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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.

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