Harry Benjamin

AZL flag holder TransparentHarry Benjamin (January 12, 1885 – August 24, 1986) was a Jewish endocrinologist and sexologist, widely known for his clinical work with transsexualism. Benjamin was born in Berlin, and raised in an observant Ashkenazi Jewish home. Sexual deviance interested him and in an interview conducted in 1985 he recalled: I do remember going, as a young person, to a lecture by Auguste Forel, whose book The Sexual Question was a sensation at the time and which impressed me greatly. I also met Magnus Hirschfeld very early on through a girl friend, who knew the police official Kopp, who was in charge of investigating sexual offenses. He, in turn, was a friend of Hirschfeld’s, and so I met both men. That was around 1907. They repeatedly took me along on their rounds through the homosexual bars in Berlin. I especially remember the ‘Eldorado’ with its drag shows, where also many of the customers appeared in the clothing of the other sex. The word “transvestite” had not yet been invented. Hirschfeld coined it only in 1910 in his well-known study. Benjamin’s 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomenon was his grand attempt to lend credence to the notion that man or women could be born into the wrong body. It was a suggestion raised by Hirshfeld but Benjamin had been attempting to chemically alter the bodies of mentally unstable young boys illegally since 1948. In the United States and Europe at this time wearing items of clothing associated with the opposite sex in public was illegal, castration of a male was illegal, anything seen as homosexuality was illegal, and rational European doctors considered all such people (including children) best treated medically.

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