Harry Benjamin MD
Harry Benjamin (1885-1987) made significant contributions both to gerontology and to sexology.
Benjamin, born in Berlin, had close connections to sex researchers in Europe where sex research blossomed at the beginning of the 20th century. His interests in endocrinology were inspired by the work of Steinach, Vienna. His involvement in transvestism and transsexualism was inspired by the work of Hirschfeld, Berlin. In contrast, his interests in psychoanalysis were spoiled at his first encounter with Freud.
It was Hirschfeld who, in 1910, coined the term transvestism, and, in 1923, the term transsexualism. in 1918, Magnus Hirschfeld reported the first sex reassignment surgery having taken place in Berlin in 1912.
He arrived in the United States (1913) and joined the Neurological Institute of Columbia University to nurture endocrinology.
Encouraging his interest was his friendship with Eugen Steinach, of Vienna, who had claimed to have found a restorative effect in vasoligation of older men.
Benjamin’s understanding of the newly braking developments in endocrinology led him to try these hormones to deal with the problems of aging and to coin the term “gerontotherapy.”
Dr. Benjamin is best known in the sexological field for his unprecedented work with transvestites and transsexuals. He emerged quickly as the American leader in the field and published a seminal work on transsexualism, The Transsexual Phenomenon (1966).
Over his career, he treated more than 1500 people with gender identity disorders, and was known for the kindness and understanding he extended to all his patients.
He was so proud, and somewhat relieved, when in 1978, many of the professionals in the field organized The Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association, for organizing symposia and who initiated creating standards of care for the treatment of Gender Identity Disorders.
This organisation was renamed to WPATH after his death.