For Parents of Gender-Variant Young
Brochures and PDFs
New - This Month
Books and Movies
On-Line TS Forums
Main Links Pages
For Questioning Young
For Parents of Gender-Variant Young
Brochures and PDFs
Additional Links of Interest
General Service Links
Links from Synopsis of
Links from TranssexualRoadMap
GenderBridge -NZ A
Great Site with a Vast Amount of Info.. See their "Resource" section.
Surgeons in Australia
Surgeons in Thailand
Other Medical Stuff
Hair Removal & Facial Rejuvenation Etc
Queensland Police Service LGBTI Liaison
Australia's Internet Safety Advisory Body
by Charlotte T.GA. and
Translated into English.
See Main Webpage:
is Harry Benjamin's Syndrome?
How Harry Benjamin’s Syndrome
is medically treated?
is Harry Benjamin's Syndrome?
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome (HBS) is a congenital intersex condition that develops before birth,
involving the differentiation between male and female. It is believed that every
1 out of 500
is born with this condition. Therefore, a girl with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome would have a
female brain's sex but
her genitals would appear male. The boys born under this condition have female genitalia even
thought their brains are male. So far, it is impossible to diagnose this condition at the moment of
birth causing the babies to be raised in the wrong gender role.
We now know that
the brain is the only part of the body that can define one’s sex,
therefore one's true sex is determined by the structure of the brain, and not by the genitalia.
Gender identity is hard-wired in the brain and in deeper CNS structures. The main difference
between Harry Benjamin's Syndrome and other intersex conditions is that there is no apparent
evidence at the moment of birth making it impossible for doctors to diagnose it.
In comparison with other intersex
conditions Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is twice, more frequent than
and five times more frequent than Turner’s
syndrome. It is also
known to be 25 times more frequent than
Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome.
Most people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome have been diagnosed around 20 to 45 years of age. This
has not stopped people from having their genitalia reassigned and living a normal life afterwards.
On the other hand, there are also people that have preferred not to have any surgeries and they are
living happily as well but,
it is recommended to have this condition treated as early as possible.
The level of distress experienced by people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome does vary from person to
person. Society's gender-related expectations are far from perfectly suited to all individuals, and
not everyone would find being treated as the opposite gender to be all that terrible. People's
degree of concern for their own appearance and anatomy is also variable - some couldn't care less
what they had between their legs or how others perceived their gender. However, it is perfectly
normal, and probably much more common, for people to place a great deal of importance in both their
own and other people's physical and social gender. It may be something they take for granted and
hardly think about, but that is only an indication of how deeply rooted it is. People with Harry
Benjamin's Syndrome almost always experience growing dissatisfaction and unhappiness with both their
bodies and their social gender role until they can correct them, even to the point of suicide if
they feel they have no other solution to their problem.
The pain of living with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is exacerbated by society's attitude towards it.
Employers, friends, and especially family are often disbelieving and hostile towards people who
reveal they have discovered they have Harry Benjamin Syndrome. In addition, society in general does
not treat people whose appearance is gender ambiguous at all well, targeting them for verbal abuse,
discrimination, and sometimes violence. This is hard enough to deal with without the loss of family
support and possibly employment that often accompanies it. Though the cause of Harry Benjamin's
Syndrome is undecided, and indeed, there may be more than one cause, the most likely explanation is
some kind of hormonal irregularity during pregnancy. However, whatever the cause, it is a genuine,
traumatic condition that deserves understanding and compassion.
Harry Benjamin’s Syndrome is medically treated?
Note: This site only contains a brief explanation
of the different aspects related to the treatment available for people living with Harry Benjamin's
Syndrome. If you would like to learn more about it the following link is a great place to start:
How is MtF transsexualism medically treated?
The early treatment of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome can eliminate virtually all the symptoms of the
In order to properly reassign the person’s body to its proper gender the treatment will include
Hormonal Replacement Therapy (HRT)
Genital Reconstructive Surgery (GRS).
To this day this Syndrome is mostly
known as transsexualism, this terminology creates a problem in properly diagnosing and treating
people living with this condition. The word
usually linked to men wanting to be women or seen as a mental disorder. We still can find doctors
referring to this Syndrome as Transsexualism. It may seem like the medical community is ignoring
the most recent research about the brain and its relationship with gender. This is caused by the
lingering and outdated use of words like ‘transsexuality’, ‘transsexualism’ and others.
