1926 - 1989
''At first I was very self-conscious and very awkward. But once the notoriety hit, it did not take me long to adjust.''
- Christine Jorgensen
Bronx-born Army veteran George Jorgensen struggled for years “feeling like a woman trapped in a man’s body.” He resolved to begin his transition by taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol, and in early 1952 traveled to Copenhagen to quietly pursue sex-reassignment. But any hopes for anonymity were shattered when the letter he wrote to his parents was leaked to the Press. On December 1, 1952 the New York Daily News carried the front-page story (“Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty") of his “sex change” in Denmark. By the time Jorgensen – who took the name Christine – returned to New York in February 1953, she had become an international superstar. Knowing that her privacy was shattered, she decided to seize control of what would become one of the most celebrated lives of the 20th-century. No longer able to pursue her career as a photographer, she enjoyed immediate success as a nightclub singer, dancer, and storyteller who titillated audiences and dazzled the paparazzi. By the mid-1960s, her commercial success had largely disappeared and she became a public spokesperson for those with gender dsyphoria and the largely misunderstood phenomenon of Transsexuality. In her 1967 book, Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography, she proffered “The answer to the problem must not lie in sleeping pills and suicides that look like accidents, or in jail sentences, but rather in life and the freedom to live it.” Charismatic and photogenic, and known for her directness and polished wit, she was featured on numerous television talk shows and toured extensively on the college lecture circuit. By the early 1980s, had Jorgensen retired from public life in Laguna Beach, California. She died of bladder and lung cancer in 1989 at the age of 62. The woman who claimed that she “didn’t start the Sexual Revolution but gave it a swift kick in the pants” was gone – but the battle for Transsexual Rights had only just begun.
Sexual Orientation Straight
Gender Identity Transgender
Nations Affiliated United States Denmark
Era/Epoch Cold War (1945-1991) Information Age (1970-present) Post-Stonewall Era (1974-1980) World War II (1939-1945)
Field(s) of Contribution
Advocacy & Activism
Art, Music, Literature & Theater
Media & Communications
Commemorations & Honors
Inaugural San Francisco Rainbow Honor Walk Honoree (2014)
National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall National Monument Inductee (2019)