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26 March 2024

Lyn Raskin: Part III - Comments

Part I: life until first visit to Benjamin clinic 

Part II: Transition

Part III: comments

If Lyn Raskin is still alive she will be 93/4.

One hopes that she did not come to a bad end, but overestimating how well ones passes and having sex with straight men is a dangerous game. We know of other trans women who were murdered in such circumstances.


January 1969-July 1970. That is certainly a fast-track transition. Several surgeons would not accept her as she had not done a 12-month real-life test – “capacity to earn, dress and live as a female” as Money put it. Burou did not insist on such.


I do not start referring to Raskin as Lyn until she started dressing as female. She gave the same name to her diary, which she addressed as ‘Dear Lyn’ – so it was confusing. In addition even after starting transition she was using the name Edward. It was Edward who contacted Christine Jorgensen. I use ‘he’ or ‘she’ to signify whether Raskin is doing whatever as Edward or as Lyn.


Irmis Johnson was a noted journalist. Much of her work can be found in newspaper archives, but there is no webpage – and especially not Wikipedia page devoted to her. There should be,


Reviews of Diary of a Transsexual are almost non-existent in either the press or in academic journals. The only one I found was by Una Nowling on the Transas City site. Una writes: 

"Lyn, as she writes of herself, is a broken person. She has no real career over the course of the book, stuck in the doldrums of being a multiply-failed scriptwriter and lyricist for the stage, living on handouts from her father and menial jobs here and there." 

In Los Angeles they speak of the Boulevard of Broken Dreams after the 1933 hit song, as many thousands flock to Hollywood with dreams of making it in movies, but only a few succeed. Two films that capture this well are Sunset Boulevard, 1950 and The Day of the Locust, 1975. Likewise there are many broken dreams in New York, London, Paris and Rome. The failed aspirant is an inevitable, indeed an integral part of show-biz. Lyn Raskin was part of this demographic. It is not an easy life.


In Joanne Meyerowitz's How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States there are two (only two) mentions of Lyn Raskin. On p162 in a paragraph about negotiations to reduce the cost of surgery we find: 

"In 1970, Lyn Raskin convinced Georges Burou to reduce his $4000 fee to $1500". 

And on p201 we find 

"The new trend in autobiographies continued in later publications, although none surpassed Take My Tool in pornographic content. In 1972 Olympia Press published Lyn Raskin’s Diary of a Transsexual, in which she, too, described her sex life as a gay man and later as a woman." 

That is all. Raskin's book is much more than that. Unlike Benjamin's other patients she gives little details of the doctors’ offices and the prices they charge.

Jeffrey Escoffier mentions Raskin in his Sex, Society, and the making of Pornography. He writes 

“In 1972, Olympia Press, the Paris-based publisher of erotic and sexually provocative books by Henry Miller, Jean Genet, William Burroughs, and Vladimir Nabokov, published Lyn Raskin’s Diary of a Transsexual, which described her sex life as a gay man and as a woman, after her operation.” 

That is all.


$20 for an appointment with Benjamin in 1969. Using this inflation calculator, $20 in 1969 would be $169 now. $4000 for surgery in 1969 would be $33,800 now; $1500 would be $12,700.


Raskin dismisses Dr Money’s requirement that she must “earn, dress and live as a female before undergoing irrevocable surgery” as ridiculous in that drag was illegal in New York State. Was it?

In March 1964, Felicity Chandelle/John Miller was arrested in New York near her home by an officer of the West 128th Precinct for a violation of Section 887, Subdivision 7 of the New York Code of Criminal Procedure which designates as a vagrant any person who 'having his face painted, discolored, covered, or concealed, or being otherwise disguised in a manner calculated to prevent his being identified, appears on a road, lot, wood, or enclosure'. The law dates back to the 1840s when farmers were disguising as 'Indians' to harass Dutch landowners in the Anti-Rent Movement. Despite having no criminal intent John Miller was sentenced to two days, suspended. This resulted in losing his job with Eastern Airlines after 25 years, because such behavior ‘signaled homosexuality’, even though an Eastern Airlines manager actually phoned Harry Benjamin and was reassured that the conviction in no way impacted on Miller's competence as a pilot.

