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14 November 2016

Harry Benjamin’s first 10 cases: a disambiguation


  • Connie Christine Wheeler & Leah Cahan Schaefer “Harry Benjamin's first ten cases (1938-1953): a clinical historical note”. Archives of Sexual Behavior 24:1 Feb 1995. Online at www.helen-hill.com/pdf/hbfirst10cases.pdf. Revised as the Afterword to Randi Ettner. Confessions of a Gender Defender: A Psychologist's Reflections on Life Among the Transgendered. Evanston, IL: Chicago Spectrum Press, 1996.
Wheeler & Schaefer use pseudonyms to refer to 8 of the 10 patients. However most of the patients are now discussed in trans histories either under different pseudonyms or by their real (ie. post-transition) name. In their revision for Ettner’s book, they used quite different names in some cases. These are marked CGD. Names used in Benjamin’s The Transsexual Phenomenon are marked HBTP. The usage in How Sex Changed by Joanne Mayerowitz is marked JMHSC, and that of Susan Stryker’s Transgender History as SSTH.

(Page references to HBTP: eg p32/13 mean p32 in the 1977 Warner edition and p13 in the PDF)

Actually Benjamin’s first trans case was Carla van Crist in the mid-1920s. Apparently Benjamin simply suggested that she go to Magnus Hirschfeld in Berlin, which she did. She was half-German. Presumably Benjamin never started a file on her, and later, in the 1950s, when asked about her was unable to remember. The lack of a file meant that Wheeler and Schaefer did not know about her.

  1. Otto Spengler

Otto, whom Benjamin regarded as a Type II Fetishistic Transvestite, made a hobby of meeting sexologists and being mentioned, but not always named, in their publications. He met Magnus Hirschfeld, and was described in Bernard Talmey’s 1913 article "Transvestism: A contribution to the study of the psychology of sex", where he is referred to “Mr S” and “First patient". George W. Henry, in his Sex Variants, 1948, also discusses Otto, but under the name of Rudolph von H. HBTP discusses Otto anonymously on p51/23, but mentions that Talmey had described the case, which permits identification. JMHSC and both versions of Wheeler and Schaefer use the name Otto Spengler.

  1. Sally Barry

Sally was Benjamin’s first case that he helped through to surgery. She was discovered by Alfred Kinsey who referred her to Benjamin. In HBTP Sally is discussed anonymously p106-7/49 and in detail p299-307/141-2 where she is referred to as “H.”. Wheeler & Schaefer refer to her as Barry (as a forename) and then as Sally. JMHSC refers to her as Val Barry (Barry as a surname). SSTH denies her the dignity of a name and refers to her as the “mayhem” case (referring to a legal provision that prevented surgery in the US). In CGD she is called Van for the male phase and Susan afterwards.

  1. Carol

Real name Barbara Ann Richards, and then Mrs Barbara Wilcox. JMHSC refers to her by both these names; Richard Doctor’s biography of Virginia Prince simply calls her Barbara Ann Wilcox. In CGD she is renamed to Barbara. She was an early pioneer who petitioned the Superior Court of California to change her name and legal gender - in 1941!!

  1. Christian

Real name Lauren Wilcox. Barbara’s spouse: first wife and then husband. Barbara took the media spotlight, and Lauren transitioned quietly. JMHSC refers to him as Lauren Wilcox. In CGD he also became Lauren.

  1. Doris

This person’s real name was Louise Lawrence. She published under the pseudonym of Janet Thompson. She is surprisingly not mentioned, except as the writer Janet Thompson, in HBTP, despite all the work that she and Benjamin had done together. Wheeler & Schaefer call her Doris. JMHSC and SSTH refer to her by her real name. CGD calls her Louise.

  1. Frank

Frank saw Benjamin in 1951 at age 35. Two years later Benjamin referred him to Albert Ellis, and did not see him again until 1972. “after 20 years of vacillating, I am no longer interested at all in a sex-change”. In CGD he is referred to as Emory.

  1. Christine Jorgensen

Everybody calls her Christine Jorgensen.

  1. Harold

Christine Jorgensen's first referral to Benjamin. Harold saw Benjamin on only three separate occasions, over a period of 26 years, 1953-70. It is not known if Harold ever did transition.

  1. Inez

This seems to be Clara Miller, one of the autobiographies in the appendix to HBTP by REL Masters, and called C in the Biographical Profiles. In CGD she is renamed Vera.

  1. Janet


This person appears in HBTP paperback as the last four photographs, and is discussed anonymously p137/63. She is sometimes referred to as the tattoo woman because Benjamin did not give her a name. CGD renames her as Claire.

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