A Short History of the Victimization of Transsexuals by Medical Incompetents and Quackery

In 1967 after the October anti-war demonstration at the Pentagon I made my way to San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury and eventually moved with a cadre of radicals to Berkeley.

When I came out in 1969, the first places I went to seeking help were the Welfare Department and a pair of gay rights organizations, SIR (Society for Individual Rights) and the Mattachine Society.

From them I got three names: The Center for Special Problems on Van Ness Avenue.  Dr. Fong in Oakland and a Dr. whose name escapes me.

I was poor.  The Center was free.  Dr. Fong was cheap and did a couple of tests for hormone base levels and a sperm count. Plus he gave a hormone shot.

The other Dr. ran a number on me.  He hypnotized me and asked me my “real name”, a trick question considering the only identification I had at the time had the name given me by my parents.  Because I gave him my legal name, which coincidentally I was still using as I was just starting hormones and had not yet started living as a woman full time.  He told me I wasn’t really transsexual.  I told him to go fuck himself.

Easy for me to do as I had two other Doctors who said I was and soon Dr. Benjamin would concur.

Suppose I didn’t have other Doctors contradicting this semi-quack’s evaluation.  How many sisters did he sucker into not looking for treatment at that point by running his hypnosis game?  For what it is worth I went about as far under as I would behind a joint of Thai stick weed and nowhere as deep as I had on even 200 mikes of acid.  I was a veteran of a few 1000 mike trips where I had gone deep into the memory files.  His question was a trick question aimed at furthering his own agenda.

We were lucky in the Bay Area we had our own Transsexual Counseling Service, run by us and for us.  We had the Center and Stanford University Medical Center’s Gender Clinic.  We also had several reputable Doctors and an alternative to the Center named Fort Help.

The only problem was that one had to be sane enough to work one’s way through the programs.  The myth is that one had to be pretty to be accepted by these programs and get surgery at Stanford.  The reality was that one had to look enough like a member of the sex one was changing to to be able to hold down a job, even if that job was sex work.

Los Angeles had a Dr. Gaunt who had an office operating room in the Max Factor Building across Hollywood Blvd from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  He did castrations and breast implants on the transsexual and transgender sex workers of Hollywood.  He had a reputation of asking only one question, “Do you have the money we agreed upon, in cash.”

He operated in his office.  In 1972 he started doing SRS, something completely over his head.  Cash up front, no questions asked.  We had a person with MPD (DID) who came to our office.  Molly was transsexual, Johnny was not.  Molly got SRS from Dr. Gaunt, Johnny jumped off a building and died.  Dr. Gaunt’s surgery techniques were crude at best and it is to his credit that he stopped performing SRS after several attempts although he continued doing castrations and boob implants for sometime after that.

In the summer of 1973 a new player rolled into San Francisco, Dr. John Brown and his sidekicks the Spences.  They were full of promises, one of which was that Dr. Brown had developed a technique of constructing sensate clitorises.  No waiting in line like at Stanford, no pesky psychiatric evaluation.  You paid your money and took your chances.

I questioned the legitimacy of Brown almost immediately based on having seen the same pattern with Gaunt.  I wanted to know what his medical credentials were.  I was bothered by his sudden appearance from nowhere claiming a skill that seemed to require a fairly high degree of training.  I was  bothered by  not only his operating in an office lacking the equipment to care for someone who might experience a medical emergency during surgery, but also by stories I heard of his operating, in at least one instance, in a kitchen and  another instance in a garage.

When I raised questions regarding his qualifications and methodology some sisters accused me of not wanting them to get their surgery because they couldn’t afford Stanford.  I never particularly enjoyed having my motivations questioned particularly when I wasn’t being paid for my opinions.

Besides I was off learning photography and in the process of becoming a lot of sisters’ “Lesbian Experience”.

I later moved to Los Angeles and in about 1977 I learned that Dr. Brown had killed at least one sister and maimed a few others.  He had his license to practice medicine yanked in California and had gone underground, resurfacing in Tijuana where he was once again doing cut rate SRS of varying quality based on his relationship with his various forms of substance abuse and his state of sobriety on any given day.