In April 1967, Mauricio Archibald, en femme, having been to a masquerade party, was on a New York subway platform waiting for a train. He winked at a passing police officer who then approached and asked if he were a boy or a girl, Archibald replied: "I am a girl". The officer charged him as being a vagrant in violation of subdivision 7 of section 887. He was tried and convicted.

Section 105 of chapter 681 of the Laws of 1967, which repealed section 887, came into effect as of September 1, 1967, "provided that the newly enacted sections were not to apply or govern the prosecution for any offense committed prior to the effective date of the act".

However it was still the case that a bar or club could be closed and patrons arrested, simply because a single person, deemed to be cross-dressed, was present. The Queens Liberation Front was founded in 1970, and they campaigned and hired lawyers to de-criminalize cross-dressing in New York, which was achieved in 1971. The words "homosexuals, lesbians, or persons pretending to be ..." were also struck, thus decriminalizing gay clubs and parties. In addition, the still extant 1965 Anti-Mask: New York Penal Law criminalizing "the wearing of mask or disguises by three or more persons in a public place" was found inapplicable to those in drag.

On the streets before September 1967 and in bars and clubs before 1971 there were many trans persons dressing as who they really were. See my The four years leading to Stonewall – a New York timeline for a partial list.


In September 1969 Dr Rish spoke of a Dr Jones who required a record of cross-living before gender surgery. This was presumably Howard Jones at Johns Hopkins who did the operations on Phyllis Wilson and Dawn Langley Hall.


Many of us do not fit into the typologies that are proposed for trans women. Raskin was definitely androphilic, but as a late transitioner was not a Blanchard ‘homosexual transsexual’. She insisted that she was a Benjamin Type 6 - Transsexual, true, high intensity”. But she was not. A type six would not have done nothing for 16 years after being fed a line by the doctor in Miami. Raskin did not dress as female, did not seek out other trans women, did not seek out trans social activities, didn’t grow her hair in the late sixties when even men were doing so. She wrote: “I’ve always loved ladies’ clothing. I love the feel of silk next to my body. I've been wearing women’s panties for more than five years. They give me a sexy feeling.” (September 14, 1969). So did Cary Grant and Al Capone apparently – that alone does not constitute transsexuality.

I think that Wollman was right to initially assign Raskin as Type 4. After 16 years of not doing anything, the onus was on Raskin to demonstrate that she was trans.


Some of the trans happenings in New York in the 1960s that Raskin was apparently oblivious of prior to January 1969:

  • The opening and growth of Harry Benjamin’s practice with transsexuals.
  • Harry Benjamin’s 1966 book.
  • The opening of the gender clinic at Johns Hopkins
  • The fuss when the press discovered Phyllis Wilson, Johns Hopkins first trans operation.
  • Rachel Harlow winning the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant, 1968.
  • Siobhan Fredericks’ Turnabout
  • The Casa Suzanna events (although Raskins would probably have rejected them for their heterosexualism).
  • Darrell G Raynor’s A Year Among the Girls. (again heterosexualist)
  • The Lee Brewster organized drag balls for the Mattachine Society.
  • The drag performances at the Ridiculous Theatrical Company.
  • The Gilded Grape.
  • Female mimics magazine.
  • Carlson Wade’s She-male: the amazing true-life story of Coccinelle.

And in June 1969, The Stonewall riots.

However she does mention the Mattachine Society and The Boys in the Band – of which she read the script.


·         Joanne Meyerowitz. How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States. Harvard University Press, 2002: 162, 201.
·         Una Nowling. “Book Review – Diary of a Transsexual [Lyn Raskin]”.  Transas City. Archive.
·         Jeffrey Escoffier. Sex, Society, and the making of Pornography.  Rutgers Univerity Press, 2021: 171. 

25 March 2024

Lyn Raskin: Part II - transition

Part I: life until first visit to Benjamin clinic 

Part II: Transition

Part III: comments

Raskin was looking for a writer to write her biography, and a friend suggested Irmis Johnson, a noted journalist whom the Hearst company had sent to Copenhagen in 1953 to meet Christine Jorgensen. This had resulted in five consecutive weekly articles in the the American Weekly, actually written by Johnson but attributed to Jorgensen. Johnson expressed interest and even gave Jorgensen’s contact details. Raskin as Edward phoned several times starting the next day, and Christine told Raskin that her autobiography was being filmed. During this period Raskin continued attempting his theatre career as Edward. Wollman told Raskin that she should start to live in female clothes

In May Raskin got a reply from Dr Money at Johns Hopkins. Money said that “I had to prove my capacity to earn, dress and live as a female before undergoing irrevocable surgery” (May 3, 1969). Raskin and Wollman dismissed this as ridiculous as thry thought that drag was illegal in New York State (unlike Maryland – where Johns Hopkins is – where it was legal).

