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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. 

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