Dr. Leah Cahan Schaefer (February 27, 1920-January 26, 2013)
Therapist and sex researcher Dr. Leah Cahan Schaefer passed away peacefully at her home in New York City on January 26, 2013, at age 92.
Leah was a pioneer in the field of gender and sexuality. She was a founding member of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association (now known as the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, WPATH). She authored the first five versions of the Standards of Care and was a two-time President of HBIGDA, from 1991-1995, and the first women President of the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (1978-1979).
She received her Ed.D. from Columbia University Teacher’s College in NYC, where she worked with Margaret Mead and Ernest G. Osborne. Her doctoral dissertation was ground breaking in studies of women’s sexuality and it was later published as a trade book under the title, Women and Sex: Sexual Experiences and Reactions of a Group of Thirty Women as Told to a Female Psychotherapist (1973).
Dr. Schaefer safeguarded Harry Benjamin's archives for many decades and in 2007, along with Dr. Charles Ihlenfield, Executor of Harry Benjamin Estate, donated an extensive archive of Dr. Harry Benjamin to the Kinsey Institute. Benjamin himself was a pioneering researcher in transgender health and the first medical practitioner in U.S to treat transgender individuals. Dr. Schaefer also entrusted the Kinsey Institute with her own archives of professional records, publications, correspondence, and media productions.
As a gender specialist in private practice in New York City, Dr. Schaefer shared her compassion and wisdom with thousands of individuals. She received many awards including the Harry Benjamin Life Achievement Award from the World Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Distinguished Alumni Award from Columbia University Teachers College.
Leah Schaefer also had a life as a jazz singer, in a women's trio called The Barries. (See "When October Goes: My Day with Leah Schaefer", by Nancy Gonzales).
You can hear her beautiful voice in this recording of "Heather on the Hill".
Liana Zhou, Director of Library and Archives at The Kinsey Institute, remembers her dear friend:
"Dr. Leah Schaefer was an inspiration to all of us at The Kinsey Institute and will be deeply missed by her friends here, as well as by the thousands of scholars and researchers around the world who are influenced and inspired by her pioneering work."
The Leah Cahan Schaefer Collection in the Kinsey Institute Archives.