overview

Dr. Jeanne Hoff, reportedly the first American openly transgender psychiatrist to work with transgender patients, lived and practiced in this Chelsea rowhouse from 1977 to c. 1983.

In 1978, Dr. Hoff appeared in “Becoming Jeanne: A Search for Sexual Identity,” an award-winning television documentary program about her transition.

Header Photo
Credit: Google Maps, 2019.

History

In 1976, Jeanne Hoff, MD, Ph.D (1938-2023) took over what remained of Dr. Harry Benjamin’s medical practice, then located at 1 East 72nd Street. At the time, she was in the process of her own transition and, reportedly, became the first American openly trans psychiatrist to treat trans patients.

The following year, Hoff purchased the Chelsea rowhouse at 219 West 22nd Street, relocating her office to the first floor where she worked primarily with gay and trans patients. She resided on the second floor and leased the third floor to a gay male couple. Hoff was open about her own identity with patients as a way to encourage and support their efforts to live more confidently and openly without shame. At the time, there were only a few publicly known examples of the transgender experience, including Christine Jorgensen, Jan Morris, and Reneé Richards.

In 1978, Hoff went public about her own transition as the subject of “Becoming Jeanne: A Search for Sexual Identity,” a 30-minute television documentary program, broadcast on WNBC. The program, one of the first about trans health care from the trans perspective, followed Hoff, beginning in 1977, before, during, and after her surgery. The interviews, which asked fundamental questions for a general audience presented in a sensitive manner, were conducted in her Chelsea residence. Hoff discussed the difficulties of finding informed health care professionals as well as many aspects of her ongoing medical procedures and personal life. Hoff’s decision to go public was to destigmatize her trans experience, which at the time, was groundbreaking and a risk to her livelihood.

The idea that in the 1970s a trans woman would be openly practicing as a psychiatrist is revolutionary by itself, when the profession was still struggling to depathologize homosexuality. But knowing that your psychiatrist understood what it was like to be in your shoes was a tidal shift.

Dr. Jules Gill-Peterson, author of “Histories of the Transgender Child,” for Hoff’s New York Times obituary, 2023

The documentary won the prestigious Ohio State Broadcasting Award in 1979. It was not the first time that Dr. Hoff had taken on the medical profession in a televised appearance. In the mid-1970s, she debated Dr. Charles Socarides, the noted anti-LGBT psychiatrist who tried to reverse the 1973 removal of homosexuality as a mental disorder from the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Hoff, who was raised a Baptist, converted to Roman Catholicism as a student. She was an active member of the Catholic LGBT group Dignity/New York, where she taught peer counseling classes. In the 1980s, Dr. Hoff closed her private practice and moved to Hudson, New York. She continued working as a psychiatrist at various Upstate institutions while retaining ownership of the Chelsea rowhouse until c. 1987. She eventually settled in San Francisco where she worked as a psychiatrist in the state’s prison system until her retirement in 1999.

Entry by Ken Lustbader, project director (January 2024), with thanks to Andy Humm.

NOTE: Names above in bold indicate LGBT people.

Building Information

  • Architect or Builder: Unknown
  • Year Built: c. 1852

Sources

  1. Andy Humm, “Jeanne Hoff, first trans psychiatrist to serve trans people, dies at 85,” Gay City News, December 5, 2023 (accessed January 9, 2024), bit.ly/3S7uv8t.

  2. Andy Humm, emails with Ken Lustbader, December 2023 and January 2024.

  3. Carol Lucas, phone call with Ken Lustbader, January 14, 2004.

  4. “Jeanne Hoff (1938-2023) psychiatrist,” A Gender Variance Who’s Who, December 6, 2023 (accessed January 9, 2024), bit.ly/48PW4J7.

  5. Penelope Green, “Jeanne Hoff, Pioneering Transgender Psychiatrist, Dies at 85,” The New York Times, December 18, 2023 (accessed January 9, 2024), nyti.ms/3Sb6SvG. [source of pull quote]

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Transgender History

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