24 Sep: America’s Transgender Celebrity

Christine Jorgensen began gender reassignment surgery in Copenhagen on 24th September 1951. The New York Daily News later heralded the event with a headline splash – “Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty!” – thereby creating America’s first transgender celebrity.

Writing to friends, she said: “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 marvellous spirits.”

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider how surprisingly tolerant her parents and much of the media were; how she was strong-armed into showbiz but used the notoriety to campaign for trans rights; and reveal that – amongst her many memoirs – she also penned a Scandinavian cookbook…

Further Reading:

• ‘Christine Jorgensen – Queer Icon’ (Queer Icons, 2020): https://queericons.home.blog/2020/02/27/christine-jorgensen/

• ‘The Hour Magazine with Gary Collins: guest Christine Jorgensen’ (1980s):

• ‘Dec. 1, 1952: Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty’ (WIRED, 2010): https://www.wired.com/2010/12/1201first-sex-change-surgery/