Sexist History at the Heart of the ‘Science’ on Transsexualism, Part I: Benjamin, Ihlenfeld, Money & Ehrhardt

Dr Em explores how the founding fathers of ‘scientific’ research on transgenderism/transsexualism were motivated by sexist beliefs.

The ‘science’ of the founding fathers of transgenderism/transsexualism – Harry Benjamin, John Money and Robert Stoller – are still cited and relied upon to change law, to put children on a path of sterilisation and surgery, to remove women’s rights and to argue that all women just naturally want to be treated as second class citizens. For example, Betty Steiner, Ray Blanchard and Kenneth Zucker, current leaders in the field, begin their book with an outline of how ‘Harry Benjamin was one of the first physicians to realize the despair that transsexual patients suffer… In 1968 Robert Stoller published his views on transsexualism from a psychoanalytic perspective… and in 1969 Richard Green and John Money published their coedited book… which has become another standard work in the field’. 1 The NHS Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), a specialised clinic for young people presenting with difficulties with their gender identity subscribes to the views of WPATH. Their website references ‘the Standards of Care of the Harry Benjamin Gender Dysphoria association, which is now the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH)’ and they state in other sections that they ‘agree with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) that “knowledge of the factors contributing to gender identity development in adolescence is still evolving and not yet fully understood by scientists, clinicians, community members, and other stakeholders in equal measure’.2

I am unconvinced by the ‘science’ which gender dysphoria, and thus transsexualism/transgenderism, is based on. What was it that convinced you? Was it the small study of tomboys whose assertive play then ‘proved’ that there are girl brains and boy brains? Or was it the way some of the offspring of stressed out rats have coitus which ‘proved’ that prenatal hormones affect mating and thus a gender identity exists? Or maybe it was the hypothesis that the mother had been over attentive to a male child which made him either feel like a girl or wish to distance himself from the men his mother allegedly hated? Even one of the founding fathers of the idea of transsexualism/transgenderism admitted that the concept was undermined by reality, Stoller made the striking admission that ‘obviously, not all beliefs that are contradicted by reality are delusions’.3 What does that mean? Transgenderism/transsexualism is based on the original science, so after being met with repeated defences of ‘true trans’ or genuine trans have a medical diagnosis I did what I believe we should all do when we can’t get our head around inconsistencies – I turned to the sources. This essay will look at the early ideas of human sex change and emerging field of transsexualism before looking in-depth at the work and ideas of Harry Benjamin and Charles Ihlenfeld, John Money and Anke Ehrhardt.  The second essay in this series will explore the work of Robert Stoller, the notion that violence against women is a necessary and natural part of a masculine gender identity and should be encouraged in children. Part two will then question the idea of true trans or genuine trans.

Early History

The idea of human sex change, usually as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality or the indulgence of a male sexual desire, was circulating in the 1920s in Europe. Former president of the Eugenics Society, Havelock Ellis, began investigating what he termed eonism, when people (normally males) cross-dressed and engaged in what he determined as opposite sex behaviour for sexual arousal.4 The sources from mainland Europe are fragmentary as a result of documents not surviving the physical devastation of WWII and often consist of personal accounts of hearing about or witnessing research into cross-dressing and/or homosexuality. Magnus Hirschfeld was ‘a German physician who could easily be considered the father of transgender health care, [who]coined the term “transvestite” in 1918 at his Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Defining transvestism as the desire to express one’s gender in opposition to their defined sex, Hirschfeld and his colleagues used this now antiquated label as a gateway to the provision of sex changing therapies and as a means to protect his patients’.5 In 1922, it is claimed that Hirschfeld performed castration on one of the institute’s employees, Dora Richter, but the institute’s ‘most famous patient was arguably Danish painter Lili Elbe (born Einar Wegener) whose life story has been fictionalized in the popular film The Danish Girl. Starting in 1930, Elbe had five surgeries performed as part of her male-to-female transition. Unfortunately, Elbe died from infection-related complications of her final surgery in 1931’.6 Simon Wiesenthal, an Auschwitz survivor and acclaimed Nazi hunter, alleged that a human experiment to change sex was conducted on a boy in Auschwitz.7 Disturbingly, human experiments to implant glands or inject synthetic hormones, and on some occasions castrate males and give them artificial hormones, in order to ‘cure’ homosexuality were undertaken in the Buchenwald concentration camp and are recorded at the Nuremburg trials.8 Dr Boehm questioned Helmut Poppendick on 9 April 1947 as follows,

B[oehm]:the prosecution in the course of its case mentioned the method of treatment of the Danish physician Dr. Vaernet, who carried out transplantations on homosexuals and people who were prematurely old; what do you know about this?

