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Pioneer of Human Sexuality Studies at Santa Monica College Dies

A psychologist with an independent streak, Toby Green is remembered for helping change perceptions of gay and transgendered people at Santa Monica College.

Toby Green, a longtime professor who was one of the first to teach courses on human sexuality, has died. She was 81.

Her death April 15 after four months battling liver cancer was announced by her daughter and by the college.

A clinical psychologist and therapist, she was hired by Santa Monica College in 1971 just as it began offering of a class in human sexuality. She expanded the scope of the course, taught it for many years, and mentored subsequent faculty, Superintendent Chui Tsang told faculty in an email earlier this week.

Class field trips to The Pleasure Chest and a fascinating array of guest speakers made her class popular with students, he said.

At the time, there was a burgeoning consciousness of sexual preferences, and Green was "unabashed in her efforts to change peoples’ perceptions of gays and transgendered people," said her daughter, Nona Green.

Now 55, she said she remembers trips to grocery stores and restaurants where students and patients would approach her mom to say things like, 'Ms. Green, you probably don't remember, me but I took your class and you changed my life.'

"We couldn’t go anywhere without someone recognizing her and sharing a powerful memory," she said.

Toby Green was born in 1930 and grew up in Brooklyn. She put herself through school working as a statistician and bookkeeper. She earned a master's in educational and clinical psychology while studying with Herman Witkin, a well-known personality theorist, at Brooklyn College (now SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine). After receiving her degree she worked as a therapist with children with educational disabilities.

Tsang said her sense of adventure took her west to Las Vegas in the 1950’s, where she met her husband. She worked at a variety of jobs there, including as a cocktail waitress. Events subsequently brought them to Los Angeles, where she worked to support her family. Following a divorce, she continued her training in psychology at UCLA and worked as a clinical psychologist while raising four young children, Marla, Nona, Guy and Eric in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Palms.

Santa Monica College hired her to teach classes in introductory, personality and abnormal psychology, but some of her patients piqued her interest in human sexuality and she signed on to pioneer the controversial coursework, her daughter said.

"There wasn't a lot of people they could go to at the time and she had a natural tolerance and curiosity," Nona Green said.

Toby Green eventually taught similar classes in foreign countries, including some in Europe and the Caribbean, where she would teach about the sexual customs in

She retired from full-time teaching in 1991 but continued to teach part-time at Santa Monica College until 2007.

"Professor Green is remembered by her colleagues and her students as possessing that independent streak and honesty we so value in an educator, as an effective advocate for her students, and as an intelligent, supportive, energetic colleague," said Superintendent Tsang.

No public services are planned, but those who knew Green are welcome to share remembrances on her Facebook page. Non-Facebook users can send a note to the family at tobygreen5630@gmail.com. Donations may be made in her memory to Parents, Friends, & Families of Lesbians and Gays.  

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