Christine Jorgensen was born George William, named after her father, in 1926. However, from a young age, she felt different from other boys and struggled with her gender identity, suffering from gender dysphoria, resulting in feelings of isolation and social anxiety.
Searching for a sense of community, Jorgensen unsuccessfully attempted to enlist in the United States Army. However, months later she was drafted into the Army as a clerical worker. Jorgensen was honorably discharged in 1946, working odd jobs, including newsreel editor for Pathé-RKO. Soon after her military separation, she learned about gender confirmation surgeries being conducted in Denmark.
At this point in history, these procedures were not practiced, taught, or encouraged in the United States. Jorgensen soon uprooted her life and moved to Denmark in the hopes of finally becoming her true self.
Dr. Christian Hamburger, worked closely with Jorgensen during the duration of the process and, after a few months, the story went public and made global news.
Jorgensen’s hometown publication, the New York Daily News, printed their December 1st, 1952, issue with the headline: “Ex-G.I. Becomes Blonde Beauty.” Jorgensen was immediately overwhelmed with the uncomfortable media speculation, however brushed off their tasteless comments.
She soon returned to the US as Christine and became a sensation, selling her story to the media and appearing on TV and in films.
Jorgensen turned to entertainment, singing and performing in revues and variety shows across the country. She arrived in Las Vegas in 1953, set to headline a performance at the Sahara, until her co-headliners: Marguerite Piazza and Gene Nelson, protested sharing the bill with her. Jorgensen was removed from the show and successfully sued the property, returning to sold-out shows for a two-week run.
Las Vegas became a popular venue for Jorgensen, as she also notably performed at the Silver Slipper in 1955. Jorgensen’s success on Las Vegas stages paved the way for subsequent transgender entertainers such as Jennifer Fox and Jahna Reis Steele.
Christine Jorgensen also used her spotlight to educate, becoming known as a fixture on the lecture circuit, making media appearances and speaking on college campuses regarding the subject of transgender equality and acceptance.
Photos courtesy of Transas City