in a negative light. She wrote to the Journal of the American Medical Association, Elmer Belt and Harry Benjamin as well as to Frederick Worden. “In general my words were twisted to suit their purpose.” She spoke of how she could sense the ridicule in their words.
  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 145-6, 157, 162, 166.

Tom Michaels

At age 16, in the late 1940s, Michaels, then still living as a girl, discovered the lesbian scene, and was initially elated to find other similar people, but then realized that they were not so similar. Michaels lived as a man, but then went back to living as a woman for a while.

As a man, Tom had difficulties being accepted, and for some years lived in a criminal subculture, the one place where he was accepted on his own terms.

Eventually he moved elsewhere and did a bachelor’s degree in zoology. He again reverted to living as a woman, and did a year at a medical school. In the mid-1960s he contacted Robert Stoller at UCLA and was able to start taking testosterone.

  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 143, 144, 195.

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