Harry Benjamin (1885-1986)
In mid-20th-century North America, the predominant medical opinion was that people who wished to change their genders were suffering from mental delusions and should not be accommodated in any way.
As an early ally, Dr. Harry Benjamin was at odds with his medical contemporaries when it came to how to treat Trans+ patients. Released in 1966, The Transsexual Phenomenon was the first book to suggest affirming transgender patients’ identities through the use of hormones and surgeries. Dr. Benjamin’s work would go on to influence how medical practitioners approached transgender health. His role as a pioneer would see him treating many early Trans+ people and connecting with even more.
While written as a medical textbook, The Transsexual Phenomenon quickly gained an audience among the fledgling Trans+ community, hungry for any information they could find. This edition was reprinted with funds from Ariadne Kane’s Human Outreach and Achievement Institute.
Dr. Benjamin quickly became an epicentre of early Trans+ networks. His work caught the attention of many Trans+ people looking to receive treatment, or who wanted to be put in touch with other Trans+ people.
Listen to pioneering computer scientist and engineer Lynn Conway discuss how she reached out to Harry Benjamin.
Conway was fired from her job at IBM in 1968 because of her decision to transition. She later rebuilt her career, producing innovations that led to an important development in microchip design that was foundational in bringing about the “microchip revolution.”
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