Reed Erickson (1917-1992) was a trans man best known for his philanthropy that, according to sociology specialist Aaron H Devor, largely informed "almost every aspect of work being done in the 1960s and 1970s in the field of transsexualism in the US and, to a lesser degree, in other countries."
In 1964 he launched the Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF), a nonprofit philanthropic organization funded and controlled entirely by Erickson. The EEF's stated goals were "to provide assistance and support in areas where human potential was limited by adverse physical, mental or social conditions, or where the scope of research was too new, controversial or imaginative to receive traditionally oriented support." Through the EEF Erickson contributed millions of dollars to the early development of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) movements between 1964 and 1984. In addition to philanthropy, the EEF functioned as an information and counseling resource for transsexuals; creating a referral network of physicians and psychologists; published educational pamphlets for transsexuals and their families; and conducted outreach to medical professionals, clergy, law enforcement personnel, and academics.
Reed Erickson was born Rita Alma Erickson in El Paso, Texas, on October 13, 1917. When Erickson was still quite young the family moved to the Olney, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Erickson was a good student who attended Wagner Junior High and the Philadelphia High School for Girls, where he became involved with a circle of lesbian women and started using the nickname Eric when amongst them. He attended Temple University from 1936 to 1940. In 1940, he and his family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Erickson's father had transferred their lead smelting business. In Baton Rouge, Erickson worked in the family business and attended Louisiana State University (LSU). In 1946, Erickson became the first female graduate from LSU's school of mechanical engineering.
After graduating from LSU, Erickson lived briefly in Philadelphia. There he worked as an engineer until losing his job for refusing to fire a woman who was suspected of being a communist (see American Left). In the early 1950s Erickson returned to Baton Rouge, where he resumed working in the family business and started an independent company, Southern Seating, making stadium bleachers.
After Robert Erickson's death in 1962, Erickson inherited a major interest in the family enterprises, Schuylkill Products Co., Inc., and Schuylkill Lead Corp., and ran them successfully until selling them to Arrow Electronics in 1969 for approximately $5 million. Erickson continued to be financially successful, eventually amassing a personal fortune estimated at over $40 million, most of which came from canny investments in oil-rich real estate. Over a period of years, Erickson's ongoing income was often hundreds of thousands of dollars per month.
In 1963, Erickson became a patient of Dr. Harry Benjamin and began the process of transitioning and living as Reed Erickson. Erickson's official name change took place in 1963 with the sex change following in 1965, setting legal precedent in the state of Louisiana.
Also in 1965, he married for the first time. Over the next 30 years, Erickson married again twice and became parent to two children.
Erickson Educational Foundation (EEF)
Erickson Educational Foundation grants supported the work of New Age Movement, acupuncture, homeopathy, dream research, and dolphin communication studies. However, the main centre of Erickson's attention through the EEF was transsexualism.
The EEF helped to support, both through direct financial contributions and through contributions of human and material resources, almost every aspect of work being done in the 1960s and 1970s in the field of transsexualism in the US and, to a lesser degree, in other countries. The EEF funded many early research efforts, including the creation of the Harry Benjamin Foundation, the early work of the Johns Hopkins Clinic and numerous other important research projects. It developed and maintained an extensive referral list of service providers throughout the US and in several other locales. During the years 1964 -1970 and 1972 - 1975 alone, the EEF donated approximately US$250,000 to the support of projects about transsexualism. In particular, the Harry Benjamin Foundation received over US$60,000 during 1964 - 1968 and the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic received approximately US$72,000 during the formative years of 1967 - 1973.
In addition to philanthropy, the EEF functioned as an information and counseling resource for transsexuals, creating a referral network of physicians and psychologists. It published educational pamphlets for transsexuals and their families—work that was continued by the Janus Information Facility after Erickson's death—and conducted outreach to medical professionals, clergy, law enforcement personnel, and academics. Sociologist Aaron Devor has written extensively on Erickson and his influence via EEF and ONE Inc.
Later in life, he moved to Southern California. By the time of his death in 1992 at the age of 74, he had become addicted to illegal drugs and died in Mexico as a fugitive from US drug indictments.
- Dr. Aaron H Devor is professor of sociology, former Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Founder and Academic Director of the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria, Canada. Dr. Devor specializes in the study of gender, sex, and sexuality in transgender people.
- Devor, Aaron H. "Reed Erickson and The Erickson Educational Foundation". Sociology Department, University of Victoria, Canada. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Devor, H. (2002). "Reed Erickson (1912-1992): How One Transsexed Man Supported ONE." (http://web.uvic.ca/~ahdevor/ReedErickson.pdf)
- Erickson, Reed (1917-1992) (http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/erickson_r.html)
- Matte, N., & Devor, A.H. (2007) Building a Better World for Transpeople: Reed Erickson and the Erickson Educational Foundation. International Journal of Transgenderism, 10(1), 47-68. (http://web.uvic.ca/~ahdevor/ABetterWorld.pdf)
- What Reed Erickson and the EEF did for transsexualism. (http://web.uvic.ca/~erick123/#transex)
- Devor AH, Matte N (2004). ONE Inc. and Reed Erickson: The Uneasy Collaboration of Gay and Trans Activism, 1964-2003. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies
- Devor, H. (2002). "Reed Erickson (1912-1992): How One Transsexed Man Supported ONE."(http://web.uvic.ca/~ahdevor/ReedErickson.pdf)
- Reed Erickson and The Erickson Educational Foundation (http://web.uvic.ca/~erick123/)
- Reed Erickson and The Erickson Educational Foundation
- Reed Erickson and the Beginnings of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association
- The Reed Erickson Collection at the Transgender Archives.