A[nswer]: I heard once that Dr. Vaernet was working in Prague in a pharmaceutical factory on the technical development of a hormone pill. This tablet had a certain shape and he called it artificial gland’.9

Buchenwald was appealing to develop and implant synthetic hormones in human experiments because ‘castrated persons were also available here’.10 Eugen Kogon, an inmate at Buchenwald testified at the trial that ‘Vaernet started a series of experiments to cure homosexuality. By implanting synthetic hormones in the right groin’.11 Kogon and others testified that Vaernet directly reported his results to Himmler and had been given encouragement and direction to experiment on people by Himmler. It is an interesting connection that a Danish Nazi Dr was the first to experiment with artificial sex hormones in human tests before fleeing to Denmark and the first ‘successful’ sex change operation was performed in Denmark 8 years later in the same city Dr Vaernet had had his practice. Christine Jorgensen celebrated a ‘sex-change’ in 1952 and brought this previously murky surgery to global public consciousness. However, ideas about human sex change had been circulating in America prior to Jorgensen’s surgery as research had been taken back to America by returning WWII troops. For example, Dr Alfred Kinsey, who is better known for his published research and experimentation in child sexuality and infant orgasms (child sexual abuse), became interested in cross-dressing and transvestites in the 1950s.12 It was through Kinsey that Magnus Hirschfeld’s close friend Harry Benjamin ‘became acquainted with a young patient who was anatomically male, but insisted that he was really female. This led to Benjamin’s interest in what he himself later described as “transsexualism”.13

Harry Benjamin

Harry Benjamin was so influential in the field of transsexualism/transgenderism that the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) was formerly known as the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (HBIGDA).14 The WPATH has established internationally accepted Standards of Care (SOC) for the treatment of individuals with gender dysphoria.15 Before working on and popularising the idea of transsexualism/transgenderism/gender dysphoria Benjamin had promoted a ‘fountain of youth’ age reversal treatment and an ineffective cure for tuberculosis using turtle fluids.16

Image 1.

Benjamin was one of the first physicians to diagnose discomfort with sex-role stereotypes as a medical problem, a disease of the mind fixed through the body. The French psychoanalyst Catherine Millot alleged that there is a sense in which there was no transsexuality before experts like Benjamin and Stoller “invented it”.17 Similarly Professor Dwight Billings and Dr Thomas Urban assessed that ‘transsexualism is a socially constructed reality which only exists in and through medical practice’.18 In a strange coincidence Benjamin’s work The Transsexual Phenomenon was published the same year, 1966, that the first gender clinic, which Benjamin helped found and was employed by, could monetise the treatment of this problem he had discovered, outlined and proposed the remedy for. Benjamin asserted that ‘Gender is located above, and sex below the belt’.19 If that sounds familiar it is because this is still the working definition used and we have seen it pictured on Gendered Intelligence and Genderbread posters.20

Image 2.

Image 3.

