Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Harry Benjamin

Born in Berlin, Benjamin studied medicine in Tubingen, Germany, and early on showed interest in the science of sexuality and hormones. While a student, he received a tour of Berlin’s gay bars from Magnus Hirschfeld, a pioneering gay activist. Benjamin settled in New York during World War I and established a medical practice. In 1948, Alfred Kinsey introduced him to a young boy who wanted to be a girl and whose mother supported his wishes. This launched Benjamin on the road of “transsexual” medicine, a word he began using widely in the 1950s, and led to his publishing a pioneering work, The Transsexual Phenomenon, in 1966. He worked with countless transgender individuals over many decades; had a reputation for treating them with respect and kindness; and kept up a correspondence with many for years. His correspondence is preserved in the Hirschfeld Archive of Sexology in Berlin. Benjamin knew many of the most influential people in the field of sexology and sex reform movements, including Hirschfeld, Kinsey, Margaret Sanger, Robert Latou Dickinson, and Judge Ben Lindsey. He died on August 24 1986.