The medical community of today is perfectly prepared to successfully treat
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome,
but large sections of this medical multitude is still lacking in quality diagnosis, caused by the
lack of information-updates about this condition, leaving doctors stuck with the myths and
conjecture of the past.
suggestion concerning doctors is that you should not believe everything they say, because they may
not have up-to-date information. I recommend listening to the doctors, (since they know how the
human body works) but do not assume they cannot make mistakes; after all they are only human.
It is advisable to visit an
endocrinologist and give him or her up to date information about Harry Benjamin's Syndrome, this way
you will be opening the door to receive more objective treatment.
A psychological follow up is
very useful for a proper diagnosis of this condition and its physical treatment afterwards can
correct it completely.
In most cases, it is impossible to give a diagnosis before late infancy or pre-adolescence, although
countries like the Netherlands are very advanced in diagnosing and treating this syndrome.
Thanks to the hard work of Cohen-Kettenis,
people living in the Netherlands are able to start the treatment before
although there are specialists in many communities, only the Andalucia's Hospital can offer complete
treatment of this condition. It’s always a good idea to consult the local GLBTIQ group.
It is important to remind that Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is a physiological condition and not
psychiatric, even though the help of a psychologist can be very useful to the patient, especially
for the young ones. The treatment of this condition includes HRT and GRS. You should always start
by visiting an endocrinologist and a surgeon first.
Diagnosing Harry Benjamin's Syndrome
Causes Of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome
Resources for Women
Resources for Men
Resources in other languages and for people living
with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome
Charlotte T.GA. Copyright
@ 2005-2006 http://sindromebenjamin.tk
by Charlotte T.GA. and Melanie l'Heuremaudit
From Transsexualism to Harry Benjamin's Syndrome.
The Problem of Terminology.
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome as Intersex Condition.
Three Final Statements.
Transsexualism to Harry Benjamin's Syndrome.
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome was known until now as
The term transsexualism was first
introduced in the medical community in the ‘50s by
Doctor Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in research into
this condition, who supported a biological explanation, in spite of the difficulty in finding it.
In those years, there was a great need to differentiate this condition from transvestism and
homosexualism, and the term transsexualism
seemed to be adequate to fill this need, given the still scientific darkness around this condition,
and then they started talking about transsexuals for the first time.
Apart from this, Transsexualism was seen as a psychiatric condition in which a person felt they
belonged to his or her opposite sex. This condition, at the time, seemed to be merely psychological
or even “unexplainable”. (See as example Cauldwell's work:
Psychopathia Transexualis, 1949)
However, after more deep research done in the last two decades about
this condition, it was found that it is not a psychologically-based condition, and even the term
transsexualism had become inadequate to describe it now.
We now know that what in the past was known as transsexualism is not a
psychological condition, but it deals with neurological patterns.
Transsexual people or people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome already posses the brain of the sex they
always knew they belonged to. Recent studies also point out that the
sex of the brain is what determines the real sex of a person,
therefore somebody born with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is already a member of the "opposite sex".
The term transsexualism becomes obsolete then because there is no change of sex but just only
corrective surgery to be done. People with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome are already biologically of
the sex they feel they belong to, as their brain sex and neurological structures already match their
gender identity. What happens is that their neurological patterns of their brain are opposites to
their genital sex. (See
the related Medical Documentation).
The old “Transsexualism” is in reality an intersex condition where the brain sex does not match the
genital sex. The nature of the condition is neurological instead of psychological, as it was
believed in the past. Consequently, we cannot speak about Transsexualism (or modern Harry
Benjamin's Syndrome), considering it as an orientation or a personal personality's feature, but only
as a physiological condition, that requires early diagnosis and treatment.
Some very long-established "mental" disorders such as
Schizophrenia or Manic-depressive Disorder, are
seen as "mental" disorders today, but as diseases of the brain instead
-just as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's
disease are diseases of the brain too. In a similar way, Harry Benjamin's Syndrome (formerly
Transsexualism) is no longer seen as a "mental" disorder either, but is now regarded by the world's
leading experts in the field as another of the many biological variations that occur in human sexual
formation - an intersex condition, where the sex indicated by the phenotype and genotype is opposite
the morphological sex of the brain.
The old “Transsexualism” label and conjecture about it, urgently needs to be updated, and leave old
superstitions about the condition in the past. There is too much stigma, negativity, superstitions
and decades of media abuse and medical mistreatment attached to the word
Transsexualism, apart from
its inadequacy to describe this condition. It urgently needs to be replaced. Contemporary
knowledge of the condition urgently needs to be updated. The endless mass-media sensationalism and
misinformation about the subject must to be stopped.
