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Archive History Humanities Nonfiction

Harry Benjamin’s First Ten Cases (1938-1953): A Clinical Historical Note

By Leah Cahan Schaefer and Connie Christine Wheeler, 1995

The value in studying Dr. Harry Benjamin’s first gender dysphoria patients is in learning how they described themselves–without any books to read, without any other source of information, assuming that he or she was alone and unlike anyone else in the world–and before hardly any literäture on the subject had been published. Just as today, Benjamin’s earliest patients came to hirn self-diagnosed. Even without the terminology currently available, their early descriptions of this unique phenomenon are identical with cross-gender identity patients who present themselves today: a recognition of the condition very early in their lives; the attempts at cross-dressing; the secrecy; the guilt; the unsuccessful attempts at suppressing desires and feelings; the episodic and continuous purging. These early individuals who suffered from gender conflicts had discovered Benjamin who wouId try to understand their unusual dilemma and be a barometer and a guide for the changes they would make. Their early individualistic perceptions provided insights that led to the birth of a new diseipline. These 10 people must be lauded for their courage in seeking a description and a solution for a phenomenon that had no description and no treatment.

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