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25 January 2019

The Harry Benjamin Foundation in the mid 1960s


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 almost completed transition. He then founded the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), financed entirely by himself.

Through his foundation Erickson agreed to finance the newly created Harry Benjamin Foundation (HBF) for three years at a minimum of $1,500 a month. The money from Erickson enabled a move to a larger office at 86th St and Park Avenue. The foundation sought to enhance Benjamin’s professional status. Robert Stoller at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) had disparaged Benjamin in that he was not psychiatrically trained, and did not publish in the most reputable journals. Stoller politely declined to serve on the Foundation’s advisory board. Nevertheless Benjamin was able to use the Foundation to enhance his working relationship with other doctors and researchers in the field.

Meetings of the foundation were held in the office, mainly on Saturday evenings. The members conducted psychological, endocrinological and neurological tests on transsexual patients, and interviewed them before and after surgery, looking to prove or disprove any genetic, hormonal or neurological basis for the condition.


Those in regular attendance

Harry Benjamin

Of course. GVWW

John Money

Money had become head of the Psychohormonal Research Unit at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1962, and was keen on opening a Gender Identity Clinic.

Richard Green

In addition to attending meetings of the Foundation, Green also spent time in Benjamin’s office writing approval letters for his clients, and writing what became two appendices to Benjamin’s 1966 book. GVWW

Leo Wollman

Gynecologist and hypnotist, Wollman claimed to have seen more transsexual patients than Benjamin had. At this time they shared the practice, and worked from the same office. Wollman also ran a group session, the first Sunday of every month, near his other office at Coney Island. GVWW.

Henry Guze

Guze was a professor at the American Academy of Psychotherapies which he co-founded. He was also a co-founder of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex, where he was president 1964-6. He specialized in psychosomatic illness, schizophrenia and disorders of sexual behaviour, and was a hypnotist. He proposed a 4-part typology of transsexuals: 1) effeminate in structural appearance 2) trained early to adopt a cross-gender role, as among some Native American tribes 3) problems of self-identification, perhaps as a result of a psychotic process 4) latent or expressed homosexuals. He found fantasies of sex change and cross-dressing common among ‘so-called normal’ people but regarded the expression of such desires as markedly fetishistic. Guze died in 1970, age 51, of cardiac arrest. Obituary.

Ruth Rae Doorbar

Doorbar had published on sex offenders and sex within marriage in the 1950s. Her major work with the HBF was “Psychological Testing of Transsexuals” (Online), which found more trans woman than expected with high IQs. At a time when inter-racial couples were still illegal in some US states, her boyfriend was Jamaican, and she moved to Jamaica with him and became a pioneer in Jamaican psychotherapy.

Robert Veit Sherwin

Sherwin was a lawyer and co-founder of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sex. He was the author of Sex and the Statutory Law, 1949. He advised Benjamin and others on mayhem and other legal aspects of what they were doing. He published “The Legal Problem in Transvestism” in 1954, and a revised version “Legal Aspects of Male Transsexualism” was included in Green and Money, 1969. He died in 1979.

Herbert Kupperman

Kupperman authored Human Endocrinology, 3 volumes, 1963, and was known for his work on hormones in women. He was a pioneer in identifying the chromosomal sex of intersex infants.

Wardell Pomeroy

Trained as clinical psychologist, Pomeroy had been a major colleague of Alfred Kinsey, and they and Clyde Martin were co-authors of the landmark books Sexual Behavior in the Human Male (1948) and Sexual Behavior in the Human Female (1953). He moved to New York in 1963 and went into private practice as a sex therapist. He was known for his prodigious sexual appetite; while primarily gynephilic, he also went with men for balance. Later he wrote popular books on adolescent sexuality, that those who would ban books kept putting on their lists. He died in 2001 at age 87. EN.Wikipedia. Obituary.


And when they were in New York

Christian Hamburger

The Danish endocrinologist who had overseen Christine Jorgensen’s transition. EN.Wikipedia.

Walter Alverez

Alverez (1884-1978) was a prominent physician at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. After retiring in 1951 he began writing a medical column which soon became syndicated across North America. He was noted for his enlightened attitude to homosexuality. EN.Wikipedia.

