RCA Pre-employment Evaluation of Lynn Conway
by Julian Pichel, M.D., April 26, 1969
Posted by Lynn Conway
November 2, 2000
Upon completing my gender transition, I began interviewing for computer programming and computer design positions at many companies in the Bay Area in California. One of these places was the RCA computer research lab in Palo Alto, CA. I was very successful in the interview process, and the local people wanted very much to hire me.
However, when I filled out the medical questionnaire, I had to reveal my transsexual past when answering questions about surgeries, etc. At that point the hiring process stalled, and awaited a review by RCA Corporate management. Back came a request that I should go and take a "psychiatric examination" to be sure I was stable and ready for employment.
RCA sent me to see Julian Pichel, M.D., a very prominent psychiatrist in the Palo Alto medical community. The interview in Dr. Pichel's office on April 26, 1969 went very well. In fact Dr. Pichel and I had quite a deep and serious exchange about a whole range of gender issues. I thought he had been impressed with my knowledge and insights about such matters, for I'd managed to help him visualize new ways of looking at certain conditions.
However, a week or so later, RCA called and said that their offer of employment had been withdrawn, based on the psychiatric report. I was very hurt by this. It couldn't have come at a worse time. It damaged my confidence, since I couldn't figure out what I'd done to create a bad impression in the interview.
A few weeks later, Jack Leer, the manager of personnel at the RCA lab sent me a letter with an note in it. He wished me well. Attached was a surreptitious copy of Dr. Pichel's report, which undoubtedly had been sent with Dr. Pichel's permission. It was a wonderful, glowing report. Dr. Pichel said without hesitation that there was nothing in my situation that would preclude employability in my field. RCA had simply chosen to ignore the report and conjured up an imaginary "bad report" in order to reject me.
This incident turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Dr. Pichel's letter proved critical in enabling me to obtain employment at both Memorex and then later at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), when similar requests for information surfaced on medical questionnaires
Dr. Pichel's letter quite literally saved my career, and thus my life. I am forever grateful to him and Jack Leer for their help.


Here is a copy of Dr. Pichel's report:  

A tragic update from December 2004:


I'd often thought of Dr. Pichel's letter, and later on had hoped to go visit him and thank him personally for his help. Sadly I waited too long, for Dr. Pichel died in a fire in his Atherton home on Christmas Eve, 2004 - at the age of 80.


"Christmas Eve fire kills physician", Palo Alto Weekly, December 29, 2004





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