This notion that gender (understood by feminists to be a system of oppression which positions males as dominant and aggressive and females as passive and subservient to males) is innate in the brain, or women naturally want to be treated as second class, is the foundation rock of transsexualism and later transgenderism. This is where the idea that one can be born in the wrong body, the basis of transsexualism/transgenderism, originated.  Yet, Benjamin further claimed that ‘this differentiation, however, cannot always be very sharp or constant and therefore, to avoid pedantry, sex and gender must, here and there, be used interchangeably’.21 It is unusual for a scientist outlining original work to reject clarity and most scientists celebrate ‘pedantry’, also known as thoroughness and being meticulous, as a methodology. Benjamin hypothesised that people who did not conform to societal expectations of correct male and female behaviour were abnormal and gender non-conformity had to be treated. He defined male and female thus:

‘The normal male (normal by his genetic inheritance) has his masculine build and voice, an ample supply of androgen, satisfactory potency, a sperm count that assures fertility, feels himself to be a man, is sexually attracted to women, and would be horrified to wear female clothes or “change his sex.” He is often husband and father, works in a job or profession in accord with his sex and gender that is never questioned legally or socially. The genetically normal female presents the opposite picture. She feels, looks, acts, and functions as a woman, wants to be nothing else, usually marries and has children. She dresses and makes up to be attractive to men and her sex and gender are never doubted either by society or by the law’.22

Yes: Benjamin, and therefore the science of transsexualism/transgenderism posited that any variation from a heterosexual stereotype was against nature, was abnormal.

Benjamin continued to try and explain these variations and, typically for this area of ‘science’, blamed women. Benjamin blamed pregnant women. He asked,

‘What if the fetus is a male? It is normally under the influence of the mother’s female hormone (her estrogen) for nine months. Could that, under certain circumstances, interfere with the development so that the maleness of the newborn is repressed and a too feminine or underdeveloped infant is born? Maybe the mother’s progesterone and her small amounts of testosterone could, and probably normally do, act as a “brake,” neutralizing the estrogen, or a metabolic conversion takes place automatically somewhere in the body. (Liver?) But maybe this does not always happen. Maybe an especially sensitive “sex center” in that small brain somehow becomes impaired in its development, either in its structure or in its chemistry, by the maternal estrogen. Could that explain why there are so many more male transsexuals, transvestites, and homosexuals than female?’.23

Not only is Benjamin hypothesising that sex-role stereotypes are caused by hormones in the womb and thus natural rather than socially constructed to oppress women – from the womb women want to dress to sexually entice males, wear crippling high heels, do unpaid care work for example – but a lot of ‘maybes’ are doing a lot of work in research that created a new surgical field. Benjamin was more convinced of his own theory a few years later. In 1973 Benjamin and Charles Ihlenfeld confidently claimed that ‘Surgery and hormone treatment can help a person end the conflict of having “a female mind trapped in a male body”-or vice versa’.24  They readily admitted that ‘this theory of a neuroendocrine etiology of transsexualism implies that strong and definite inborn psychologic differences exist between the sexes’.25 This is a sexism which feminism has been fighting against for decades. The concept of lady brains and man brains is a sexist ideology which has been used to oppress and exclude women from decision making and public speech and power for millennia.26 As the idea that women’s subordination to men was god given was being successfully challenged, a new science rose to argue that women’s subordination was natural.

Benjamin and Ihlenfeld built on the idea of feminised fetus brains resulting in a penchant for frills and submissiveness by adding in a theory of testicular feminisation causing transsexualism. They defined testicular feminization as a syndrome in which a defect in the testes prevents testosterone from masculinising cells such as those in the brain. They then proposed that ‘transsexualism in the anatomic male might be regarded as an incomplete expression of this testicular feminization syndrome with the defect affecting only sex-specific areas of the hypothalamus’.27 Perhaps worrying that the idea of feminised testicles producing girl brains may not be widely embraced Benjamin and Ihlenfeld reverted to blaming the mother. In the same publication they announced that ‘typically, the mother keeps this male infant very close to herself. She gratifies his wishes instantly whenever possible. She enjoys and encourages actions which keep the child close to her and discourages attempts to move away’.28 Benjamin and Ihlenfeld were not outliers in the science of transsexualism. Certainly other experts saw the mother as the cause of male to female transsexualism. Elliot Weitzman, Charles Shamoian and Nikolas Golosow determined that the male to female transsexual’s mother was

‘an embittered, empty woman, [who]kept her child in constant and excessive physical contact with her. She sabotaged all of his efforts at separating from her and achieving a sense of masculinity. His father, effeminized by his own mother, was unconcerned with his son’s rearing except for infrequent rages at the mother-child closeness. The patient became an effeminized boy, perpetuating early forms of identification with his mother and unable to effect the normal identification with the father’.29