There was a new danger on the horizon:  Silicone pumping.  I was an out lesbian feminist, by the time that one hit and had rejected the ultra glamor scene.  I watched silicone injections become the new heroin among transsexuals and transgenders.  People cited positive articles from Vogue and other fashion magazines on the benefits of silicone injections in erasing lines and filling acne scars.  The logic I heard often went like this:  I have silicone breast implants therefore silicone injections must be harmless.

I naturally had a feminine body, developed even more so by hormones.  I was accused by some of not wanting them to have the same rounded hips and ass because I warned them of the dangers of silicone injections to enhance one’s hips and butt.  I told people wanting to get it shot in their cheeks to give them the high cheek boned look that there was a safe way to do that with solid silicone prostheses implanted atop the bone.

Well, Dr. Brown is in jail now.  However not for botched SRS procedures, not even for botched SRS procedures that killed women with transsexualism.  The action that went too far to be ignored was Dr. Brown’s amputation of a healthy leg from an amputation fetishist that resulted in said fetishist dying.

The silicone pumpers are still out there pumping silicone bathroom caulk and floor wax into people who are having their bodies disfigured by the eventual reactions to the silicone and its impurities.

The invention of the psychiatric diagnosis of GID in 1979 brought forth herds of quacks with dubious credentials all eager to exploit people with transsexualism and transgenderism.

Not to mention the religious mind fuckers with their fraudulent cures for homosexuality, transsexualism and transgenderism.  They are all out there trolling the internet, pushing books offering salvation from transsexualism by praying it away.  One can find several books by just such people on Amazon.

I automatically presume someone who emerges from nowhere, who makes strange sounding claims and citing certain people is a fraud.  There is a pattern to their spiel that says to me, “This person is running a con game.”

It really doesn’t matter if it is silicone pumping or the opening of a radical new form of counseling service.  Legitimate people have histories, they do not emerge from the ether or hide behind aliases and credentials that seem shady.

One can trace their credentials.  Too often the silicone pumpers and others claim medical degrees from foreign schools, something that requires them to pass strict licensing requirements to practice medicine within the US.

Counseling service licensing requirements are often much more flexible although not if one bills oneself as a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, psychologist or clinical social worker.  When looking for services look for the license and the degree.  Ask yourself if you really trust someone who vacillates on producing the same documents and references that one normally sees on the wall of the office of a legitimate licensed professional providing those same services.

Peer to peer counseling is one thing.  You can get that in rap groups at LGBT/T centers.  But if you are being asked to pay then you have the right to know the qualifications of the person or persons asking for that fee.

There are many New Age forms of fraud and medical quackery out there, often hiding behind offers of  validating magical thinking or wish fulfillment.  The old adage of “If it sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t.” offers the same advice that I took nearly 1500 words to offer.

6 Responses to “A Short History of the Victimization of Transsexuals by Medical Incompetents and Quackery”

  1. Ishtar Says:

    Hi Suzy

    I have encountered a few such New Age quacks myself, the sort who get their “PhD” at some dodgy organ legging clinic where they sell new age myths about orgasms etc.

    Then there are those with the pet theories who seem to think it is legitimate to conduct various forms of experimental “Therapy” on people without telling them it is “Experimental” or “Research” and then go on to publish the same in material that would be as laughable as a comic were it not taken seriously by other “Experts”.

    Then there are the ones who claim to have done “In depth genetic analysis” (Felt pen on electrophoresis gels). Or those who go to conferences with new age music tapes telling people to imagine being unborn and “Enjoy! Enjoy!”

    I cannot forget the questionable antics of a “Man and wife” team where he runs lots of gender clinics as a front for something less than legal and she goes off to Beijing pumping testosterone into unborn female fetuses.

    Add to this the armies of online trolls and glove puppets these people use to impose their will on those they seek to abuse or exploit.

    We end up with the situation where people who have worked hard in university are drowned out by the quackery.

    It is a sad state of affairs.

