Meet Christine Jorgensen: America’s first transgender celebrity

Christine Jorgensen was an American trans woman and the first person to become widely known in the US for having sex reassignment surgery.

Christine was born under the name George William Jorgensen Jr and grew up in the Bronx, New York. She described herself as a “frail, blond, introverted little boy who ran from fistfights and rough-and-tumble games.”

After graduating, Christine was drafted into the US Army for World War II. Following her time in the army, she gained permission to move to Denmark, where she had gender reassignment operations, which began in 1951.

“Everyone is both sexes in varying degrees. I am more of a woman than a man… Of course I can never have children but this does not mean that I cannot have natural sexual intercourse – I am very much in the position right now of a woman who has a hysterectomy” – Christine Jorgensen

In December 1952, when she returned to America, the New York Daily News splashed Jorgensen across their front page under the headline “Ex GI becomes blonde beauty,” making her instantly famous.

The article read: “Operations Transform Bronx Youth. George Jorgensen Jr. son of a Bronx carpenter served in the Army for two years and was given honorable discharge in 1946.

“Now George is no more. After six operations, Jorgenson’s sex has been changed and today she is a striking woman, working as a photographer in Denmark.

“Parents were informed of the big change in a letter Christine Jorgensen (that’s her new name) sent to them recently.”

Related: Transgender people are born that way, a new study has found

Sex reassignment surgery

Christine began her transition by taking oestrogen in the form of ethinylestradiol while researching the surgery with the help of eminent Dr Joseph Angelo.

While visiting relatives in Copenhagen, Christine also met Dr Christian Hamburger – a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormone therapy.

She underwent hormone replacement therapy under Dr Hamburger’s direction, and chose the name Christine in honour of him.

Hamburger encouraged Jorgensen to take on a female identity and begin dressing as a woman in public.

As the hormones started to take effect, Hamburger noted the changes.

“The first sign was an increase in size of the mammary glands and then hair began to grow where the patient had a bald patch on the temple. Finally the whole body changed from a male to a female shape.”

After more than a year of hormone therapy, Jorgensen had the first in a series of operations that would attempt to change her genital organs from male to female.

Jorgensen was also assessed by a psychologist, Dr Georg Sturup, who accepted that she wanted to proceed with sex reassignment surgery.

“As you can see by the enclosed photos, taken just before the operation, I have changed a great deal. But it is the other changes that are so much more important. Remember the shy, miserable person who left America? Well, that person is no more and, as you can see, I’m in marvelous spirits” – Christine Jorgensen

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