Similarly, Benjamin and Ihlenfeld add in the idea that the mother has groomed the child into femininity (which previously they were arguing was fixed in the brain) like Pavlov trained his dogs. They argued that ‘as the child grows, the mother may not be able to handle aggressive and active play and directs the male child to quieter activities and to quieter companions, possibly girls. Gradually the child learns that feminine actions bring a positive response from the mother and other members of the family’30. This hypothesis does not sit easily with their proposal that feminine and masculine behaviours are the result of prenatal hormones. It is almost as if they will switch and change to make any justification for the idea of transsexualism. Thus, the key medical literature propping up the idea of transsexualism/transgenderism has it that too many cuddles from a mother to a male child will produce a feminised brain. I’m not persuaded. Still, was it the feminised testicles or the bad mothering which convinced you of the medical diagnosis of transsexualism?

When Benjamin and Ihlenfeld turned their attentions to female to male transsexuals their sexism continued unabated. They posited that ‘for certain anatomic female transsexuals… the mother of the infant girl is, in effect, not available to mother the child. Most often this occurs when the mother has an emotional illness, usually a depression. At the same time, the father fails to give the mother the necessary emotional and physical support. The young girl is reared as a surrogate husband virtually from birth and soon learns that behavior which is assertive and independent is rewarded’.31 Notice how ‘assertive and independent’ behaviour in girls is taken as a sign of a discrepancy in development, note how the mother and her parenting skills are determined as the source of the problem. Benjamin and Ihlenfeld do not stop there, they claimed ‘parents of an anatomic female transsexual say the infant was somehow less attractive, less cuddly, and more aggressive than her sisters’.32 You read that right, girls deemed not pretty enough or not affectionate enough are really born in the wrong body. When people argue ‘genuine trans’ or ‘true trans’ or a ‘real transsexual’ do you agree with this? This is the science your statement is based on.

John Money

Harry Benjamin’s research colleague at John Hopkins University, John Money, similarly became a titan in the field of transsexualism/transgenderism.33 Still celebrated by the pro-paedophilia lobby group NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association), Money championed the idea of surgery as the best course of treatment.34

Image 4.

In his foundational research which claimed sexist stereotypes were innate, Money and Anke Ehrhardt argued that ‘if a person… has more androgen prenatally, it will take less stimulus to orient that person toward strenuous physical activity (certain designated masculine activities) and more stimulus to evoke a response to helpless children (and other designated feminine activities)’.35 This is girl and boy brain arguments re-fashioned. It fuses the nature nurture argument to claim hormones in the womb (nature) prepare the brain for particular sex-role stereotypes (nurture).  Money and Ehrhardt never explain how prenatal hormonal secretions determined boyish or girlish behaviour (stereotypes) or how ‘the central nervous system… pass on its program in the form of behavioural traits, which are “culturally classified as predominantly boyish or girlish”.36 Money and Ehrhardt argued that the presence or lack of neonatal androgens influence brain structures, particularly in the hypothalamus, to make them essentially male or female brains. Like Aristotle and Aquinas before them, they return to a definition of female as lack or absence. I have moved on from the middle ages in my definition of women and scientific thinking.

