The Los Angeles LGBT Center was mourning the death of Dr. Benjamin E. Teller Saturday.
Teller, who died Wednesday, was the center’s first medical director and later served on its board of directors from 1976-80.
“It hurts my heart that the wonderful Dr. Benjamin E. Teller died on July 29, after a battle with cancer,” center CEO Lorri L. Jean said in a statement released Saturday.
“Ben and his partner, Benjamin Britt, have been longtime center sustaining donors and also made a generous gift to the capital campaign for the Anita May Rosenstein Campus. Plus, Ben was a member of the center’s senior services program. … I will always remember Ben for the battles he won. Ben first got involved with the center in the early 1970s. As a physician with a beard and a ponytail, he was referred to by some as a `hippie doctor.’ In 1972, at the age of 31, he agreed to share his license and liability insurance with the center to enable the creation of the center’s very first clinic: a gay men’s VD clinic. It was the nation’s first VD clinic specifically for gay clientele.”
Teller became the clinic’s first medical director after it opened in the fall of 1972, when all of the doctors worked for free.
He described his vision to the author of “Before AIDS: Gay Health Politics in the 1970s”:
“It would be a free clinic — run on donations — where gay people could come and feel totally comfortable talking about their sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases. They didn’t have to have any shame or reservation about what was going on. It would be a place where professionals and paraprofessionals as well as patients could be totally open and honest about themselves and therefore promote good gay health.”