Psychology professor Richard F. Docter spoke last Wednesday night on the life of the famous Christine Jorgensen, who was one of the first people to undergo a successful sex change operation in the 1950s. The lecture, hosted by the Center for Sex and Gender Research, was meant to shed light and truth on the life of Jorgensen by discussing Docter’s latest book, ‘Becoming a Woman: The Biography of Christine Jorgensen.’
Docter discussed in the lecture how the book came about and the effect Jorgensen had on America.
‘She put transexuality in the main front,’ Docter said after showing an image of her on the cover of the New York Daily News on Dec. 1, 1952.
The headline, ‘Ex-G.I. Becomes Blonde Beauty: Operations Transform Bronx Youth,’ as well as the story was a shock to people across the U.S.
‘All of a sudden what one person does is all over the papers,’ said Jacob Hale, associate chair of the philosophy department and director of the Center for Sex and Gender Research.
‘It was a miracle. How did they do such a thing,’ Docter said as he discussed his initial reaction of when he saw the paper that day.
‘The importance of the story had to do with a shock internationally,’ Docter said.
Docter also discussed the timeline of Jorgensen’s life, who was born George Jorgensen Jr., and how the sex change ocurred. Docter said that contrary to what previous autobiographies have stated, Jorgensen had a pleasant childhood, but was also teased very early on being called names such as ‘Goose,’ which had an additional underlining meaning back then.
‘He was pretty athletic, a very good dancer and had lots of friends,’ said Docter referring to Christine as George at the time.
Jorgensen went to Denmark because the surgery was only available in Europe. Her surgery was performed by the renowned Danish endocrinologist Christian Hamburger. Jorgensen also went through hormonal treatment to feminize her body.
‘She returned home at the will of the Hearst newspapers,’ said Docter, discussing the high demand of her story by various newspapers.
Upon returning home, Jorgensen met stardom. So many people were fascinated with her and papers offered her thousands of dollars for exclusive interview, leading her to becoming rich fast. Jorgensen also had a singing and dancing show that she did traveling from town to town performing. Docter said that it wasn’t her singing and dancing that kept the audience coming, but the fact that she was a transsexual.
Docter also added that the impact of Christine Jorgensen was ‘distinct from homosexuality,’ but admitted that prior to Jorgensen’s surgery she had had homosexual interactions.
‘In his 1967 biography, there were stories of him falling in love with members of the same sex,’ Docter said.
Jorgensen was also engaged to a man after surgery, but was unable to live her dream of being a wife with a husband due to the laws of the time. Jorgensen’s love life became the main topic during the question and answer portion of the lecture.
‘I found it interesting that she was involved in a homosexual relationship,’ said Eric Koller, a 21-year-old culture and language major.
Docter managed to get a copy of Jorgensen death certificate, after she died of cancer in 1989, and paid very close attention to the fact that it referred to Christine as a female and stated the her name was ‘ Christine Jorgensen, aka George Jorgensen, Jr.’
Docter said that by telling Jorgensen’s story, he is educating people about the history of transsexuality.
‘Being able to learn more about what her life was really like was the main reason for the lecture,’ said Hale. ‘Many younger folks have some misconceptions on transsexuality.’