A milestone in our community turns 60

A Commentary

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2012

Some years ago my friends John and Terry lived across the street from a frumpy older woman who was, according to them, pretty much indistinguishable from any other frumpy older woman. Her name was Christine Jorgensen.

But six decades ago Jorgensen was anything but frumpy or older. But she was a woman. Named George. And sixty years ago this weekend she set about the process of having her body match her gender. Hers was the first widely known successful transexual transition.

Much of the rest is known. She was a curiosity, a celebrity. And Christine did what she could to educate and inform an incredulous public. BBC has a nice write up of her life.

But for me, the point is that at the end, after the glamour was gone she was exactly what she was all the time: a woman.

We can sometimes forget this from the way that Hollywood or the media can at times report on the subject. A transgender woman or man is almost always just that: a “transgender woman” and “transgender man”, as though there must be an asterisk on their gender.

But while politics and prejudice can very often demand that trans folk place this aspect of their being first and fight for their rights, they are not the “colorful edge” of the LGBT community and the processes they may have chosen to align their body with their gender does not define their gender.

Transgender poeple are neither exotic flowers or freaks. They are not as a whole glamorous and exciting or “a man in a dress”. They’re just people. And, in my experience, the novelty soon wears off and then you see transgender people through their humanity – some good, some less so – all just living their lives with integrity, but no asterisk.

Lindoro Almaviva

December 1st, 2012

Hers was the first successful transexual transition.

I am not sure what you are refering to, could you please expand on that? It is my understanding (and I am more than willing to be corrected) that hers was not the first gender reassignment surgery ever, they had been done before, so I am not sure what you mean by "successful."

Would you mean wide-known and akcknowleged? Are we talking about successful as in lack of complications or as in "the subject went about his life as if nothing had been going on and therefore successfully integrated to society and showed that this could be done and no big deal had to come out of it?"

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2012

Lindoro, it was my understanding that hers was the first successful reassignment surgery (others had horrible consequences). But I may be mistaken.

I’ll check it out and correct if necessary

Timothy Kincaid

December 1st, 2012

I was mistaken, so I added “widely known”. Thanks for the catch.

However hers was certainly one of the very first and as she became the public face of what would become the trams community, it is definitely a milestone


December 2nd, 2012

“They are not as a whole glamorous and exciting or “a man in a dress”. They’re just people.”

Some, of course, are super awesome people. Fantastic exstatic people. Scrumtrulesecent whooptiddlyazing people. Some are.

G.I. Joe

December 2nd, 2012

There were in fact MANY transgendered people who medically transitioned before Christine Jorgensen.

The wikipedia list of proeminent transgender people for example (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transgender_people) gives many examples of transgender people who successfully transitioned before the second world war (some before WW1!) – and I do mean “transition” as in medical transition, not just social transition. They led productive lives afterward, (as musicians, scientists, explorers…).

Jorgensen’s was just the first to have such a public impact and be so publicized (and sensationalized, with that special 50s “freak show” touch).

Anyway, thank you for this post, it was very nice and very thoughtful.

Steve Krotz

December 2nd, 2012

A very good piece. Whether she was the first or not isn’t the point. The fact that eventually she became indistinguishable from any other woman in her community is the real milestone. But if it weren’t for the publicity she garnered and the dignity with which she was able to handle it, the transgender community probably would not be where it is today. She was the first transgender woman to make a lot of people stop and think. That’s a true pioneer.

Timothy Kincaid

December 2nd, 2012

GI Joe

Thank you for the source. Unfortunately, it doesn’t list transition date, and most on the list were born too late to precede Jorgensen. But you inspired me to look further.

The best source I could find suggests that there were, perhaps, four in Germany in the Thirties, no full transitions in the Nazi years, and afterward Denmark and Norway began efforts.

I still don’t know if Jorgensen was fifteenth or fiftieth. This article say the was the first American. But wherever she was on the sexual transition list, she was instrumental in transitioning social attitudes.

The Lauderdale

December 3rd, 2012

I read Jorgensen’s bio some years back and she certainly claimed to have been the first American (on the list of fully surgically transitioned MTFs, I mean.)

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.