Monday, October 4, 2010

To Whom it may concern or The Letter.

Working and living in NYC in the late 60's as a young transsexual was interesting. If you were read and someone screamed "OMG it is a Tranny" (couldn't resist that Elizabeth) one of many possible outcomes occurred.

1. If a cop was around they could arrest you for "impersonating" and that meant the male holding cell at the local precinct.  Not a very good outcome.

2. If no cop was around one could get get out of the area and avoid the issue.

3. If a cop was arresting you "The Letter" might help. If the cop had a heart "The Letter" might result in him just telling you to move on.

What was "The letter"? If you were one of Harry's girls, as we called ourselves, Harry provided us with a letter that hopefully would engender some sympathy and avoid one ending up in the slammer. We were to carry it with us at all times upon penalty of Harry getting upset if we got bagged and didn't at least give it a try.

Below is what one of my letter said. It seemed to change every time I managed to lose it. Thankfully I never had to use it.

The last line is funny because Harry knew my penchant for dating musicians and being drawn to bad boys. They were exciting, sexy, and fun and didn't care we were transsexual. Everyone I dated knew about me and musicians seemed quite understanding and particularly the British ones. A lot of them dated transsexuals or had affairs with one. I know of many really famous musicians that had no issues dating one of us. I'm not sure this could or would happen today.

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Harry Benjamin M. D.
44 East 67th Street
New York, NY 19921
(212) 427 427-4455

To Whom it May Concern:

This is to certify that the bearer, ____ ____, is under my professional care and observation. This patient belongs to the rather rare group of transsexuals, also referred to in the medical literature as psychic hermaphrodites. Their anatomical sex, that is to say, the body, is male. Their psychological sex, that is to say, the mind, is female.

Therefore they feel as women, and if they live and dress as such, they do so out of an irrepressible inner urge, and not to commit a crime, to "masquerade," or to "impersonate" illegally.It is my considered opinion, based on many years' experience, that transsexuals are mostly introverted and nonaggressive and therefore no threat to society. In their feminine role they can live happier lives and they are usually less neurotic than if they were forced to live as men. I do not think that society is endangered when it assumes a permissive attitude, and grants these people the right to their particular pursuit of happiness.Like all patients of this type, ____ ____ has been strictly advised to behave well and inconspicuously at all times and to be careful in choosing friends.

Dr. Harry Benjamin
Signature

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2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

To think that you had to carry around a letter to keep you from going to jail kills me. LOL. The evolution of trans people in society is something to sit back and admire. It will only get better from here. Thanks for paving the way!!!!

Veronica said...

This doesn't seem odd to me. It's standard practice for pre-ops to have a "carry letter." My therapist wrote if for me. Before my surgery, I had it with me everywhere I went in case someone challenged my use of the women's washroom or had questions about my passport (after I'd changed my name but before the sex designation could be changed).

It also helped me get "F" on my driver's licence when I went full time but had not yet had surgery.