The Life & Times of Christine Jorgensen

christine jorgensen

Christine Jorgensen was born on May 30, 1926, into a family living in the Belmont District of the Bronx. She was the second child of Danish-born George William Jorgensen, Sr., and his spouse, Florence Davis Hansen, who was born in Denmark as well. Named George William Jorgensen, Jr., at birth, Christine describes a happy childhood a part of a close-knit family, but also claims that she was a rather shy, frail child who steered clear of many stereotypical male activities. She avoided participating in contact sports, street fights, and other rough-and-tumble pastimes. Shortly after graduating from high school in 1945, Christine was drafted into the U.S. Army.

Christine reports having the feeling that she was trapped in the wrong body by the time she was a teenager. After she finished her service with the military, she began exploring her options in a quest to live an authentic life. While she was attending school to become a dental assistant, she began hormone therapy under the direction of a classmate’s husband, Dr. Joseph Angelo. Intending to go to Sweden for the purpose of beginning sex reassignment surgery, Christine met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. when she stopped in Denmark to visit relatives. Christine stayed in Copenhagen to undergo hormonal therapy under Dr. Hamburger’s direction. She received special permission from the Danish government to remain in Denmark to receive a series of sex reassignment surgeries. On December 1, 1952, The New York Daily News ran a front headline reporting that exposed Christine’s sex change procedure to the entire world.

Christine had written an eloquent, heartfelt letter to her parents following her second operation, letting them know that she was still the same person inside and that her love for them had not changed. She explained that nature had a made a mistake that had been corrected with the help of modern medicine. Her family was supportive, and surprisingly  for the times, Christine experienced very little open hostility or aggression due to the her situation. The Hollywood community welcomed her with open arms, and Christine was able to make a good living as an entertainer. She received the ‘Woman of the Year’ award from the New York Scandinavian Society. She shut detractors out of her life completely, stating that she had her own opinions and didn’t need those of others.

Christine also wrote an autobiography that later became a film that served as inspiration to others. Christine always approached discussions on transgender issues with honesty and clarity. She used her public platform to advocate for transgender people, and in the 1970s and 1980s, she traveled the country speaking at college campuses. Many people credit Christine with providing them with the strength to live openly as transgender beings. Although Christine wasn’t the first person to have gender reassignment surgery, she was a pioneer in transgender issues in many significant ways, particularly in her role as a spokesperson.

In her own words, Christine “gave the sexual revolution a good swift kick in the pants.” Christine passed away from complications of cancer at the age of 62 in 1989.

Below is a newsreel from the day Christine landed back in New York after her sex reassignment surgery. The way the press treated her makes me almost want to cry, because it was so kind and understanding. While they may not have been perfect in the language they used, there was a clear attempt to understand her and wish her the best. Cable news (FOX News) has really turned our county into a den of hate.

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