Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Debunking some myths about Harry Benjamin

Whomever bothers to read my silly blog knows I have a special place for Harry Benjamin in my heart so I feel I need to debunk some of the myths surrounding Harry and many of the issues perceived as negative for an era thankfully long since gone.

It would be easier if everyone just sat down and took the time to actually read The Transsexual Phenomenon but when people have agendas why bother with the facts.

  1. Harry Benjamin did not understand or treat the FTM transsexual. In point of fact he was the first person in the US to actually give a damn about them and in the book he mentions he had 13 FTM patients. He prescribed testosterone and cared for them like he cared for everyone else with a warm understanding heart.
  2. Harry Benjamin dealt primarily with young effeminate or feminine transsexuals and did not understand the late transitioner. Read his book. The majority of the 152 MTF transsexuals he treated were late transitioners. He didn't care if you were 14 or 55.
  3. Benjamin did not understand or support MTF transsexuals that were attracted to women or lesbian. Read the book carefully. He fully understood the differences between gender identity and sexual preference. He was as at ease with me and my boyfriends as he was with my friend and her girlfriends. He just wanted to see us happy.
  4. The transsexual had to pass for Harry to recommend surgery. Read the book.He had many heartbreaking cases and he mentions several. It was the surgeons and the hospitals that were the issue.
  5. Harry thought our problems were psychological. Read the book.  Harry was an Endocrinologist and believed something happened in the endocrine system like maybe a hormone wash. In several places he thought it might even be sort of an intersex condition. He debunked people like John Money and I know because I was on a TV show with both of them. He knew Freud and even Freud believed this is not a mental illness.
  6. The Standards of Care were Harry's idea. Harry believed everyone was different and the process for everyone by definition was different. Harry preferred one to be on hormones before contemplating transition but Real Life Experience was not a requirement based on a specific time frame. I knew a girl that because of work had to be boy for money and girl for life and she had surgery and had a good life and ironically from my same home town.  What was in the water??
  7. Harry only treated transsexuals. Harry treated everyone that fit into his Gender Disorientation Scale from transvestites to Type VI transsexuals. He cared about us all and did feel there was some connection between transvestism and transsexualism.  That might tick off the transsexual only crowd and probably explains some of their dislike for him but he cared for us all. If you read his book he explains he had an inkling but no proof transvestism was a very mild form of transsexualism and I know of several transvestites that had "The Letter" in case it might help.
  8. Harry considered kids like me homosexual transsexuals. Read the book.  To the contrary he considered us heterosexual girls. If the mind says girl then boys are the heterosexual sex target unless the MTF transsexual was lesbian which fit a small percentage of early transitioners although it must be noted Harry dealt with very few kids as young as me and several of my friends. We were atypical of those that sought his help.
  9. Harry would have been upset with transsexuals being under the umbrella term transgender. Read the book. Harry believed in inclusion not exclusion and recognized there were very distinct differences but what was the GLB to do? They needed an inclusive term and at times I get irked being categorized under it but that is usually because of personal reasons.
  10. Harry would support The Harry Benjamin Syndrome crowd. I must admit I agree with the intersex premise but after spending a short time on the site I think Harry would scream "take my name off" because too many are homophobic and if there is an elitist group it is them. It is ironic because I know and really like Charlotte and it has gotten away from her original intention of promoting transsexualism as intersex. I could go on for two months about some of the nice people and the far too many loons I met there.
  11. Harry wanted you to be Stealth.  Harry wanted what was best for you. Harry knew some would never be able to easily pass and it was out of the question. I was a child or girl of the 50's.  I wanted a husband, a family, a baby, a home with a white picket fence and all the programmed nonsense we were fed in those days.  Harry thought I should have gone back to school and gotten my Doctorate and taught.

I don't have all the answers but I do have several boxes full of letters between Harry and my mother including my mom's copies of her letters to him and the majority were written in German to avoid her mother realizing what they were which is another story. Mom was a noted linguist and thought German was safe but was amused Harry called her Marta rather than Martha. My mother was an inquisitive woman and asked a lot of interesting questions and Harry answered every one of them.

If anyone has any misconceptions or questions about him i would be glad to answer the question if I know the answer.


Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Elizabeth said...

Why would I want to follow your blog?

Jenny said...

Thank you for this post, it's been a fascinating read for someone of my generation who's heard all the points you list and probably more.

Karin July1992 said...

Thanks for the insight on Harry Benjamin. I am in my 40s, but I read alot about him long ago while he was alive. It is really interesting to look back on what you experienced, remember what I read and thought at the time, and how his work and legacy is viewed today. I didn't realize how many myths are out there about him and his work. I know the Standards of Care are a source of many complaints (folks who want SRS on demand), but surely Harry knew what the heck he was doing. The psychological aspects and the changes inherent in GID or transsexualism over so many patients must have formed the basis of what I would call a wise "one step at a time" plan.

Please do continue writing as you can. You are a "great read" and I am learning a lot.