And Then There Were None…
Dr. Harry Benjamin, Dr. John Money, Dr. Robert Stoller, and Dr. Richard Green. All seem to have fallen form grace in the 21st Century, Post-Modern World of Gender, Trans and Cis alike…
But fifty years ago there was a time when we called ourselves Transsexual. Stonewall was yet a couple of months away, I was starting to blossom from the hormones I had started taking about a month and a half prior.
I was living in a commune, on Grayson St. west of San Pablo Ave. A bunch of us took over a block of land just east of Telegraph Avenue in those final weeks of April 1969 and transformed it into People’s Park. In May UC Berkeley sent in the police to take the land back, starting off the uprising that was an important milestone for me. By the time it was over in mid-June I was full time.
Telegraph Avenue was filled with bookstores in those days, both new and used.
I had found the paperback edition of Dr. Benjamin’s book at Cody’s in late 1968. Christine Jorgensen’s book too… The information one needed to find one’s path as a transsexual person was there. It was just a little difficult to find and while the books were in the card catalogs of libraries they always seemed to be lost.
Dr. Benjamin was still seeing patients in 1969 and up until about 1973. I saw him in his office on Sutter Street in SF.
I think Stoller’s “Sex and Gender” was the second book I found.
I paid what seemed like a small fortune at the time for Dr. Green and Dr. Money’s book “Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment”.
Doctor’s actually debated whether or not we should have access to these books as we might use them to game the screening process.
While we see their flaws now it is rather important to remember that all four of these Doctors were advocates for people born transsexual. (Or in modern language transgender)
They opened the doors of the University Medical Centers, engaged in studies that brought us legitimacy. And like Marc Anthony’s soliloquy in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.
They deserve to be remembered for both the good and the evil. Transsexualism and Sex Reassignment came years before The Sissy Boy Syndrome. One did a world of good, the other was unethical and did a world of harm.
A half century ago their words helped me and others to find our inner truths and helped us create the world transfolks know today.
We created that world simply by living our lives. Over 20 years ago Jacob Hale said to me: “Trans-lives were lived, therefore Trans-lives were livable.”
From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/obituaries/dr-richard-green-dead.html
By Benedict Carey
April 17, 2019
Dr. Richard Green, one of the earliest and most vocal critics of psychiatry’s classification of homosexuality as a mental disorder, died on April 6 at his home in London. He was 82.
The cause was esophageal cancer, his son, Adam Hines-Green, said.
Dr. Green, who was also a forceful advocate for gay and transgender rights in a series of landmark discrimination trials, became aware of the marginalization of people because of their sexual and gender identities while training to be a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a leader in the study of sexuality.
In 1972, shortly after completing his specialty in psychiatry, he defied the advice of colleagues and wrote a paper in The International Journal of Psychiatry questioning “the premise that homosexuality is a disease or a homosexual is inferior.”
At the time, three years after the protests against a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York, a turning point in the gay rights movement, psychiatry’s diagnostic manual classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, and publicly arguing otherwise came with professional risks.
“Those were times when, if you spoke up in support of homosexuals, people immediately thought that you were secretly homosexual yourself, or had unresolved sexual issues,” Dr. Jack Drescher, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia, said in an interview. “Richard was very much heterosexual, and it took a lot of courage to argue for gay people.”
That paper and others set off a long dispute in the profession, much of it bitter and sarcastic. In one published debate, in The American Journal of Psychiatry, prominent figures on both sides took barbed shots at one another. The gay-rights advocate Ron Gold titled his commentary “Stop It, You’re Making Me Sick!” Dr. Green asked if heterosexuality should also be labeled a mental disorder.
“Styles of heterosexual conduct do indeed form much of what is dealt with by psychiatrists,” he wrote. He added that “instability in maintaining a love relationship and neurotic uses of sexuality — in which sexuality is used to control others — as a substitute for other feelings of self-worth, or as a defense against anxiety and depression,” account for a large number of cases.
In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association sided with Dr. Green and other influential figures, including Dr. Judd Marmor and Dr. Robert Spitzer, and decided to drop homosexuality from its diagnostic manual.
Continue reading at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/17/obituaries/dr-richard-green-dead.html