After feedback from possible publishers re an advance or not, Irmis Johnson bowed out from the project.

The next appointment at the Benjamin clinic was with Dr Benjamin himself, as Wollman would in future be seeing his patients at his Coney Island practice – although Raskin did visit him there to have a mole removed. Benjamin revealed that a) Wollman had her down as a “Type 4 – Transsexual, nonsurgical” b) the pills that Wollman had prescribed were not estrogen but Dilantin. In Jan Wälinder’s 1967 Transsexualism: a study of forty-three cases, he had reported finding an abnormal EEG in 28% of a group of transvestites and transsexuals, and that an anti-convulsive drug had led to a cessation of the desire to cross-dress in some cases. Benjamin had tested this on a few volunteers, but Wollman had prescribed surreptitiously. 

Raskin asserted strongly that she was a “Type 6 – Transsexual, true, high intensity” and that the Dilantin had not decreased her urge to transition. Benjamin asked whether Raskin would still want to become a woman if she could not have sex afterwards. Raskin replied: “I said I wouldn’t but I understand once the vagina is created you can have fulfilling sexual relations”. Benjamin gave a subscription for real estrogen. (May 3, 1969)

The visits to Benjamin were $20 and the estrogen was $3.75 for fifty capsules.

At a final visit to Wollman’s office in Coney Island to finish the warts treatment Raskin expressed her displeasure at being classified as a Type 4, and over the Dilantin.

Benjamin transferred Raskin to his new associate Charles Ihlenfeld, and Raskin went in for hormone shots every second week. Benjamin wrote a letter to excuse Raskin from jury duty. Raskin finally started electrolysis having found an electrolysist who would do it for $10 per hour (most charged $20), and also started to let her hair grow. In September she bought dresses for the first time, and tried wearing them in the apartment. She finally had her nose job with Dr Rish. She spoke to Rish re sex change operations, and he claimed that he did not do them, but mentioned a Dr Jones who required a record of cross-living. A week later she wrote to Dr Burou in Casablanca to ask his prices.

In her diary she wrote: “I have definitely decided against having any New York doctors perform the sex operation on me. They require you to come to their office and have a castration done there — with only a local anesthetic. Then a month later they complete the surgery in a hospital.” (October 8, 1969). 

Two weeks after her letter, she received an answer from Dr Burou: 

“I received your letter of October 9. The cost of surgery and 15 days of hospital is $4000. You must send it before you arrive to the enclosed address. [It was a Swiss bank.] If you can come with another patient I can do the two operations for $7000. I have not a brochure or the itinerary for transportation, but you can find that in any travel office in New York City. You have not need to bring many things. Only your clothes. You can make operation of breast implant here, but is necessary that the Doctor see you before — and difficult for me to tell you what is the cost of the operation.

                                            Sincerely yours,

PS. Please if you think coming in April send to me a confirmation for reservation.” (October 20, 1969). 

In November Raskin wrote back and said that she could afford only $2000. 

For the first time, through a common friend, Raskin met with another transsexual, and compared notes. In January 1970 Look Magazine had a feature on transsexuals. Raskin felt chagrin in that she had approached them a year previously – however Look specifically featured transsexuals who had already transitioned.

Finally Raskin started wearing female clothing outside, but only after make-up sessions and shopping with female friends. Edward told the building superintendent that his sister Lyn would be staying in the apartment. Lyn met several transsexuals at a party given by her electrolysist. She was doing electrolysis as much as six hours a week. A friend suggested Maurice GirodiasOlympia Press to publish Lyn’s autobiography. Girodias was in New York after being pressured out of Paris in 1963. Lyn presumably did not know of his practice of not paying his writers.

