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Social Science Transgender Studies

Wondrous Transformations

A Maverick Physician, the Science of Hormones, and the Birth of the Transgender Revolution

by (author) Alison Li

The University of North Carolina Press
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Transgender Studies, History, Human Sexuality)
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price

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Harry Benjamin (1885–1986), a German-born endocrinologist, was a pivotal figure in the development of transgender medicine. He was physician to transgender pioneers such as Christine Jorgensen, the 1950s "Ex-GI" turned "Blonde Beauty" media sensation, and in turn, she and other collaborators helped to shape Benjamin's influential 1966 book, The Transsexual Phenomenon. Alison Li's much-needed biography of Benjamin chronicles his passion for hormones and his lifelong interest in sexology.

Drawing from extensive research in archival documents, secondary sources, and interviews, Li tells the story of Benjamin's early ventures in gerontology and his later work with over a thousand transgender patients. Benjamin's contributions to treatment, education, research, and networking helped to create the institutional foundations of transgender medicine. Moreover, they set the stage for a radical reconsideration of gender identity, challenging us to reflect upon what it is to be male or female and to envision moving beyond these long-held categories.

About the author

Alison Li is an historian of science and medicine based in Toronto. She is the author and editor of multiple books, including J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada. Her current project, Wondrous Transformations: A Maverick Physician, the Science of Hormones, and the Birth of the Transgender Revolution, will be published by University of North Carolina Press.

Alison Li's profile page

Editorial Reviews

Wondrous Transformations excels at painting a vibrant portrait of Benjamin . . . . Li's engaging prose harnesses the affordances allowed in biography to craft an engrossing narrative . . . . She has done an admirable job in bringing the two halves of Benjamin's career together, and her work is a great service to the fields of trans history and the history of hormones."—The Watermark

Skilfully composed as a scholarly trade book, Wondrous Transformations will be an important book for historians of medicine,
usable in university courses, but also accessible to a wide non-specialist audience interested in the transgender revolution."—Social History of Medicine

A smart and highly readable contribution to transgender studies."—Publishers Weekly

This thoughtful, thoroughly researched history provides a foundation and a lens through which to better understand contemporary issues of gender identity . . . . Recommended."—CHOICE