Problem of Terminology.
Terminology is probably the greatest problem in
need to be solved by people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome as group. It is about the group's
identity, about Who we are, How we call ourselves, How we consider ourselves and How we introduce
ourselves to the others. For to achieve full social assimilation we need first to reaffirm our
identity as group and in doing so Terminology is definitely a key factor. Nowadays too much
inadequate terms are used to refer to this condition and the people suffering it. Although those
terms seemed to be the right ones in the past, they are obsolete today. Today the people just
choose the term they like more or they prefer to use in a given moment, o even uses several
different terms at the same time, as we can constantly see in different articles or publications
related with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome, in all mass media kinds. This is not serious and not
focused at all in the condition, and it does not happen with any other medical condition. Moreover
the terms currently in use results to be as inadequate as harmful most of the time.
Therefore, we go to consider them:
a. "Harry Benjamin's Syndrome".
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is named after
Dr Harry Benjamin, a pioneer in research into
this condition. His name is also used by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria
HBIGDA )-now>( WPATH )),
who produces the widely followed
Standards of Care for people with
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome. A number of different
names, “Harry Benjamin’s Syndrome” being an increasingly popular alternative to others currently in
widespread usage, know the syndrome.
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is greatly preferable to the others because it lacks the
misleading connotations and outright inaccurate meanings they possess.
b. "Transsexualism/ Transsexual(s)".
The most well known term for Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is Transsexualism (coined by Dr Harry
Benjamin in the 1950s). Unfortunately, there are several problems with it. Simply including "sex"
in the name attracts undesirable attention, and the word strongly implies a connection with sexual
orientation that does not exist. It is too similar to "transvestism", a completely unrelated
phenomenon (men who enjoy wearing women's clothing do not have much in common with men who were born
with female anatomy and are very unhappy about it) that bears enough of a superficial similarity to
cause much confusion. In addition, labelling people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome with the term
"transsexual" is a bad thing. Saying that people are transsexuals is dehumanizing, and makes
it easier to think of them as being "other". People with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome are people,
who happen to have a particular medical problem; it is not their identity, and they are not
specimens of the condition. Use as an adjective is not much better; with "transsexual man" or
"transsexual woman", it is too easy for "transsexual" to be interpreted as "pretend", and for some
reason many people seem to be confused about whether the appropriate noun for any particular
individual is "man" or "woman".
After being raised in the wrong gender role and had been through so much emotional confusion in the
past, the most needed for a person with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is to achieve a psychophysical
balance and fix it:
Reaffirming his or her gender identity, correcting the body, and leaving all the "ambiguities" in
the past. It is cruel then to force this person to carry the label of "transsexual" for the rest of
his or her life, making of it part of his or her identity, because the person is not changing sex
continually or involved into a never-ending transition or living all the time between both
genders... In addition, this is what clearly suggests (and unconsciously implies) the term
transsexual. When we call someone "a
transsexual", or "a transsexual man or woman", we are claiming that his or her "current sex" is not
his or her "true original sex"; it doesn't matter how good he or she looks, or how happy he or she
is in life after the physical correction of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome: The ambiguity of his or her
past, the "transition period", the memories, all the psycho-physical "marks" of his or her "original
sex" and all the confusion, all this is brought back again now and in most cases this is a source of
uncomfortable feelings, because it is attached to his/ her identity. It’s the identity of the
person -who considers himself or herself to be "a transsexual man or woman" instead of just a man or
a woman. Moreover, all this is inadequate because the nature of the condition is not transsexual,
but intersexual, and now is possible to correct it completely.
Harry Benjamin wrote:
"..the term transsexualism may
prove to be inappropriate if it should ever be shown that an anatomically normal male transsexual
may actually be a genetic female, or at least not a genetically normal male. In such event, we
would be dealing with a transgenital desire instead of a transsexual." -
Harry Benjamin 1966. The Transsexual Phenomenon.
Obviously, by "transgenital" Benjamin is referring to
a form of intersexuality and recent research (Vilain,
2003) points out now to this genetic differentiation suggested by Benjamin
many years before. However, the neurological-sexual differentiation is already a biological marker
in persons with this condition and is indicative of the syndrome's intersexuality (Kruijver
et al., 2000). Moreover, from the first moment when Transsexualism is
considered an intersex condition, this term (transsexualism) and its derivatives (transsexual/s) are
automatically not valid anymore to describe this condition and then needs to be replaced.
