Lessons in Authenticity from Christine Jorgensen


“Through the years, I’ve encountered about every attitude and response known to the human emotional spectrum. Some people thought me a courageous pioneer, others regarded me as disgusting and immoral; some of the clergy considered that I had committed an ungodly act. Why these reactions to me should be so explosively pro and con, only God or the Devil knows, and I suspect they are both puzzled.

“Many times, I’ve been accused of living a masquerade as a female, but if I have not already made it clear I will state again that, in my view, the real masquerade would have been to continue in my former state. That, to me, would have been living the lie.

“I suppose another main purpose in this narrative has been to relate the facts of how I adjusted to the world and how the world adjusted to me, now that time has allowed a more objective examination. Though, indeed, my outward appearance was changed, I think I’m basically one and the same person I was in the earlier part of my life-perhaps calmer, more accepting and certainly happier. I’ve found that my eagerness for living has in no way diminished.

“I’ve often been asked if, give the chance, I would make the same decisions and seek the same goals. My answer to that is unequivocal-yes.” –Christine Jorgensen, A Personal Autobiography

In the 1950s, and for a few decades afterward. Christine Jorgensen was the Caitlyn Jenner of her time. In other words, because of media attention making her gender transition a scandal, and because of Christine’s own desire for media attention, she headed newspaper and magazine gossip columns and inspired much public debate about the roles and expressions of gender. A blonde, blue-eyed, almost frail boy named George who grew up in an affluent family through the depression years briefly became a soldier and a photographer before HE became SHE. George became Christine, a buxom and fashionable attention-seeking woman, wrapped in furs and strutting on stages.

Christine was certainly determined. She spent her first two decades of not fitting in. She wasn’t like the other boys around her, not in any way. And even though she was attracted to boys, she wasn’t a homosexual. And even though she felt like a woman inside, she didn’t look like other women. She floated alone, in her own universe, not fitting in with anyone at all. She searched and studied everything she could about hormones and gender transition. She sought out psychotherapists and endocrinologists and she took herself to Denmark where she spent years (literally years) transitioning into a full female, using new scientific breakthroughs to help her adopt a new life.

Christine spent her following decades in the public eye. She starred in plays, interviewed for magazines, posed for photographers, dated famous men, travelled the world, starred in her own nightclub act, and, for a long time, she was a name on everyone’s lips around the world. And yet, a few years later, hers was a name barely anyone would remember, a testament to the true nature of celebrity.

Ultimately, Christine Jorgensen was a brave, talented, beautiful, and trend-setting transgender woman who, for the most part, lived life on her terms, and she deserves to be remembered for the way that she lived and the person that she was.



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