Both Lyn and Edward had a joint bank account, and the manager, citing a possible discrepancy, insisted that both Lyn and Edward come in together. (May 7, 1969)

Edward had met Zelda Suplee twenty years earlier in the town of Homestead, Florida. Lyn encountered her again as she was now the director of the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF). Zelda was due to return to Florida, and said that she would visit Lyn’s father and explain things – although when there she was unable to do more than phone him. Zelda, Lyn, Dr Wollman, Constance (who had met Lyn at their electrologist, and had recently returned from completion surgery in Casabalanca) and cis actress Pamela Lincoln (who was purportedly seeking information about transsexuals and ten years later would be in the film Tootsie) were in a 28 minute filmed discussion sponsored by EEF. By this time Raskin had a job as Lyn, working from home doing sales promotion for a music company.

Constance had reported unhygienic practices at the clinic in Casablanca. However she had a history of lying; Zelda introduced Lyn to Bonnie, also back from Casablanca, who gave a much more positive account, and had negative accounts of three friends who had had problems after gender surgery in New York.

In June one of Lyn’s aunts supplied a check for $2500 (which Lyn suspected actually came from her father). She wrote to Dr Burou saying that she could afford only $1500, and that a flight was booked. This was accepted. Only then did Raskin apply for a passport – as Edward as stated on her birth certificate.

Lyn Raskin arrived in Rabat, Morroco and then Casablanca July 7, 1970. Three days later all was complete. She returned to her apartment in New York. She still had appointments with Dr Ihlenfeld, and also with Dr Rish as she wished to increase her vaginal depth. Rish sent her to Dr Roberto Granato, who found the urethra and vagina infected. She was in Rish’s Yonkers Professional Hospital several times: for an operation on the urethra, to have her ears pinned, breasts implanted and a facial skin-peel. She started having sex with straight men, usually without mentioning her past.

Lyn’s book, Diary of a Transsexual, was published by Olympia Press in 1971. We don’t know if Maurice Girodias did pay any royalties. 

Later that year the agony aunt Ann Landers was on the tail-end of the Dick Cavett television show following a pre-op trans woman enthusing about designing her wedding dress. Landers felt that that particular trans woman was inauthentic, and resented having to comment on her performance. When Patrick M McGrady, Jr wrote this up in his 1972 book, The Love Doctors, he added a comment from Raskin as a footnote: “They should not have had that sort of person. Ann Landers had a perfect right to be upset. It was like having a guy in drag.”

Nothing is known of Lyn Raskin after that.

  • Roland Berg. “The Trans-sexuals: Male or Female”. Look Magazine, January 1970. Online.
  • I Am Not This Body, with Zelda Suplee, Leo Wollman, Lyn Raskin, Constance and Pamela Lincoln. EEF, US 28 mins 1971.
  • Lyn Raskin. Diary of a Transsexual. The Olympia Press, 1971.
  • Patrick M McGrady, Jr. The Love Doctors. Macmillan, 1972: 165-6, footnote.

24 March 2024

Lyn Raskin (1928 - ) aspirant playwright, bookkeeper, secretary

Part I: life until first visit to Benjamin clinic

Part II: Transition

Part III: comments

(Citation dates refer to entries in Raskin's book,  Diary of a Transsexual)

Edward Raskin, originally from Pennsylvania, was the fourth child of a father who became a Miami hotel keeper. He did an accounting degree at the University of Miami, where he was seduced by one of the professors. He then slept with many of the other students, and also with guests in his father’s hotel.

 In 1950 with dreams of making it as a playwright and lyricist for musicals, Raskin spent three months in New York before admitting defeat. 

In 1953 when the Christine Jorgensen story was in the press Raskin realized that she was more trans than gay, and went to see a doctor in Miami. The doctor said that Raskin was a perfectly developed male, and a sex change woule be possible only if she already had ovaries. 

Later that year the 25-year-old Raskin tried again to make it in New York. Shortly after arrival Raskin decided on the name ‘Lyn’ for her other self, and from then wrote her diary as if to Lyn. Edward left copies of his plays with agents and producers, and worked as a bookkeeper. There were false starts re producing his plays, but nothing came to fruition. Edward did get lots of gay sex, but was frustrated in that she really wanted to be made love to as a woman. 

