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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 2000 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.

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