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"Word of Mouth" How The Trans+ Community Found Itself

Reed Erickson (1917-1992)

Reed Erickson and Aileen Ashton Erickson's Wedding Photo (March 24,1966)

As a successful businessman, trans man Reed Erickson had the means to invest in areas that interested him, including many aspects of Trans+ life. Through his self-funded philanthropy, the Erickson Educational Foundation, Erickson was able to support a vast array of the public education, activism, and research projects that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. Among them were the work of Harry Benjamin; the opening of the first Gender Clinic in North America; many educational publications, films, public talks, and media appearances; and the first three conferences of what would later become the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH).

Despite his significant role in Trans+ activism, and because of his tendency to stay out of the public eye, his legacy would fall out of memory for many years until his role in building Trans+ acceptance was brought to light by the work of Dr. Aaron Devor.

ONE Inc 30th Anniversary Book (1982)

Reed Erickson had a long relationship with the homophile organization ONE Inc., from 1964 to the mid-1980s. Erickson guided ONE Inc. to set up a non-profit organization, the Institute for the Study of Human Resources (ISHR), to which he donated funds that allowed ONE Inc to focus on both educational and advocacy efforts.

The term homophile was used throughout the 1950s and 1960s by organizations supporting sexual minorities. Efforts made by these groups are often referred to as the “homophile movement.”

Some of Reed Erickson's New Age Interests

Erickson had a lot of interests beyond Trans+ issues. He was also a major proponent and funder of many New Age ventures. These included funding research into homeopathy, John Lilly’s dolphin communication studies, and the publication of the first edition of A Course in Miracles.


Reed Erickson had some unusual tastes. One was in his choice of animal companions. Erickson had a pet leopard named Henry with whom he was very close.

Reed Erickson and Henry at their home in Baton Rouge (1980s)

Henry lived with Erickson for twenty years, in his homes in the United States and in Mexico, and was once featured in a 1964 front-page story in The Baton Rouge State Times.

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