 In a display of even more extreme sexism Money and Erhardt claimed that tomboyism, defined as assertive play in girls, was caused by fetal hormonal activity. They purported that ‘the most likely hypothesis to explain the various features of tomboyism in fetally masculinised genetic females is that their tomboyism is a sequel to a masculinised effect on the fetal brain’.37 Yes, they argued that if girls are competitive they must have masculinised (boy) brains. It’s odd how in a system of male domination such as that in which we live, male scientists keep finding that female passivity and subordination to the male is ‘natural’. They used to claim God, now they claim science. Sensing that the notion that girl’s playing strongly and boldly may not satisfy the scientific community on the validity of human sex change – transsexualism – Money and Erhardt bolstered their research with a study in the sexual behaviour of lab rats, in particular the sex positions of rats whose mothers had been stressed during pregnancy. Criticisms came quickly of Money and Erhardt’s use of animal studies to try and comment on human behaviour. Alongside that animals are not subject to the man-made system of sex-role stereotypes (gender) Ann Oakley had ‘stressed that animal research can only be applied hypothetically to humans. Particularly in the field of sexual behaviour, she has noted that animals are subject to a much more direct control mechanism than humans’.38 Elizabeth Adkins argued that animal research is dubious because animals reared in laboratories behave differently to those reared in the wild – for example those reared in the laboratory are more aggressive.39 Singling out the rat coitus experiments for particular criticism, Adkins pointed out that ‘The primary effect of early exposure to androgen in the female rat is that the capacity to display lordosis (the receptive posture) is impaired. Yet there is no human behaviour homologous to lordosis, and in fact human female sexual behaviour is not particularly controlled by sex hormones at all’.40 Feminists have been critiquing the use of animal studies to justify the subordination of women for centuries.

 As the more recent reliance on clownfish to support the idea of human sex-change has shown, misogynists love fish. Dworkin has described how male scientists used the idea of the cichlid to describe ‘natural’ behaviour in humans. The cichlid ‘is a prehistoric fish – or, to be more precise, some men think it was a prehistoric fish. The followers of Konrad Lorenz – and these are scientists, okay?- say that the male cichlid could not mate unless the his partner demonstrated awe… how [does]a fish demonstrate awe?’.41  Barry Reay has outlined the use of ‘Konrad Lorenz’s classic research on imprinting in ducklings to explain very early gender role learning in infants’, he explored how ‘Green and Money had, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, claimed that early indulgence of effeminacy in boys could lead to transvestism and homosexuality. (Note both the absence of transsexuality in this early work and the equation of effeminacy and homosexuality.)’.42  I agree that children copy the behaviour of adults, feminists assert that this is one way in which children learn sex-role stereotype behaviour – from the messages around them. It is interesting that the founding fathers of transsexualism posited that this was what caused gender differences in behaviour, not biology, in their early works. I suppose one can’t justify costly surgeries and lifelong pharmaceutical intervention on learnt behaviour because that suggests it can be unlearnt. Sex-role stereotype correction facilities quickly embedded in the U.S. at the time feminists were launching a widespread challenge to such stereotypes and their role in women’s subordination. As Reay has found, ‘the national picture [in the U.S.]changed from one of no significant institutional support in 1965 to a situation in 1975 where about twenty major medical centers were offering treatment and some thousand transsexuals had been provided with surgery’.43 As the idea of the hormonal cause of women’s subordination to men gained in popularity and financial incentive another fan of Konrad Lorenz’s theories would also contribute to the science which transsexualism/transgenderism is based on and it is to Robert Stoller which part II now turns.