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Benjamin met monthly with John Money and Richard Green and the idea was raised of applying the kind of surgery being done on intersex patients to transsexuals as well. Money took three post-operative patients of Harry Benjamin to meet his colleagues at Johns Hopkins. As the Gender Identity Clinic there began to coalesce, it was integrated into the work of the Foundation, which provided them with patient referrals. Reed Erickson’s EEF donated $85,000 to the Gender Identity Clinic over a few years, and Reed became quite friendly with John Money. He went to Johns Hopkins for a double mastectomy repair in 1965.

The Harry Benjamin Foundation similarly endorsed the gender clinic at Stanford University. The Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis was considering opening a Gender Identity Clinic led by Donald Hastings. Two members went to New York, met with the HBF and were able to examine patients of Benjamin and Wollman who had had surgery abroad. Their surgeon, John Blum, went to Johns Hopkins to observe transgender surgery.

Harry Benjamin's The Transsexual Phenomenon came out in 1966. Guze gave it a very positive review in The Journal of Sex Research. 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 performed by Jones. By now Stoller had come round, and after meeting with Benjamin described him to Green as “not only a good heart but plenty of good clinical data’.

The Harry Benjamin Foundation presented eight separate papers at a meeting at the prestigious New York Academy of Sciences on January 16, 1967, mainly considering etiology based on pre and post examinations of Benjamin's patients. Stoller flew in from Los Angeles and presented the first paper. Green returned from London. Stoller and Green presented papers based on research at UCLA. Kupperman, Pomeroy, Money, Doorbar, Wollman and Guze also presented papers, based on their work with the HBF.

Benjamin and Erickson had been having disputes, sometimes quite petty, about how the money was spent. In the spring of 1967 the EEF grant was reduced to $1,200, and in the fall – after the promised three years expired-- stopped entirely. Shortly afterwards, the Erickson Educational Foundation asked Benjamin to vacate the office that it was subsidizing.

There had been discussion that a book should emerge to embody the findings of the Foundation, but this was felt to be too narrow. In particular that would exclude the important work being done in Europe. The book, financed again by the EEF, eventually came out in 1969 as Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment edited by Richard Green and John Money.

Publications by members of the Foundation

  • Harry Benjamin. The Transsexual Phenomenon. Julian Press, 1966. With a bibliography and appendix by Richard Green.  A close reading.
  • Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, 29,4II, January 16, 1967.
Robert Stoller. “Etiological Factors in Male Transsexualism”. p431-3.
Herbert S Kupperman, “The Endocrine Status of the Transsexual Patient”. p434-9.
Richard Green. “Physician Emotionalism in the Treatment of the Transsexual”. p440-3.
Wardell B Pomeroy. “A report on the Sexual Histories of Twenty-Five Transsexuals”.p444-7..
John Money & Ralph Epstein. “Verbal Aptitude in Eonism and Prepubertal Effeminacy – A Feminine Trait”. p448-54.
Ruth Rae Doorbar. “Psychological Testing of Transsexuals: A Brief Report of Results from the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, the Thematic Apperception Test and the House-Tree-Person Test”. p455-62.
Leo Wollman. “Transsexualism: Gynecological Aspects. p463.
Henry Guze. “The Transsexual Patient: A problem in Self Perception”. p464-7.
  • Henry Guze. “Review of The Transsexual Phenomenon by Harry Benjamin”. The Journal of Sex Research, 3,2, May 1967: 183-5.
  • Richard Green & John Money. Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment. The Johns Hopkins Press, 1969. With contribution by Benjamin, Erickson, Money, Green, Stoller, Guze, Pomeroy, Doorbar, Hamburger, Wollman, Sherwin.

Other

  • Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 214-5, 219, 222, 223.
  • Richard Green. Gay Rights, Trans Rights: A psychiatrist/lawyer’s 50-year battle. 2018: chp 16.
  • Julian Gill-Peterson. Histories of the Transgender Child. University of Minnesota Press, 2018: 139-140.

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