Harry Benjamin (January 12, 1885 – August 24, 1986) was a German-born endocrinologist who became widely known for his pioneering work with transsexualism.
Born in Berlin, Benjamin received his doctorate in medicine in 1912 at the University of Tübingen. In 1914, following a professional visit to the United States, Benjamin attempted to return to Germany just after the outbreak of World War I. However, the liner in which Benjamin was traveling was stopped by the Royal Navy in the mid-Atlantic. Given the choice of a British internment camp or return to New York, he chose the latter. He made his home in America for the rest of his life.
In 1948 Alfred Kinsey asked him to see a child who "wanted to become a girl," despite being born male. Benjamin quickly concluded that there was a fundamental difference between transvestism (cross-dressing) and transsexualism. Continuing to refine his understanding, Harry Benjamin went on to help several hundred patients who sought surgery for gender transition.
Publicity surrounding his patient Christine Jorgensen brought the issue into the mainstream in 1952, and led to a great many people presenting for assistance, both nationally and internationally.
Benjamin's 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomenon was immensely important as the first major work describing and explaining the affirmative treatment path he pioneered.
Apart from being a sexologist, Benjamin was also a gerontologist who worked on life extension. He himself lived to be 101. He dedicated his magnum opus to his wife Gretchen, to whom he was married for 60 years.
Today, his work is continued by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, Inc. (WPATH), formerly, the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, Inc. (HBIGDA). WPATH is a professional organization devoted to the understanding and treatment of gender identity.
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