  1. B. W. Steiner (ed.), Gender Dysphoria: Development, Research, Management (Springer Science & Business Media, 2013), p. 1
  2. ‘An evaluation of early pubertal suppression in a carefully selected group of adolescents with ‘Gender Identity Disorder’, GIDS https://gids.nhs.uk/our-early-intervention-study ,‘Current Debates’, GIDS https://gids.nhs.uk/current-debates
  3. R. J. Stoller, Sex and Gender Vol. I: The Development of Masculinity and Femininity (London, Karnac Books, 1984), p.102.
  4. H. Ellis, Studies in the Psychology of Sexual Arousal (Philadelphia, F. A. Davis, 1928).
  5. F. Naz Khan, ‘A History of Transgender Health Care’, Scientific American (16 November 2016), https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/a-history-of-transgender-health-care/
  6. F. Naz Khan, ‘A History of Transgender Health Care’, Scientific American (16 November 2016), https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/a-history-of-transgender-health-care/
  7. S. Wiesenthal, The Murderers Among Us:The Simon Wiesenthal Memoirs (New York, McGraw-Hill, 1967), p.155.
  8. ‘Transcript for NMT 1: Medical Case’, Nuremberg Trials Project,  pp.5598 – 5605.
  9. ‘Transcript for NMT 1: Medical Case’, Nuremberg Trials Project,  p. 5598.
  10. ‘Transcript for NMT 1: Medical Case’, Nuremberg Trials Project,  pp.5598 – 5605.
  11. E. Kogon, ‘Extract from: “The SS State” – The system of the German Concentration Camps’, Nuremberg Trials Project, Exhibit code: Poppendick 6.
  12. A. Kinsey et al., Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male (1948), chapter 5, A. Kinsey et al. Sexual Behaviour in the Human Female (1953).
  13. ‘Harry Benjamin’, Archive for Sexology, http://www.sexarchive.info/GESUND/ARCHIV/COLLBEN.HTM
  14. ‘Mission and Vision’, WPATH https://wpath.org/about/mission-and-vision
  15. ‘Ethical Guidelines for Professionals’, WPATH https://wpath.org/about/ethics-and-standards
  16. N. Matte, ‘Putting Patients First: Harry Benjamin and the Development of Transgender Medicine in the Twentieth Century’, Masters Thesis (2004), p.34, p.35.
  17. C. Millot, Horsexe: Essays on Transsexuality, translated Kenneth Hylton (New York, 1990), p. 141.
  18. D. B. Billings & T. Urban, ‘The Socio-Medical Construction of Transsexualism: An Interpretation and Critique’, Social Problems, Vol. 29, No. 3 (Feb., 1982), p. 266.
  19. H. Benjamin, The Transsexual Phenomenon (New York, 1966), p.6.
  20. See Images 2 & 3.
  21. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 457.
  22. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 458.
  23. M. Beard, Women and Power: A Manifesto (London, Profile Books, 2017), A. Saini, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story (London, Harper Collins, 2017).
  24. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 457.
  25. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 458.
  26. M. Beard, Women and Power: A Manifesto (London, Profile Books, 2017), A. Saini, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong – and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story (London, Harper Collins, 2017).
  27. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 457.
  28. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 458.
  29. E. L. Weitzman, C. A. Shamoian, and N. Golosow, “Identity Diffusion and the Transsexual Resolution,” The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol. 151, no. 5 (1970), p.295.
  30. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 458.
  31. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 458.
  32. H. Benjamin & C. L. Ihlenfeld , ‘Transsexualism’, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 73, No. 3 (Mar., 1973), p. 458.
  33. M. Day, ‘How one of America’s best medical schools started a secret transgender surgery clinic’ , Medium,https://timeline.com/americas-first-transgender-clinic-b56928e20f5f
  34. ‘John Money’, NAMBLA https://www.nambla.org/money1.html
  35. J. G. Raymond, The Transsexual Empire (London, The Women’s Press, 1979), p. 48 ; J. Money & A. Erhardt, Man & Woman, Boy & Girl (Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 1972), p.1.
  36. ibid.
  37. J. Money & A. Erhardt, Man & Woman, Boy & Girl (Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press, 1972), p.103.
  38.  J. G. Raymond, The Transsexual Empire (London, The Women’s Press, 1979), p. 54.
  39. J. G. Raymond, The Transsexual Empire (London, The Women’s Press, 1979), pp. 54 – 55.
  40. J. G. Raymond, The Transsexual Empire (London, The Women’s Press, 1979), p.55.
  41. A. Dworkin, Letters From A Warzone: Writings 1976 – 1989 (E. P. Dutton, New York, 1989), p.135.
  42. B. Reay, ‘The Transsexual Phenomenon: A Counter-History’, Journal of Social History, vol. 47, no. 4 (May 2014), p.1054.
  43. B. Reay, ‘The Transsexual Phenomenon: A Counter-History’, Journal of Social History, vol. 47, no. 4 (May 2014), p. 1044.

6 Comments

  1. This history is indeed fascinating and underlies the sexism behind much modern trans behaviour. We seem to have two extremes the trans woman who has to be hyper feminine and girly sometimes to ridiculous extremes or we have aggressive bearded men who assert they are women but make no changes to behaviour, dress, hormones and certainly not surgery.