If we look in dictionaries for the word "transsexual"
then we find the following definitions for this term: "a
person who has undergone a sex change operation", or "a
person whose sexual identification is entirely with the opposite sex", or well, "overwhelmingly
desirous of being, or completely identifying with, the opposite sex" if we use the word
as an adjective. Not one of them applies in the case of persons with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome, or
at least not with rigorous property. Therefore, persons with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome are
not transsexuals. At least not in the
more strict official definition. We have then that persons with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome are just
only persons with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome.
Most people living with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome find the term
transsexual to be just too awkward and
uncomfortable to use it today, as well as many others when referring to them, and so, as time goes
on, we'll see how this old and sleazy term has not really future, unless maybe in zoology.
There is a great stigma associated to Transsexuality: This is considered a "lifestyle choice"
for many people or even a kind of "expansion" of one's personality, and the term "transsexuality"
itself reinforces even more this so deeply rooted stigma about Harry Benjamin's Syndrome. That is
why the findings of biological markers for the syndrome in parallel with the update of the
terminology in use, are so liberating. Transsexuality is a natural phenomenon in the animal kingdom
and is there where to speak about transsexuality or transsexuals is adequate, but it is not adequate
to use this same terminology with human beings, with persons. Simply because the persons are not
amphibious, changing sex continually in a "natural" way and of course is not a choice they made
neither. People with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome do not change sex, they do not become the opposite
sex, they already are of a determined sex -determined by its brain structure, which already is how
it should be, and it cannot be "changed".
d. "Gender Identity Disorder".
The other common terms "Gender
Identity Disorder" (GID) and
Dysphoria", although sounding suitably clinical,
identify Harry Benjamin's Syndrome as being a psychiatric condition. This is not the case at all;
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is purely a physical problem (leaving aside the social problems and
psychological effects resulting from having such a physical deformity, of course), and can only be
treated by fixing the body. While psychiatric evaluation is useful in diagnosing the
syndrome, attempts to alter the sufferers' genders to match their bodies have been spectacularly
unsuccessful. Falsely implying that people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome are mentally ill or
deluded is not a good way to promote understanding and acceptance of the condition.
"Transgender" has become popular
recently as an all-inclusive term for a wide variety of extremely disparate groups, especially
amongst the queer community This is not a positive development, as it is far too broad a category to
say anything useful, and implies similarities that do not exist. It's like having a word that
means: "Plays Chess; is Asian; or; has Cancer" - using it to describe someone tells you nothing
f. "Genital Reconstructive
Similarly, the term "Genital Reconstructive Surgery" (GRS) is preferable to the alternatives of "Sex
Reassignment Surgery" (SRS) or "Gender Reassignment Surgery" for describing the operation used to
help correct the anatomies of people with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome. There is certainly no
reassignment of gender involved, and it only involves one aspect of physical sex, which is not a
binary, either-or characteristic. The sex of the brain is already as it should be, and HRT corrects
other sexual characteristics. For men, HRT can even go a little way towards correcting the
genitalia, though nowhere near the complete development that occurs in the womb.
Other terms for Harry Benjamin's Syndrome
are also used, but are mostly pejoratives or sleazy references that aren't worth dealing with here.
Benjamin's Syndrome as Intersex condition.
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is a neurologically intersex condition. The difference among other
intersex conditions such as Turner's Syndrome, Klinefelter's Syndrome, Kuster Hauser's Syndrome,
etc.., is that Harry Benjamin's Syndrome can pass unnoticed for many years and then it would seem
like it suddenly appeared in adulthood. Thanks to the most recent studies about this condition,
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is starting to take its place where it belongs: An intersex condition
among other intersex conditions, and not among mental disorders.
Endocrinologist Louis Gooren talks about
the recent discoveries about the brain made in the Netherlands Institute
for Brain Research in
1995 (Zhou et al.) and then confirmed in 2000 by
another research's study
(Kruijver et al.) :
"The recent discoveries about the
brain's sexual differentiation on people with transsexualism could open a door to see this condition
in a different way that we see it today. First, from the medical view transsexuals could be
reassigned to their true sex and not be seen as mentally disturbed people. Second, the medical
insurance would be obligated to pay for all medical expenses for the sex reassignment as it happens
with other cases of intersexuality. The legal system would have to treat transsexuals in the same
way they treat people with other intersex conditions. The rest of the people may change their
attitude towards transsexuals and even religious institutions would stop seeing it as a sin.
