Alan L. Hart: Pioneer and Physician

By Aaron, MTPC Intern

In honor of Pi Day, the proud geeks of MTPC are excited to bring you a man of science for today’s transgender figure in history.

AlanHart

Image from http://www.tgforum.com/

Alan L. Hart was born in Kansas during October 1890. Losing his father to typhoid by the age of two, Hart relocated with his mother to Oregon to be closer to family. Identifying as a boy from a very early age, Hart endured relentless teasing in school and dedicated himself to his schoolwork to escape the torment. Graduating at the top of his class in 1908, he went to Albany College (now Lewis and Clark University) before transferring to Stanford University. Close proximity to San Francisco gave Hart the freedom to more freely explore his gender identity and attraction to women. Once again graduating at the top of his class in 1917, Hart was celebrated as one of the first “women” to receive such honors.

After marrying Inez Stark in 1918 and beginning to practicing medicine, Hart became the first documented recipient of gender reassignment surgery, which at this point in history was a hysterectomy. Proceeding to live full-time as a man, Hart tried to shift his focus back to his medical practice. However, his transgender identity seemed to present a variety of complications in the professional world, where he had to relocate relatively frequently to avoid harassment. He and Inez divorced in 1923, reportedly influenced by this instability.

Remarrying in 1925, Hart and his new wife, Edna Ruddick, traveled to Pennsylvania where he received his master’s degree in radiology. Then they went on to Washington, where Hart was appointed to Director of Radiology at Tacoma General Hospital and ultimately became an expert in tuberculosis. At the time, tuberculosis was widespread and generally considered a death sentence. Hart’s work on the detection of tuberculosis, tubercular radiology, and research on the usefulness of x-rays were of enormous importance to the eventual decline of the disease.

While Hart dedicated his life to medicine, he also followed his passion for writing, publishing four books and many short stories during his lifetime. Themes and narratives in his novels often reflected those of Hart’s own personal experiences.

Considering the historical context in which Alan L. Hart lived, his successes cannot be understated. Reports indicate that his family accepted him as a transgender man and in the mid-1940s, he was one of the early recipients of hormone replacement therapy. Around the same time that he began hormone treatment, he agreed to be Idaho’s Tuberculosis Control Officer and worked to change the stigma around the disease through his years traveling through the state to research and treat the sick. A true academic, Hart also received a master’s in public health from Yale University in 1948 and became the Director of Hospitalization and Rehabilitations at the Connecticut State Tuberculosis Commission. Prior to his death from heart failure in 1962, Hart had revolutionized the medical technology and procedures surrounding the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of tuberculosis.

Referring to the protagonist of his 1963 novel, The Undaunted, who mirrored a great deal of Hart’s own story, he said, “He had been driven from place to place, from job to job, for fifteen years because of something he could not alter any more than he could change the color of his eyes.”

This entry was posted by Mel.