This site is the most comprehensive on the web devoted to trans history and biography. Well over 1400 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!

22 January 2022

Hertha Wind (1897 - ?) office worker, Hirschfeld patient

Wind was born in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, across the river from Mannheim, and was raised with the name Adolf. 

With the start of the Great War in 1914, Adolf volunteered for the German Navy, was first assigned in the trenches in Flanders, but was then transferred to the SMS Friedrich der Große, a Kaiser-class battleship which survived the war intact. After the November 1918 Armistice the Friedrich der Grosse and most of the other German Kaiser-class ships were interned by the British Navy in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, where the German Admiral had the fleet scuttled so that they could not be used by the British. The crews were interned on the islands before being returned to Germany. 

By this time Adolf had become an accomplished wrestler. After more time in the Navy, Adolf returned to Ludwigshafen, and found an office job with one of the companies that merged in 1925 to found I G Farben, which became the largest company in Europe and the largest chemical and pharmaceutical company in the world. Adolf also became well-known as a wrestler in the Mannheim area. 

In April 1923 Adolf married Elisabeth, and within two years they had two sons. In October 1928 Wind came down with a severe case of rheumatism that took months to get over. Afterwards Wind was a different person: 

“I started to take an interest in women’s clothes and dresses. I began to feel awkward at times when I mixed with my fellow men-workers.” 

Wind also took up knitting and did the family darning. Wind first wore female clothing at the Shrove-tide festival (Mardi Gras) as many men did. An attempt at suicide led to an explanation to Elisabeth. 

After an initial shock, Elisabeth was supportive and urged a consultation with doctors. Adolf spoke to the welfare department at I G Farben and they arranged a visit to Berlin to see Magnus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld confirmed that Wind was becoming a woman, explained that an operation was possible and Wind was sent home to discuss the issue with Elisabeth. 

At last, in October 1931, Wind entered a clinic in Frankfurt for the first of seven operations and an experimental hormone treatment. It was felt that Wind belonged in neither the men’s nor the women’s wards, and room was found in the children’s ward. For the first time in her life Wind took an interest in children and was even assumed by a visitor to be the children’s nurse. 

Afterwards, back home, there was a problem with the two sons in who this strange woman was. The boys settled the issue by calling Wind “Tante” (=auntie). Wind took the name Hertha, and was said to be the sister of Elisabeth. Hertha left I G Farben who gave her a pension. Her co-workers gave her a leaving present of a fur coat. 

The Winds had previously run a small food shop below their flat as a sideline. Now Elisabeth mainly served in the shop while Hertha did the domestic work. However Wind’s legal position had not changed. In 1937 she was called up for reserve training with the Navy. On arrival she was assumed to be Frau Wind who had called to collect her husband’s papers. By luck the former captain of the Friedrich der Grosse was in the building, and Wind was able to explain to him, and he got the situation put right. 

However Hertha’s paper’s were still those of a man. Her doctor urged her to stage a showdown. She went to the public baths in Frankfurt and attempted to enter the men’s section, showing her id that said that she was a man. The kerfuffle seemed to be going nowhere, but a few months later she did receive official permission to wear women’s cloths, and the next year new identity documents but as Fraulein, not Frau. And she became Frau a year after that. 

In 1940, in the early stages of the new war, Elisabeth and Hertha applied to adopt a baby girl. After Hertha took a four-month Mothers’ Course and gained a diploma, they were permitted to do so. 

One of their sons died on the Russian front. They lost their home and all their belongings during an Allied bombing raid. 

Elisabeth and Hertha divorced after WWII. In 1955 they were in the news when Hertha had proposed to publish her autobiography, and Elisabeth applied to a court in Mannheim in objection as it would impact on her privacy.

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I presume that Elisabeth won her case.   I could not find a statement to that effect but there is no book listed in World Cat for Hertha Wind.

Some sources refer to Hertha as 'Elisabeth Wind'.  It is possible that she took her wife's name, but is more likely that it is a reporter error.