The fascinating consequences of the "biologication" of transsexualism in all the domains of Life are
difficult to value. Louis Gooren.
"Transsexualism, a form of intersexuality".
Department of Endocrinology, Free University
Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The findings of medical researchers about the neurological root of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome (Schwaab
et coll, 1985. Zhou et al, 1995) increased understanding of physiological sex. We know now that
sex is not only defined by our genitals, reproductive organs, endocrine system (sexual hormones), or
genetic structure (sexual chromosomes), but it is also defined by the structure of the brain
(neurological system or also called brain sex). This causes a larger variation of intersex
Besides the neurological nature of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome, there are other characteristics like
hypogonadism or variations in the endocrine system, which are not so unusual. Recent research
strongly suggests a genetic basis linked to the condition too. It is common for people with Harry
Benjamin's Syndrome to present characteristics of their "opposite" sex even before HRT, i.e.: many
females with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome have lower levels of antigen HY (Eicher et al., 1981). These
levels would be abnormal in males. Other morphologic characteristics are also common. Many girls
with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome already had clearly feminine physical forms and bone disposition
before starting HRT, as example too.
Human Rights report from Australia, explains the syndrome as follows:
"Transsexualism is now regarded by the world's leading experts in the field as another of the many
biological variations that occur in human sexual formation -an intersex condition- where the sex
indicated by the phenotype and genotype is opposite the morphological sex of the brain. People with
the condition of transsexualism are therefore born with both male and female characteristics and,
like many others with atypical sexual development, seek rehabilitation of their phenotype and
endocrinology to accord with their dominant sexual identity; an identity which is determined by the
structure of the brain. Transsexualism is about being a particular sex, not doing it. It is also
about recognising gender norms, not challenging them." -Karen
Gurney & Eithne Mills. 2005.
Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law, Vol 12,
No #1 & #2
Most intersex people have a defined gender identity as a man or as a woman and this is the reason
why these people have the need to be reaffirmed as their true gender. Intersex people nowadays are
fighting for their right to choose when and how they want to be reaffirmed. People want to put an
end to the corrective surgeries that doctors perform to intersex newborns and wait until the person
is old enough to decide -just in the same way as Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is treated today.
Some intersex communities have refused to see Harry Benjamin's Syndrome as another intersex
condition. This is caused by misinformation or the stereotypes of the past. We know that Harry
Benjamin's Syndrome is not a conventional intersex condition. It could be better classified along
with other rare conditions. However, it would be even better to establish communication between
both communities to understand the needs of each other and develop a better relationship among the
different intersex communities.
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is not a part of a person’s identity, but a physiological issue that needs
to be reaffirmed. Due to the old relation between transsexualism and homosexuality or transvestism,
transsexualism was considered a part of a person’s identity. We have become used to making our
condition part of our identity, to the point where there are people just becoming aware of the term
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome wondering if now they should call themselves “Benjamins”. This is a big
mistake. Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is a physiological condition, not part of someone’s identity.
Women with Turner’s syndrome do not call themselves “Turner Women”, in the same way, we should not
call ourselves “HBS Women or HBS Men” just “Women” or “Men” since that is what we are, the syndrome
is something apart.
It is more adequate to refer to this condition as a
Reaffirmation of gender instead of a gender transition. People with Harry
Benjamin's Syndrome that are under HRT or getting GRS are people that are reaffirming their gender,
not transitioning from one gender to another.
Ultimately, Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is just another natural biological variation in human sexual
formation, and it does not have to be seen as an illness or a problem. However, medical treatment
is required in most cases, and that is why it is so important an adequate and updated definition
and placement of the condition by the international standard diagnostic classifications.
In relation with any possible criticism towards the intersex nature of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome or
towards the Syndrome itself, see the special section:
Respondiendo algunas Críticas
Denominate to somebody with
Harry Benjamin's Syndrome as "a transsexual" is contraindicated.
-It is contraindicated if we care of the
psychological well-being and emotional balance of someone affected by this condition, which
already is neurologically of the sex that he or she feels to belong.
The corrective medical
treatment of Harry Benjamin's Syndrome is an
of one's own gender, not a transition of gender.
– Certainly, there is not a transition of gender
involved at all, and anyway this would be not possible to do.
Resources in other languages and for people living
with Harry Benjamin's Syndrome in Europe
Charlotte T.GA. Copyright
@ 2005-2006 http://sindromebenjamin.tk
Biography and Links
by Charlotte T.GA.
