The Medical Paradigm and Its Effects on the Transgender Experience

Why medical professionals need to take a stand to support, advocate, and help the transgender people in their areas. - By Tina Calabrese, LCSW-R, CASAC

One of my heroes, Dr. Harry Benjamin started his medical practice in 1915 in a consulting room in New York City.

This room was also his home for a while. As time went on, he moved to San Francisco where later he was one of the first endocrinologists to help the transgender community members transition. This work began in the 1940’s and continued throughout his life. In 1966 he published “The Transsexual Phenomenon.” He helped many people transition with hormone replacement therapy and gender reassignment surgery. He often offered his services for free and sought out the latest research while also conducting his own research. Although he himself was not transgender Dr. Benjamin dedicated his life to helping that community and advocating for them. He lived to be 101. The “Harry Benjamin Foundation” was formed in 1967 and later the “Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association” was formed.

I became a member of the latter organization in 1996. I was proud to be part of an association that used Dr. Harry Benjamin’s name. Today the organization is called the “World Professional Association for Transgender Health.”


I am sorry to say, at least locally, there are no Harry Benjamins. Many of my clients and transgender community members are often unable to find an endocrinologist who is educated on the issues, is accepting of them, and takes their insurance. Quite often they need to travel into New York City to see someone. I do not know of one office that specializes in treating and helping this community in our area.

The Medical Paradigm is based on treating the illnesses of the majority. As of this writing, I don’t know of any medical schools that teach a program of study on the transgender experience. I went for my own training in 1995. I trained my staff and brought in workshops for continued training.


The transgender community is a minority and the issue is not illness it is transition. Because this does not fit the paradigm, the community is neglected. This needs to stop. I have gotten so angry when I hear that medical professionals ask my clients to teach them about their transgender medical issues. My clients are paying for their services, and they are not informed! Medical and mental health professionals need to seek out their own training, get their own certifications, and think outside the box to help this community.

This is not an illness. Dysphoria is a result of society’s illness. This experience is not the majority. The Medical Paradigm needs to change.

Like Dr. Benjamin, these professionals need to consider their oath and ethical standards and take a stand in their community to support, advocate, and help the transgender people in their areas.

Now more than ever the professional community cannot judge, take sides or claim ignorance when dealing with this community and their friends and family.

They need surgeons, endocrinologists, mental health professionals, nurses, attorneys, and all licensed professionals to know and learn as much as the transgender person knows about their body, their mind, and their spirit.