She Was a He?!

The first U.S. post-op, in a gorgeous fur coat, arriving at the Public Health Office at Idlewild Airport in 1953.Photo: New York Daily News Archive/Getty Images


Editor and Publisher estimated that more newsprint had been devoted to sex-change pioneer Christine Jorgensen in 1953 than to any other individual. Jorgensen had been a frail Bronx boy named George who after a stint in the army, hormone therapy, and a trip to Denmark, became Christine. In her auto­biography, she describes the aftermath of surgery:

The door opened and a neatly dressed young woman entered; a complete stranger to me. “I’m afraid you have the wrong room,” I said. “Who are you looking for?” “Are you Miss ­Jorgensen?” “Yes.” “I have a telegram I think you should read.” I thought there might have been a death in my family. I reached out to take it from her hand, and read the message: BRONX GI BECOMES A WOMAN. DEAR MOM AND DAD SON WROTE, I HAVE NOW BECOME YOUR DAUGHTER.

I read it again, not really comprehending, until I realized at last that it had not been ­addressed to me: It was a message sent over an international press-service wire, and what I held in my hand was a copy of the dispatch. “Who did this unforgivable thing?” I asked.

She answered me quietly and sympathetically. “I truly don’t know,” she said. “You’ll have to prepare yourself, Miss ­Jorgensen. Tomorrow’s newspapers will carry this story in banner headlines. I’m a reporter for Information. Will you give me an interview?”

It seems to me now a shocking commentary on the press of our time that I pushed the ­hydrogen-bomb tests on ­Eni­wetok right off the front pages. A tragic war was still raging in Korea, George VI had died and Britain had a new queen, sophisticated guided missiles were going off in New Mexico, Jonas Salk was working on a vaccine for infantile paralysis. Christine Jorgensen was on page one.

Excerpted from Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography. (c) 1967 by Christine Jorgensen. (c) Renewed 2000 by the Motion Picture & Television Fund. Published by Cleis Press.

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She Was a He?!