Dec. 1, 1952: Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty | WIRED
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jbb • 3 months ago • 2 comments
By: Conde Nast (WIRED)
1952: It's front-page news when George Jorgensen Jr. is reborn as Christine Jorgensen, gaining international celebrity and notoriety as the first widely known person to undergo a successful sex-change operation. Jorgensen, who grew up in the Bronx, in her words, a "frail, tow-headed, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games," was drafted […]
1952: It's front-page news when George Jorgensen Jr. is reborn as Christine Jorgensen, gaining international celebrity and notoriety as the first widely known person to undergo a successful sex-change operation.
Jorgensen, who grew up in the Bronx, in her words, a "frail, tow-headed, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games," was drafted into the Army just after World War II. Military service only reinforced Jorgensen's belief that she was, in fact, a woman trapped inside a man's body.
After receiving her discharge, Jorgensen returned home and first heard about "sex-reassignment surgery," which was being performed only in Sweden. (It was illegal almost everywhere else, including the United States.)
Encouraged, Jorgensen began taking female hormones on her own, then headed for Sweden. She never made it. Stopping in Denmark to visit relatives in Copenhagen, Jorgensen was introduced to Christian Hamburger, a Danish surgeon who specialized in the kind of surgery she was seeking. He agreed to take the case and put his patient on hormone-replacement therapy as they prepared for surgery.
Several surgeries were required, the first one consisting of castration, which was only carried out after permission was obtained from the Danish minister of justice.
At the time of Jorgensen's transformation, Hamburger did not give her an artificial vagina, so she remained "anatomically incorrect" for several years before undergoing a vaginoplasty in the United States.
The hormone therapy resulted in profound changes to Jorgensen's body. Fat was redistributed, and she began to take on the contours of a woman. Subsequent surgeries completed the process until she was ready to step into the spotlight.
Jorgensen's sex change, which may have been leaked to the press by Jorgensen herself, hit the headlines Dec. 1, creating an international sensation. "Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty" screamed the banner of Jorgensen's hometown New York Daily News.
In fact, Jorgensen was not the first person to undergo sex-reassignment surgery. During the rollicking Weimar period, German doctors performed the surgery on at least two patients. The difference, in Jorgensen's case, was that she underwent hormone-replacement therapy in conjunction with the surgery. The earlier surgeries were strictly cut-and-paste.
Although Jorgensen complained frequently about the jackals of the press, she did become something of a publicity hound and took most of the tasteless remarks with good grace, laughing off jokes such as, "Christine Jorgensen went abroad and came back a broad."
She turned to acting and became a nightclub singer as well, performing, predictably, "I Enjoy Being a Girl."
But Christine Jorgensen's world was not an enlightened one, particularly when it came to transgenderism. She paid the cost for this lack of sophistication. A first announced engagement fell through, and a second one failed as well, when the state of New York refused to issue the couple a marriage license. Her intended husband also lost his job when the marriage plans became known.
She later traveled the lecture circuit, talking about her experiences and advocating for the nascent transgender cause.
Jorgensen died of cancer in 1989, a few weeks short of age 63.
Photos: This 1975 triptych shows Christine Jorgensen when she was known as George in 1943, in 1952 immediately after her historic sex change, and in 1975 when she was nearing age 50. The center photo is the one she sent her parents in 1952, in a letter explaining the transformation. Jorgensen died in 1989.
This article first appeared on Wired.com Dec. 1, 2008.
So did people confused about their sexual identity, or grew out of it.
Yes Virginia, transexuals existed pre-woke!