Docter, Richard F.
Docter, Richard F.
Education: Attended Stanford University; earned Ph.D.
World Professional Association for Transgender Health, American Psychological Association (fellow).
(With Milton G. Holmen) Educational and Psychological Testing: A Study of the Industry and Its Practices, Russell Sage Foundation (New York, NY), 1972.
Transvestites and Transsexuals: Toward a Theory of Cross-Gender Behavior, Plenum Press (New York, NY), 1988.
From Man to Woman: The Transgender Journey of Virginia Prince (biography), Docter Press, 2004.
Becoming a Woman: A Biography of Christine Jorgensen (biography), Harrington Park Press (New York, NY), 2007.
A professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge, Richard F. Docter is a psychologist who has specialized in gender identity, transsexualism, transvestitism, and cross dressing. When asked by Helen Boyd on the (En)Gender Web site what drew him to this subject, Docter recalled that he was initially interested in drug addiction research. While at the University of California at Los Angeles he was conducting a drug study, and one of the people he met in the study was a transsexual. He wrote a case history about her, which eventually led to more research that expanded into a nationwide project. During this time he also met Virginia Prince, a pioneer in promoting heterosexual transvestitism about whom he would later write the self-published biography From Man to Woman: The Transgender Journey of Virginia Prince. Docter further explained in his interview: "I have been interested in a question that most people don't seem to care about. I am interested in the problem of how to conceptualize and measure gender identity. I am also interested in the role played by the so-called pleasure systems of the brain as reinforcers for transgender ideation and behavior. My guess is that a lot of transgender expressions will turn out to be built on brain-based propensities."
Docter's second biography, Becoming a Woman: A Biography of Christine Jorgensen, is about another figure seen as a pioneer. Christine Jorgensen was born George Jorgensen, a somewhat shy young man who was confused about his gender identity at a time when the phrase had yet to be coined. He did not feel like a homosexual, though he had experienced gay relationships; rather, he felt like a woman in a man's body. In 1952 he made the daring move to travel to Sweden and undergo a very new procedure: a sex change operation. When he returned as a woman, Jorgensen made newspaper headlines everywhere. As Christine, Jorgensen's personality changed remarkably. She was confident, outgoing, and enjoyed the publicity. Jorgensen published an autobiography in 1967 that detailed what she said was a painful childhood during which she was a loner who felt hated by other people. In Becoming a Woman, however, Docter talked to people who knew Jorgensen and found that the young George was actually well-liked and enjoyed a supportive family atmosphere. "Her ghost written 1967 autobiography is a little misleading, and there are important parts of her life that she chose not to reveal," Docter told Boyd.
In an assessment published in the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, Terri Schlichenmeyer commented: "Although a little dry at times, Becoming a Woman is fascinating reading." Library Journal contributor Lisa N. Johnston called the work "a fascinating companion piece to Jorgensen's autobiography" that is written "with great insight," while Booklist critic Whitney Scott declared it a "thought-provoking, smoothly written biography."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Archives of Sexual Behavior, April, 1992, Leslie M. Lothstein, review of Transvestites and Transsexuals: Toward a Theory of Cross-Gender Behavior, p. 204.
Booklist, July 1, 2007, Whitney Scott, review of Becoming a Woman: A Biography of Christine Jorgensen, p. 11.
Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide, November 1, 2007, "That Trip Did Her Good," p. 41.
Journal of Sex Research, May, 1989, Vern L. Bullough, review of Transvestites and Transsexuals, p. 279.
Library Journal, July 1, 2007, Lisa N. Johnston, review of Becoming a Woman, p. 98.
SciTech Book News, November, 1988, review of Transvestites and Transsexuals, p. 2.
(En)Gender,http://www.myhusbandbetty.com/ (June 7, 2006), Helen Boyd, "Five Questions with … Richard Docter."