Christine Jorgensen 1926to –1989
Nightclub performer and activist, and the first woman to introduce the American public to sex reassignment surgery. She served a year in the army toward the end of WWII, and after being discharged, tried to find careers as a photographer and then a medical assistant. By this time she had decided to seek out surgery, and got in touch with a doctor who suggested she go to Europe. In 1952, while she was still in Copenhagen recovering from two successful operations, the New York Daily News ran the headline “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Bombshell,” calling her the first ever recipient of SRS. (She wasn’t, though hers was one of the first cases to include hormone therapy.) She became a household name overnight, and was distraught to learn she would be returning to New York as a celebrity. But she took her unwanted fame in stride, meeting the press with unshakeable poise and candor, and eventually turning her name recognition to her advantage. She began acting, and had a popular nightclub act as a singer and impersonator. She also gave frequent talks and lectures in support of transgender rights, educating a confused public over and over on the difference between “transexual,” “homosexual,” and “transvestite”—always with the same poise and open candor. She was engaged twice, but never married.