In the 1930s one remained Fraulein until marriage.   In modern Germany, one becomes Frau on turning 18. 

There was another trans woman in Ludwigshafen: Liddy Bacroff, who was less accepted in the Third Reich and died in the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1943.

  • Ronald Clark. “Sex change secret out after 25 years”. The Sunday People, January 23, 1955: p1.
  • Hertha Wind & Ronald Clark. “My Life as Man and Woman”. The Sunday People, January 30, 1955: p3.
  • Ronald Clark. “His two sons began to call him ‘Auntie’ ”.The Sunday People, February 6, 1955: p2.
  • Ronald Clark. “ ‘He’ wins a Diploma for Motherhood”. The Sunday People, February 130, 1955: p2.
  • Eine lange queere Geschichte in Rheinland -Pfalz. Blätter zum Land Nr. 86:7-9. PDF.
  • “Ludwigshafen: Gedenkfeier zum weltweiten „Transgender Day of Remembrance“ “. Die Rheinpfalz, 20. November 2019. Online.
  • Zoe Playdon. The Hidden Case of Ewan Forbes: And the Unwritten History of the Trans Experience. Scribner, 2021: 97.

15 January 2022

The Offices of Harry Benjamin. Part II: after 1968

Continued from Part I

44 East 67th St

In 1968 Benjamin and philanthropist Reed Erickson had been 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.

It was back to 67th St.

Leo Wollman returned to his office on Mermaid Avenue, Coney Island, Brooklyn.

The Harry Benjamin Foundation wanted a book to emerge from their work, 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 Erickson’s EEF, eventually came out in 1969 as Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment edited by Richard Green and John Money.

Also in 1969 Benjamin recruited  Charles Ihlenfeld, an internist with an interest in endocrinology, mainly to cover the office during the summer while Benjamin was in San Francisco. Ihlenfeld learned on the job, and stayed on.



45 East 74th St, again between Madison and Park Avenues

Roberto Granato started doing vaginoplasties and phalloplasties and Benjamin and Ihlenfeld were pleased to refer patients to him.

In 1972 Ethel Person was introduced to Benjamin. He allowed her to interview some of his patients, and asked her to write a biographical portrait of him to be published after his death. She formally interviewed him to this end a dozen times.

Two papers by Person and Lionel Ovessey based on Person’s patient interviews were published, and came to standard psycho-analytic conclusions. Several of those who had been interviewed by Person were outraged. 

Ihlenfeld came out as gay in 1973. Benjamin was surprised but then became supportive.

Benjamin’s office was here until his retirement in 1975. Charles Ihlenfeld then took over the practice for a short while.



1 East 72nd St, at 5th Ave close to Central Park

In 1976 Wardell Pomeroy moved to California, and brought in Leah Schaefer as his replacement.

The practice was still open for existing patients. It was being managed under the aegis of the Orentreich Medical Group, a dermatology and hair restoration practice, also located at 1 East 72nd St. It was then still administered by Benjamin's office manager and assistant Virginia Allen.


223 West 22nd St, between 7th and 8th Avenues

Charles Ihlenfeld resigned in 1976 to begin a psychiatric residency in the Bronx, and Eugene Hoff took over. Hoff fired Virginia, the nurse Mary Ryan, and the physician Agnes Nagy, and pleased Dr Orentreich by moving the practice downtown to a townhouse behind the Chelsea Hotel.

Hoff transitioned to Jeanne and had surgery with Dr Granato in 1977. 

Leo Wollman had been working with Doris Wishman, one of the very few female exploitation film directors of her generation, and in 1978 they released Born A Man... Let Me Die A Woman, which is both a documentary and pornography.

Working with Connie Christine Wheeler, Leah Schaefer interviewed Harry Benjamin in 1979 about his history, 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.

