- 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offer of employment had been withdrawn, based on the psychiatric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
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
> Lynn's Retrospective2 > RCA
Pre-employment Evaluation of Lynn Conway by Julian Pichel, M.D.