Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography

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9780839716402: Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography

In 1951 George Jorgensen, an American man of 26, left for Denmark and returned a year later as the first world-renowned transsexual, Christine Jorgensen. In her own personable style, Jorgensen offers a firsthand account of her ground-breaking life. "Nature made a mistake," she wrote, "which I have corrected."

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Review:

This handsome reprint of Jorgensen's 1967 memoir makes it abundantly clear how moments of grace can descend on even the most ordinary of lives. When ex-G.I. George Jorgensen went to Copenhagen in the early 1950s to consult experts in sexual deviance, he was afraid they'd simply proclaim him a fairy. A full battery of hormonal and psychological tests revealed that, while he was drawn to men, he was no garden-variety homophile; he was a lady. Keeping the secret from his family, Jorgensen endured a groundbreaking series of operations, finally emerging in November 1952 as a delicately beautiful young woman. "I merely wanted to correct what I considered a misjudgment of Nature," wrote Jorgensen, who died in 1989. No one seeing the photographs included here (many of them new to this edition) can doubt the success of Jorgensen's transformation or wonder too long at the fascination she engendered back home, where a newspaper bought her story for $20,000 and she was proclaimed New York City's Woman of the Year. A stage and screen career soon followed. As Susan Stryker points out in a new introduction, Jorgensen offers a somewhat flattering and selectively abridged account of herself in the autobiography, but no more so than any plucky girl smiling her way through what must have been, at times, a harrowing and lonely journey, but one that she conducted with remarkable dignity. --Regina Marler

From the Author:

"Christine Jorgensen was arguably the most famous person in the world for a few short years nearly half a century ago, though her name is not widely remembered today. The journalism trade publication Editor and Publisher announced in the spring of 1954 that more newsprint had been generated about Jorgensen during the previous year than about any other individual--over a million and a half words, the rough equivalent of fifteen full-length books. That Jorgensen now requires any introduction at all underscores the truth of that old adage about how fleeting fame can be. At the dawn of the 21st century it seems almost quaint that Jorgensen should have provoked such widespread attention simply by having the shape of her genitals surgically altered one late-November morning in Copenhagen in 1952. But she did, and as a consequence of doing so she helped introduce the word "transsexual" into the American vocabulary.

As Jorgensen herself recounts in the pages that follow, her celebrity began December 1, 1952, when a banner headline screaming "EX-G.I. BECOMES BLONDE BEAUTY: OPERATIONS TRANSFORM BRONX YOUTH" greeted readers of the New York Daily News. Hearst Publications' popular Sunday newspaper supplement, American Weekly, subsequently paid $20,000 for an exclusive interview with Jorgensen that brought her story into millions of American homes, and whetted the appetite of the world press. When she returned to the United States in 1953, an unprecedented three hundred reporters were on hand to meet her plane at New York International Airport. She was inundated with offers to appear in nightclubs, strip joints, wrestling arenas, and other sensationalistic settings. Such mundane activities as walking her dog were reported in obsessive detail to an avid worldwide readership. If reporters couldn't find a legitimate story, however trivial, they simply made one up. Jorgensen received letters by the thousands, many reaching her addressed only "Christine Jorgensen, USA." Some were from other transsexuals who wanted to do what she had done; most of her correspondents sought nothing other than an autograph or photo; only a few sent pieces of hate mail, and the vast majority simply wished her well. Still others, however, spoke of Jorgensen's physical transformation as an event with profound religious significance. Her 'sex-change' was viewed by many as a miracle of God in which not Christ, but Christine--Man reborn as Woman--heralded a new dispensation of human history."-Susan Stryker, from the introduction

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