The third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM III) 1980 added transsexualism for the first time, and subdivided it into asexual, homosexual, heterosexual and unspecified. Thus it was roughly congruent with the typologies proposed by Robert Stoller, Person-Ovesey and Virginia Prince. Furthermore ‘transvestism’ was defined as done by a heterosexual male. Again congruent with Stoller, Person-Ovesey and Prince. However to the chagrin of Prince (who had been insisting on a differentiation from fetishism) it was defined as done for sexual excitement.

By 1980 there were few patients left in Hoff's practice, and Hoff had already taken a job in a psych ward in Brooklyn. The next year she sold the building and moved away, first to Massachusetts and then California.

1980 the Yonkers Professional Hospital, where transgender surgery was done by Drs Wessor and Rish was closed down after a surprise inspection by the state.

Surgeon David Wesser who had done 200 sex-change operations, many referrals from Benjamin, was charged before a panel of the New York Department of Health in 1981, The panel was rigged and he was driven out of business.

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Harry Benjamin died age 101 in 1986.

14 January 2022

The Offices of Harry Benjamin. Part I: to 1968

Thank you to Ken Lustbader and the NYCLGBT Historic Sites Project who, with input from me and close research in New York’s medical directories etc, has compiled a list of all Harry Benjamin’s offices with dates - but not moving dates. Here I have added information about each site.

All photographs are from GoogleMaps and show buildings as they are recently, not exactly as they were when Benjamin was there.


See also my biography of Harry Benjamin:

Harry Benjamin's other books
The other Harry Benjamin 
Benjamin's first 10 patients: a disambiguation

and a close reading of The Transsexual Phenomenon

Part I:  intro and the Scale
Part II:  transvestites
Part III: trans women
Part IV: photos, legal, trans men, conclusions
Comments

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Harry Benjamin arrived in New York early 1913 as 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. 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.

As a medical student in Berlin and Rostock Benjamin had served in the Prussian Guards, and was still a reserve member. Thus when war broke out in August 1914, he should have returned to Germany and reported for duty. Benjamin gave out three different accounts of how he did not return.

1069 Madison Avenue, at East 81st St

Erwin 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.

Wages in 1914 New York were 50-75 cents/hour. So you had to work about three hours to visit the doctor for 10 minutes - more if you were a woman.

Benjamin had applied for US citizenship by 1916. The process took 5-7 years. While not completed, the application helped him avoid being hounded as an enemy alien when the US joined the Great War in 1917.



237 Central Park West, at W 83rd St


By 1920 Benjamin was in a larger suite on the other side of Central Park, and across from the Park. 

1940
His father died in 1920, and he became a US citizen in 1921.

He 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’s method was ligation of the vas deferens, which, while causing atrophy of spermatogenic tissue, produced additional testosterone. Most patients reported increased vigour and sexual power. Benjamin met with Steinach and was duly impressed. 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),

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 for overcoming her 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.

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.

239 West 75th St, west of Broadway


1940
237 Central Park West was demolished and replaced by a new building 1925-6.

He and Greta had recently married. Six months later Harry’s mother, Bertha, came from Germany to live with them as she was now a widow.

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 lectures in Benjamin's office.







728 Park Avenue, at 71st St, between E 70 and E 71st Sts


The marquee outside says 730, but the property has alternate addresses: 726-728 Park Ave, 48-50 E 71st
1939

St.

By 1935 Benjamin had many rich, powerful and famous patients, and himself became rich and a celebrity. He had a twelve-room suite of offices and he lived in a deluxe duplex apartment with a sweeping marble staircase. He had servants and a chauffeur. He was at this location for 20 years.

Benjamin was introduced to Alfred Kinsey in 1945. They both often stayed at the same hotel in San Francisco. Kinsey brought pioneer trans persons Sally Barry, Barbara and Lauren Wilcox and Louise Lawrence to Benjamin.

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.

In 1952 Norman Haire visited New York and was honored in Benjamin’s office.

In 1953 Benjamin met the now famous Christine Jorgensen and became her endocrinologist.

He also met Virginia Prince and became her endocrinologist.