    • Suzan Says:

      These bastards get to prey on the gender trash, non-conformists and in-betweens, especially of the working class precisely because we are the lumpen proles of the earth. They cite religion, they cite degrees. What they do not cite are ethics or humanity.

  2. Lisa Jain Thompson Says:

    This is especially well written and to the point. Thanks Suzan for the history.

  3. Lisa Says:

    Great article, Suzy.

    I had the ‘name trick’ played on me by Richard Green, back in the late 80’s at Charring Cross GIC, London.
    I’d been attending the GIC for a while. I’d already had several appointments with Russell Reid, Dr Hohburger and even the mighty Don Montgomery.

    I’d transitioned several years before, and though pre op, I was firmly established as to who I was.
    On this day in 1988 (i think) I was to finally see the famed Richard Green, on whose approval I depended if I was going to get NHS surgery.

    As I sat in the open plan waiting room I was feeling hopeful, finally my journey to physical correction was coming to an end.
    I was wearing what many 23 year old women, at that time, wore. Tight black spandex jeans with light blue leg warmers. A baggy mohair cardigan over a low cut cotton T shirt. My hair was in a long loose perm. strongish make up, and black suede ankle boots. (it was the 80’s remember!!).

    I remember exactly what I was wearing because that day is still ingrained in my memory. I was happy and confident. I’d spent the morning shopping in Kensington, I still had my carrier bags still with me. I had been able to ‘pass’ for several years, now. It was only the fact that I had an appointment at the GIC that reminded me I was still not complete, but that would soon be remedied.

    Then it happened. Richard Green entered the waiting room with a clip board in hand and called loudly for Mr ********.
    At first it didn’t register, but then I realised it was MY surname he’d called.
    For a second I thought it was strange that some guy with the same surname as me was in the room, too. Then the awful truth dawned on me. Richard Green was calling for me.
    I was confused, how could the GIC , of all places, make such a mistake with name titles? Should I answer and embarrass myself in front of all the people sat near me or just wandering around?
    I felt a cold sweat come over me. I suddenly realised the ‘Mr’ had been intentional. It was a joke perhaps, a test or maybe just for his amusement..?

    I knew if I didn’t acknowledge him he would turn and go. I’d not get my appointment. Instead I would get a snotty letter in the mail from the GIC next week, informing me that I’d failed to show up, and therefore my name was being removed from the list. I would have to go through all the hassle of asking my GP for a new referral and all the time that took. Worse, I’d lose my supply of regular safe hormones!
    All this stuff was flashing through my mind in the few seconds of silence as Richard Green stood before me arrogant and waiting.

    I had a revelation. I was nothing. He was everything. He was in complete control and I’d better understand that!

    I nodded weakly in Richard Greens direction, he was looking straight at me. I still hoped he would realise his ‘mistake’ and skilfully be able to salvage my confidence. Maybe he could say, “oh I’m sorry, it says Mr and you are clearly Miss, must be a typing error”

    But no. He said: “Ah, you must be Mr ******** come with me please” then he briskly turned and left. I had to get up in front of all the burning eyes and meekly follow like a scolded cat, my confidence shattered.

    I understood now. I was pathetic, I was worthless, I was a pervert and a freak. How could I possibly have thought I was anything else?
    Only a few hours earlier I was a happy confident young women walking through the London streets. Now, I knew my place!

    When I finally caught up with Richard Green he was behind his desk. I wasn’t invited to sit, but I did anyway. My eye-liner was burning my eyes and the mascara was running down my cheeks. I realised my tears were flowing.

    He was very business like, addressed me as ‘Mr’ all through the appointment. When I dared to weakly question his use of that title, he replied with a grin “well you answered to ‘Mr’ didn’t you?” and brushed it off. He criticised me for wearing ‘male’ clothes (the tight spandex jeans). He questioned my commitment.

    I don’t remember much else of what was said during that appointment. I got the train home. I felt very self conscious on the journey. I thought everyone on that train was looking at me, they KNEW my secret. I was shit.

    That appointment set me back a few years. I probably should have been stronger, but I was young and trusting. I couldn’t understand the pointless cruelty.