“My frustration was not curbed by sleeping around as l have been doing, so I went to Bellevue Psychiatric Clinic for a free consultation with a Dr. Cassity, who I call Hopalong Cassity. He was always jittery, even when I was relaxed. I had about a dozen visits with him. He felt that of all his patients I was the one who accepted his homosexuality more than the others. Most of his other patients were latent homosexuals. However, he also knew my desire to be a woman. During my last visit, the receptionist said to go into his office, but the doctor wasn’t there when I walked in. They attempted to locate him, for he had just stepped out of his office moments before I arrived. They looked for him in vain. They never found him. I have a feeling he was an inmate in their psycho ward. He was probably nuttier than I was.” (September 24, 1955)

Raskin completed actor training at theatre school in 1964 but was unable to get cast as an actor. In 1966 he was working as a secretary. 

“l have been working as a secretary since last November. You know, it’s interesting being a secretary. I’m in competition with all women and I enjoy it. I feel more comfortable competing with women than I ever did with men. Being a part of the female world as I have been these past years, working as a secretary, I realize how much we have in common. I find I think very female. I envy their clothing.” (February 9, 1966). 

But the job lasted only a few months, although afterwards he did temporary secretarial work.

January 19, 1969 Raskyn ran into an ex-trick who told of a friend who was transitioning, and finally Raskin realized that the Miami gynecologist 16 years before may have been wrong saying that internal ovaries were required for a sex change. The next day Raskin phoned around and for the first time found out about Dr Harry Benjamin who had been actively aiding transsexuals since 1957. Benjamin’s secretary said that he was not practicing at that moment as he was writing, but gave Raskin an appointment for the next day with “Dr Len William” (actually Leo Wollman) at Benjamin’s office. This was shortly after trans philanthropist Reed Erickson had terminated his subsidy of Benjamin’s practice, which had therefore returned to smaller premises at 44 East 67th St. Raskin commented: 

“Walking into Dr. W.’s office today was like walking into a chamber of horrors. It is a Park Avenue address but it is a dingy office. You have to walk down a long dimly-lit corridor to get to his office. When I entered the waiting room several other patients were already there. It looked like a movie set for a quack doctor's office.” (January 21, 1969). 

Wollman approved Raskyn for the operation, and said that it would take a full year. Each visit to Wollman cost $15, the initial physical was $35, the urine/blood tests were $43, and the operation would be $750. After her next unemployment check, Raskin purchased two copies of Benjamin’s 1966 book – one for her brother, and started dreaming about selling an exclusive about herself to a magazine such as Life. She also read Christine Jorgensen’s autobiography. Being unemployed, Raskin was reliant on monies from her brother and father, and so had to explain what she was doing. They spoke to their doctor in Miami who could find no listing for Drs Benjamin and Wollman, and suggested tests at Johns Hopkins. Drs Wollman and Rish (whom Raskin had seen about a nose job) pointed out the long waiting list at Johns Hopkins, but Raskin wrote to John Money anyway. The long waiting list was confirmed by a two-page article in the New York Sunday News that a friend clipped and sent. 

·         Jack Metcalfe. “They Change Men into Women”.  New York Sunday News, February 9, 1969:106-7.

19 March 2024

Mikki Nicholson (1978-2014) Scabble champion

Mikki started playing Scrabble in 2005 after discovering the game online. By 2010 she was coming first in 
tournaments including the British National Championship, which provided her with £1,500 so that she could compete in Malaysia later that year. In 2012 she was the clear winner at the 4th European Open Championship held that year in Malta. She was ranked as the fourth best Scrabble player in the world.

Mikki was living in social housing in Carlisle, Cumbria (population 74,000), where she was receiving psychiatric treatment, and had spent time as an inpatient at Carlisle's Carleton Clinic. After she was discharged, she was supported by a psychiatric nurse. 

She was subjected to transphobic abuse, and hoped to move to Newcastle, a city where people are more accepting. However she was warned that she would probably not be eligible for social housing there and she could not otherwise afford it.

She ended her life by stepping in front of a train.

  • “Mikki does it again”. Being Drusilla, 9 12 2010. Online. Online.
  • “Mikki Nicholson is 2012 European Open Champion”. Scrabble Malta, 2012. Online.
  • “Transsexual Scrabble player crowned as British national champion”. The Guardian, 2 November 2010. Online.
  • Stephanie Linning. “Transgender Scrabble champion killed herself after daily stigma and abuse”. Daily Mail, 22 April 2016. Online.
  • Mikki Nicholson. Remembering Our Dead, 7 November 2014. Online.



Scrabble is one of very few sports that does not separate the genders.