125 East 72nd St, at Lexington Avenues

By 1956 Benjamin had moved to a smaller ‘retirement office”.










44 East 67th St, between Madison and Park Avenues

125 East 72nd St did not work out and by 1957 Benjamin had moved again. Virginia Allen 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.

In 1961 Ira B Pauly at Cornell Medical Center discovered Benjamin and his practice, and for much of a year, he attended Benjamin's Wednesday afternoon clinic for transsexuals. He set out to aggregate 100 cases from the literature and from among Benjamin’s patients. He completed "Male Psychosexual Inversion: Transsexualism. A Review of 100 Cases" in 1963, but it was not published until 1965.






1045 Park Avenue at 86th St

In 1963 philanthropic trans man Reed Erickson became a Benjamin patient and started transition. Money from Erickson enabled a move to a larger office at 86th and Park.

The next year he donated money to the newly created Harry Benjamin Foundation. They met in the new office mainly on Saturday evenings.

Benjamin began to share his practice with gynecologist and hypnotist Leo Wollman. Benjamin also worked with sexologist Robert Masters, endocrinologist Herbert Kuppermann, psychologist Wardell Pomeroy, previously of the Kinsey Institute, and Richard Green who wrote letters endorsing sex-change surgery in Europe for some patients. John Money, who was keen on opening a Gender Identity Clinic, was a frequent visitor.

The Harry Benjamin Foundation was integrated with the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic, endorsed the gender clinic at Stanford University and met with doctors from Minneapolis who were about to open their own gender clinic.

In 1964 Harry 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.

In 1966 Benjamin's The Transsexual Phenomenon was published, and became the seminal work on the subject.  See here for a close reading.

By 1968 Benjamin and Reed Erickson were increasingly in disagreement, mainly over money and who was to decide what.

Continued in Part II.



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Some of these addresses are quite expensive. Which partially explains Benjamin’s high fees.

The following information for 730 Park Avenue is taken from realtor PropertyShark:

Built 1928
42 units
192,445 square feet
assessed market 2022 value $29,651,850.00.
property tax 2022 $3,111,483.00.

10 January 2022

This and that

I have updated my 4-part Index to the end of December 2021. 


I have also added to my Books Online and Writings on Other Topics, so they may repay a revisit.

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I am constantly getting comments posted that are in effect adverts in that they have links to sites for doctors, beauty parlors and whatever.  Of course I never release these comments.

Some readers do not seem to understand that this site is moderated, in that they post the same comment two or three times, presumably expecting their comment to appear immediately.   Of course it will not appear until I read and approve it.


Immediately above the box where you can enter comments you find:  "Comments that constitute non-relevant advertisements will be declined, as will those attempting to be rude. Comments from 'unknown' will also be declined. Repeat: Comments from "unknown" will be declined, as will anonymous comments."   Amazingly I get comments from "unknown" almost very day.   I only rarely release comments from "unknown" - if they are otherwise signed or if they have essential information.   It is important to distinguish one commenter from another - are both from the same person? etc.    My policy is clearly stated.    It is unfortunate that Google stopped accepting OpenID (Yahoo, MySpace, Facebook etc).   However you still have two real choices.  Either use your Google ID (if you have one and have not denied access) or simply enter a name, any name, your real name or a pseudonym.    

Please stop posting as "unknown".

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Every now and then I get a comment asking either the person being profiled, or some one who has previously commented, to get back to the new commenter   -- but not giving an email address, a Facebook page, a Twitter ID or any other way that the new commenter could be reached.  !!!

Some ask another to get back to them while posting as "unknown" - yes really.

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This encyclopedia was started in 2008, almost 14 years ago.   So inevitably there are dead links that no longer work.   Sometimes I spot one and clean it up as well as I am able.   Sometimes I do this by a direct link to the Internet Archive.    One of the neat features of the Brave browser is that it automatically offers to search the Internet Archive for the link.    In other browsers one can get the same effect by installing the Wayback Machine (Internet Archive) extension.   I recommend that extension to all readers.