In Memoriam: Jeanne Hoff, MD, A Pioneering Transgender Psychiatrist

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A transgender psychiatrist, open about her gender transition to patients and the public, just died.

Jeanne Hoff, MD

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

It is one thing to work with transgender patients as a cisgender psychiatrist, as I did starting in the 1990s, reviewed in my last column. It is quite another to be a transgender psychiatrist working with them 20 years earlier and being open about your own gender transition amidst a time of intense questions, psychiatric misinterpretations, and societal ignorance. Moreover, I did not even know about her until the New York Times obituary titled, “Jeanne Hoff, Pioneering Transgender Psychiatrist, Dies at 85.”

Just imagine, if you do not know about this already, that in 1977, a 39-year-old psychiatrist had her gender affirming surgery filmed for the public. It was titled: “Being Jeanne: A Search for Sexual Identity.” Interestingly enough, the title itself used the phrase “sexual identity” when it should have been “gender identity,” but the subject was so new and misunderstood at the time.

Regardless, Jeanne Hoff went on to a productive career as a clinical psychiatrist out of the spotlight. She was a charter member of the pioneering Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association when it started in 1979 and took over his practice. That association developed the first evidence-based standards of gender identity care that I followed. She even helped get a Black transgender individual out of an institution where she had been from the ages of 15 to 30, having been misdiagnosed as having mental retardation and sexual perversion. Her last job was at San Quentin prison, where she treated prisoners on death row, but retired in 1999 after being attacked by a prisoner. I, too, worked in a prison part-time near the end of my clinical career, but only a medium security one, and know how dangerous they can be and what courage—once again—she exhibited for those underserved.

She was born on October 16, 1938, and died on October 26, 2023, at the age of 85. For being a pioneering and courageous role model, especially for gender transition, she deserves undying recognition and gratitude.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

Reference

1. Green P. Jeanne Hoff, pioneering transgender psychiatrist, dies at 85. The New York Times. December 18, 2023. Accessed December 19, 2023. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/18/us/jeanne-hoff-dead.html

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