Harry Benjamin (1885-1986) was a German-born doctor. He is best known for his pioneering work with
Transsexualism (Harry Benjamin's Syndrome). He received his doctorate in medicine in 1912 in
Tübingen for a dissertation on tuberculosis. Sexual medicine interested him, but was not part of
his medical studies. After several failed attempts to start a medical career in New York, in 1915
Benjamin started his own general medical practise. Later he also practised in San Francisco in the
summer of every year. His special interest was hormonal research, and thus he became a disciple of
Eugen Steinach, whom he visited in Vienna every summer through the twenties and early thirties. On
these occasions, he also took frequent side trips to Berlin, where he visited both Magnus Hirschfeld
and Albert Moll and participated in their congresses.
In 1948, in San Francisco, Benjamin was asked by Alfred Kinsey, a fellow sexologist, to see a child
who "assured to be a girl", despite being born male, and whose mother wished for help that would
assist rather than thwart the child. Kinsey had seen nothing of the like previously. Neither had
Benjamin. This child rapidly led Benjamin to understand that there was a different condition to
that of transvestism, under which adults who had such needs had been classified to that time (see
for a competent history of earlier cases). Despite psychiatrists whom Benjamin involved in the case
failing to agree amongst themselves on a path of treatment, Benjamin eventually decided to treat the
child with oestrogen (Premarin, introduced in 1941), which had a "calming effect", and helped
arrange for the mother and child to go to Germany where surgery to assist the child could be
performed, but from where they ceased to maintain contact, to Benjamin's regret. However Benjamin
continued to refine his understanding, in 1954 introducing the term Transsexualism,
and going on to treat, with the assistance of carefully selected colleagues of various disciplines
(such as psychiatrist John Alden and electrologist Martha Foss in San Francisco and plastic surgeon
Jose Jesus Barbosa in Tijuana), several hundred patients with similar needs in a similar manner,
often without accepting any payment. His patients regarded him as a man of immense caring, respect
and kindness, and many kept in touch with him until his death.
Medical attitudes toward Harry Benjamin's Syndrome were very diverse among different countries, and
many doctors considered all such people (including children) best treated by forced treatments such
as drugged detention, electroconvulsive therapy or lobotomy.
Although Benjamin's 1966 book,
The Transsexual Phenomenon,
was immensely important as the first large work describing and explaining the affirmative treatment
path he pioneered, he had already published papers and lectured to professional audiences
extensively. In his work, Benjamin believed in a biological cause or explanation for
Transsexualism, he was very much biologically oriented as himself declared jokingly to Freud in a
meeting "that a disharmony of souls might perhaps be explained by a disharmony of endocrine glands."
Charles L Ihlenfeld, who worked with Benjamin for
6 years, was to become his heir apparent, but then left the practice to undertake a psychiatric
residency, has written that: "By and large psychiatrists of this time considered gender dysphoria as
a manifestation of significant psychopathology and considered the treatment Benjamin was then
prescribing as psychiatrically contraindicated. Rather than discouraging Benjamin, this response
simply reinforced his feeling that psychiatry as a discipline lacked 'common sense.'"
Harry Benjamin was married to Gretchen, to whom he dedicated his 1966 major work, for 60 years. In
1979 the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association was formed, using Benjamin's name
by permission. In his long and distinguished career, Benjamin came to know many famous American and
European scientists, scholars, and artists.
An interview with Harry Benjamin on
the occasion of his 100th Birthday.
A brief biography of Dr. Benjamin with
additional pictures and writings by him.
Intro | Syndrome
Charlotte T.GA. Copyright
@ 2005-2006 http://sindromebenjamin.tk
Syndrome is not easy to diagnose. Though it is highly probable that there are biological indications
for the syndrome, current medical technology isn't sophisticated enough to detect them. Autopsies
carried out on people with Benjamin's Syndrome have suggested that they do exist, and genes that may
be responsible for some cases have recently been discovered, but gender is a very poorly understood
thing and we are a long way from being able to carry out reliable medical tests for the syndrome.
But even if such tests were possible, they would not be very useful. There may be multiple causes
for the syndrome, so testing for a single cause would be far from conclusive, and the appropriate
treatment for any given individual depends much more upon their own feelings than on anything
So, it is
generally up to the sufferer to diagnose their condition for themselves. Psychiatrists and
counsellors can sometimes help, but the person with Benjamin's Syndrome has to realise that they
have a problem and something needs to be done about it. That something is wrong is usually
clear from a young age; many if not most children with Benjamin's Syndrome feel different from other
children, and uncomfortable with people's expectations of them. They may also be unhappy with their
bodies, especially when puberty begins. But that doesn't automatically translate into an
understanding that they're not really of the gender that they've always been told they belong to.
