Youngstown’s progressive past

By Shianna Gibbons

YSUnity and the Melnick Medical Museum sponsored a presentation March 21 about Dr. Richard Murray, a local plastic surgeon who provided gender-affirming surgeries in the ‘70s. 

Murray was a Youngstown native and took some art classes at Youngstown College and Notre Dame, then went to Georgetown Medical School. 

Murray’s practice, Medart, was located on Glenwood Avenue. Murray’s passion was art, and he pursued his career in plastic surgery to combine art and the medical field.

Ginger Williams, speaker and board member for TransOhio, started researching Dr. Murray four to five years ago. Williams utilized multiple different archives, historical societies and libraries to find information on Murray.

Williams said Dr. Murray had a multitude of passions.

“I’ve found that Dr. Murray is a complex person. He was a surgeon, an artist, an author, a sculptor and an educator,” Williams said. “A patron of the arts, a humanitarian, a conservative, a risk-taker, a lecturer, a philanthropist and a volunteer. He was one of the few doctors in the country who offered gender-affirming surgery at the time.”

Dr. Murray’s practice mainly helped people with cleft lip or cleft palates, car accident injuries before he began providing gender-affirming care in September 1972.

“This article is dated for January 1973, but it places the surgery in September 1972,” Williams said. “Which makes this — as far as I can find — the first gender-affirming surgery in the state of Ohio. There was another one, a few weeks later actually, that was performed at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.”

Rayvin Gorrell, president of YSUnity and junior anthropology major, said she was most excited for people to learn Youngstown has a progressive past.

“A lot of people don’t think of our area as a progressive, LGBTQ-friendly area. It’s very nice to know that this has been a very progressive area, and that we have a doctor doing gender-affirming surgeries over 50 years,” Gorrell said. “That just really excites me because a lot of people probably didn’t know that. It has been kind of hidden from society’s eyes, but we have always been here and we will always be here.”

Dr. Murray performed numerous gender-affirming surgeries. Later in his career, Murray had his medical license removed for improperly prescribing steroids for athletic-enhancement. Williams said that Murray just wanted people to be their most perfect self.

“Dr. Murray was this wonderful, complex human that really wanted to help people be the best version of themself,” Williams said.