    In the following years much worse incidents happened to me, but my encounter with Green has always stayed close with me.
    I was caught up in the Charring Cross internal politics. Russell Reid was forced out. He had been my champion. I was relegated down the surgery waiting lists and sidelined.
    I turned to drugs and alcohol and even attempted to de transition at one point. It would be several years before I finally had surgery.

    I’m not saying that small incident with Richard Green caused all of my future problems, but it’s the one thing I can remember clearly of my time at Charring Cross. I’ve never forgotten the shame and guilt I felt. I had to rebuild myself after that, and it took a while. I lost several years of post op life and I feel he definitely contributed to that. What I still don’t understand, is why did he do that to me?

  4. Andrea B. Says:

    I remember Fran Springfield two decades ago in the UK. She fucked up the lives of so many people it was ridiculous with her stunts. She was the first one of many that I encountered in some capacity.

    They are everywhere.

    The thing is they are always associated with some clincians who are necessary for the medical treatment of transseuxal people. They always seem to worm there way into the confidence of a clinican, who should have enough functional brain cells and active communications channels in there brain to figure out they are working with a con artist.

    We have had so many of them over the years it is crazy.

    I know a TS personally who had one of the crazies say right into her face she could do nothing about being ripped of, as she was classed as insane.

    TS people have been ripped of by nurses masquerading as clincians in support groups, psychiatrists, new age practicioners and there herbal bullshit, psychologists, gay counsellors who claim they know everything about TS people and all the do is abuse and sociologists.

    They build up there followers, who they then set on you if you dare to question there authority.

    Removal of pathologisation in the DSM-ICD is the first step to getting rid of these sick, leeching, devious, parasitical scum.

    Once pathologisation has happened, we need to destory the parasites who have held us back, broken our lives and abused us so much.

    Only then can we truly be free to be ourselves.

  5. Anna Says:

    Well said Suzie, except for “The action that went too far to be ignored was Dr. Brown’s amputation of a healthy leg from an amputation fetishist that resulted in said fetishist dying.” Its just that only yesterday I was reading some solid research (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16840-desire-to-amputate-healthy-limbs-shows-up-in-brain-scans.html and http://precedings.nature.com/documents/2954/version/1) done using functional MRI scanning that shows that BIID is caused by malformation of the brain area that should be a map of the body part the person think doesn’t belong. This causes real, measurable distress (sweat response) when it is seen or touched. It has nothing whatsoever to do with sexuality or fetishism.

    That was yet another wrong-headed theory launched by John Money, who, we know, was in the business of blurring the distinctions around pedophilia by inventing more sexual perversions. Its a lie also promoted by Anne Lawrence, who suggests it, being a fetish (which it isn’t) involving unhappiness with the body, is related to transsexuality (which isn’t a fetish either).

    The same researchers have published that transsexuality is caused by us being born with the bodymaps (brains have two – one for the sensory, and one for the motor nerves, from which the nerves grow outwards, in the embryo, to the related body parts) of the sex with which we identify. They base that on huge expertise on the phenomenon of “phantom limbs” (which used to be considered a sign of mental illness, as have most abnormalities of brain structure – watch an amazing lecture by the lead researcher at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rl2LwnaUA-k), and research showing that F->Ms often experience a phantom penis, and M->Fs very rarely experience one after SRS, whereas men who suffer loss of their penis very frequently suffer one (hear Ramachandran talking about the theory, before he did research, at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2007/1861116.htm).

    What they haven’t done is brain scans. But the work on BIID suggests that scans would probably show that we too (and out brains) suffer a measurable distress from feeling or seeing the parts that do not belong, and for which we lack the appropriate map location.

    Obviously Transsexuality and BIID are totally different in that it is a relatively standard variation of a lot, or all of the brain in transsexuality (there’s the BSTC matches our sex of identity too, for example), whereas it is is a single random area in an otherwise congruent brain that varies in BIID, and quite likely happens during life.

    just thought you’d like a justification to stop terming another group of people fetishists.


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