Gender has such a fundamental importance to human society that the possibility of being so wrong
about it can be literally unthinkable, especially when the concept is kept hidden and not talked
about. While some people with Benjamin's Syndrome do know who they are for virtually all their
lives, many do not figure it out until in their teens, twenties, or even older.
It does not help
that Benjamin's Syndrome has significant social stigma associated with it, and much misinformation
about it is perpetuated. Most people who've diagnosed themselves with Benjamin's Syndrome just want
to deal with their condition as thoroughly as possible, then forget about it and get on with normal
lives. So the people who get the most publicity are an outspoken minority who are not at all
representative of people with Benjamin's Syndrome in general, and people who don't have Benjamin's
Syndrome at all but are lumped into the same category by ignorant or sensationalist media. This
makes it hard for people with Benjamin's Syndrome to recognise themselves in the way the condition
is portrayed. And society's attitude towards Benjamin's Syndrome makes it scary to talk to anyone
about the possibility that you may be suffering from it, or even think about it.
Benjamin's Syndrome are usually uncomfortable with their bodies, ranging from simply feeling that
they're not quite right in some way through to outright loathing of the aspects that don't match
their gender identity. They tend to relate better to people of their actual gender than those of the
gender they were raised as, and have interests and personalities more typical of people of their
actual gender (not stereotypes - people with Benjamin's Syndrome are just as varied as anyone
else, and it isn't possible to label any particular trait as exclusively masculine or feminine),
albeit influenced to some extent by socialistaion and hormones. People with Benjamin's Syndrome
usually respond very favourably (emotionally if not physically) to hormone replacement therapy to
bring their endocrine system in line with what is normal for their actual gender, and find changing
gender roles to be of immense psychological benefit (disregarding the negative effects of social
Not everyone who
claims to or believes that they have Benjamin's Syndrome really does. Some gay men have been known
to seek to become women to "make themselves straight", and there are mental disorders which can
result in the expression of a desire to change sex without any genuine identification with the
matching gender. Though psychiatric evaluation and counselling can not diagnose Benjamin's Syndrome,
they can be useful in weeding out people who have some other problem, and coming to terms with it
for those who do suffer from the condition.
Causes Of Benjamin's
The real cause or causes of Benjamin's Synrome are not
known for certain. Some might say people with Benjamin's Syndrome are born with souls of the
opposite gender to their bodies, which may be true but isn't verifiable. Others consider it to be
simply an issue of upbringing, which seems unlikely given that it has occured throughout history in
all societies and social classes. But the most plausible explanation is that people with Benjamin's
Syndrome have brain structures that do not match the sex of the rest of their bodies, due to some
genetic or hormonal irregularity.
A Basic Guide To Human Sexual Differentiation
When a human egg is fertalised by a sperm, a new life
begins from a single cell containing a mixture of DNA from both parents. This DNA (usually) contains
either the chromosome pair XX or the pair XY. The cell replicates itself, and after a while the
cells seperate into three distinct groups: one that will later form the skin, nervous tissue, and
brain; one that will form bone, blood, and muscle; and one that will form most internal organs. A
placenta forms to connect the embryo to its mother. This transfers substances such as nutrients from
the mother's blood stream to the embryo, and also produces hormones to regulate the embryo's
The embryo begins developing gonads which will later
differentiate into either testes or ovaries by means which are not well understood, but involve
hormones and the XX or XY chromosomes. The embryo also develops the beginnings of both male and
female internal reproductive structures, one of which is absorbed back into the body depending on
certain hormones. The presence of testosterone causes the male structures to develop further, and
the presence of AMH causes the female structures to be reabsorbed. Both are produced by the testes.
In the absence of both hormones, the male structures will be reabsorbed and the female structures
will develop. The external genitalia is initially female, but the presence of testosterone causes
further development into a male configuration. The seam where the proto-labia fused together can
sometimes be seen on the scrotum and the underside of the penis of adult males.
The sexual differentiation of the brain is not as clear
cut, but is similarly affected by hormones. The brain develops quite independently from the
reproductive system, with the cells that will form the two systems differentiating very early in the
embryo's development. Sexual differentiation for the two occurs at different times, may involve
different hormones and different genes, and involves tissues that may respond differently to the
same hormones. The brain is also exceptionally complex, and could be affected by much smaller
hormonal variations than other parts of the body.