    BTW I married a former tomboy and we had a relationship based on partnership. I worked on being a sympathetic caring parent happy to be with my kids. I’ve never been one to go to the pub with my mates. Yet nobody would mistake me for male. This idea that we have to conform to sexist norms or we’re trans is bogus and always will be.

    I grew up in NZ and did not encounter bullying for being academic and debating. I also competed as a runner. Some of the bullying in this country is I’m quite sure behind a lot of the modern epidemic of ‘trans’. We need to challenge the culture if we are to address it.

  2. Check out gynaecologist Dr Kurt Warnekros, Nazi doctor who performed surgical implants on Lili Elbe (Einar Wegener) at his Dresden Women’s Clinic. Elbe died. Story is romanticised in “The Danish Girl”. Warnekros is linked to Professor Steinach, Vienna, who was transplanting ovaries into male rats. Warnekros did involuntary sterilisations on homosexual men from concentration camps through the 1930s up to 1945. He was not punished at Nuremberg- records from Dresden had been destroyed in British air raids.

    Himmler was determined to eradicate homosexuality-there was funding for doctors who linked into this. Many of these doctors were not prosecuted at Nuremberg, including Danish Dr Carl Vaernet, because homosexuality was still criminalised in many countries, and the allied governments may not have entirely disapproved of this “research”.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/05/nazi-doctor-gay-people-carl-vaernet-escaped-justice-danish

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=FZquBH0CH24

  3. Interesting to note that in 1894 Magnus Hirschfeld became very impressed and influenced by the biological ideas of Cesar Lombroso on congenital criminality. Lombroso was influenced by Darwin, and the ideas of evolution. He developed theories that all criminals were throwbacks to animals, or primitive humans, and that this could be seen in their facial features, etc.

    Hirschfeld applied these ideas of throwbacks to evolutionary history to homosexuality, deciding that homosexuals were a kind of throwback to hermaphrodism. Thus eventually Hirschfeld’s ideas of inversion, transsexualism etc. The dominance of German sexology, and the idea of homosexuality as a pathological condition dominates 20th century ideas until gay liberation.

    Obviously Hirchfeld’s cure for his defined pathological condition was to change the sex of the individual to correspond with their sexual desires.

  4. Note that John Money, while working as a psychology lecturer at Otago University, became involved with one of his students, Janet Frame, later New Zealand’s leading writer. He treated her badly, and she threatened suicide. So he told her that she was schizophrenic. He had no qualifications to diagnose her!
    In October 1945, John Money facilitated Frame’s committal to the psychiatric ward at Dunedin Public Hospital. She was then committed to Seacliff Mental Hospital, north of Dunedin, in November 1945, diagnosed with incipient schizophrenia. She almost had a lobotomy. But was saved, because she won her first literary prize!

  5. This is highly politicized and riddled with errors. You have Harry Benjamin founding and working in the employ of a “first gender clinic” in 1966, when he did no such thing. He was an internist and endocrinologist, working out of his own office for decades as a sole practitioner, until he took on Charles Ihlenfeld as an assistant in 1969. There was a transsexual clinic that began work in late 1965, but that was at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and Harry Benjamin was not affiliated with it.

    The young person whom Alfred Kinsey and Harry Benjamin consulted with (regarding a sex change) is usually dated to about 1948, not the 1950s.

    You use the words transsexual, transgender and transvestite as though they were interchangeable. They are very different things.

    You try to build an argument against Benjamin, Ihlenfeld et al. by pleading a case for feminism, but you lack command of the subject. Such phrases as “from the womb women want to dress to sexually entice males, wear crippling high heels…” do not enhance your credibility. I doubt any serious feminist critic would endorse the simple-minded claptrap in the following passage:

    “‘…definite inborn psychologic differences exist between the sexes’. This is a sexism which feminism has been fighting against for decades. The concept of lady brains and man brains is a sexist ideology which has been used to oppress and exclude women from decision making and public speech and power for millennia.”

    (Lady brains? Seriously?)

    There is nothing in any school of feminism (or psychology) that categorically denies the effect of hormones and nutrients in prenatal development. The idea is absurd. Nor does anyone seriously argue that there are no “inborn psychologic [sic] differences between the sexes.”

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