What Can Go Wrong
The embryo's DNA is essentially the blueprint from which
it knows how to develop. This blueprint contains much more information than the embryo will actually
use. Genetic abnormalities can cause errors in the parts of the blueprint that the embryo is using,
or tell it to use the wrong parts of the blueprint. So some parts of the body might not know they're
supposed to make certain changes when they're exposed to testosterone, for example. Also, the
presence of various hormones at various stages during the embryo's development helps regulate which
parts of the blueprint are followed. If the wrong hormones are introduced at critical times (eg by
the mother taking pills), or something prevents the right hormones from being present, the embryo
will not develop as expected.
Abnormalities in sexual differentiation as a group are
known as Intersexuality. Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) is a good example. Embryos with Total
AIS do not recognise testosterone, so their external genitalia is female. However, they are affected
normally by AMH, so if they have XY chromosomes they will not develop female internal organs (eg the
Benjamin's Syndrome is a form of intersexuality in which
the brain of a person with XY chromosomes fails to masculinise for some reason, or the brain of a
person with XX chromosomes does masculinise (there may be many ways in which this can happen). It is
often (but by no means always) accompanied by other signs of mild atypical sexual differentiation,
eg a particularly large clitoris or small penis, unusually pronounced proto-labial seam, late or
minimal puberty, etc. It can also coexist with other types of intersexuality, though if another kind
of intersexuality is present then an additional diagnosis of Benjamin's Syndrome would generally be
Technically speaking, this makes the brain
structure/gender identity of a person with Benjamin's Syndrome the thing which is "wrong" (unless
their brain matches their chromosomes and everything else is wrong, but that isn't common). However,
the brain is by far the most important part of the body; the rest is just a shell to keep the brain
alive. While the gender identity of a person with Benjamin's Syndrome may not be what was intended
by their DNA, it is a perfectly normal, healthy state, and for all practical purposes they are the
same as if their brain was as intended and their body the "mistake". The XX/XY chromosomes do affect
the sexual differentiation of the embryo, but are by no means the only factor, and are not a
useful means of determining a person's actual sex. In some species, chromosomes are completely
irrelevant, and sex is determined by, for example, the temperature at which the eggs are incubated.
Members of other species naturally change sex during their lifetimes.
Women with Benjamin's Syndrome are more common than men
(there is no consensus on the exact ratio), which is a natural consequence of human development
being female by default (it's generally easier for something to fail to happen when it should than
for something to happen when it shouldn't).
Artificially Induced Benjamin's Syndrome
One situation in which the cause of Benjamin's Syndrome
is quite clear is the sexual mutilation of children or infants. This most often occurs with
physically intersexed infants, where the individual is operated on to make them conform more closely
to a sex chosen by a doctor with no possibility of consent or regard for their brain
structure/gender indentity. It can also occur if a male infants's penis is acidentally damaged or
removed, and it is easier to surgically transform him into a female and raise him as such than to
reconstruct the penis. It is common for people in these situations to be very unhappy with what was
done to them, and revert to living according to their actual gender later in life.
Resources for Women
An overview of HRT for women with Benjamin's Syndrome.
Details of the main types of hormone medication and their effects, focusing on my own experiences.
This should not be used to plan your own HRT regime without a doctor's assistance, as
individual respones to HRT are highly variable and what works for me may not suit you.
Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS) corrects the most
obvious physical symptom of Benjamin's Syndrome by constructing a vagina and vulva from the existing
genital tissue. The techniques are very sophisticated (though not perfect and not without risk) and
a good surgeon can create a result virtually indistinguishable from the natural version.
A description of my experience of GRS with Dr Toby
Meltzer, and the long term results.
Unless you begin HRT very young, you'll probably need
electrolysis (aka zapping) to remove facial hair. This is not fun, or quick, or cheap.
Some random advice for women with Benjamin's Syndrome,
regarding voice, makeup, and cosmetic surgery.
Resources for Men
This section is unfortunately rather less detailed and
accurate than the section for women, since being a woman myself that is what I know most about. I
will try to expand this in time, and suggestions and corrections for these pages are particularly
An overview of HRT for men
with Benjamin's Syndrome. Details of the main types of hormone medication and their effects. This
should not be used to plan your own HRT regime without a doctor's assistance, as individual
respones to HRT are highly variable.
mastectomies, hysterectomies, and genital reconstruction surgery (GRS).
Some random advice for men
with Benjamin's Syndrome.