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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Christine Jorgensen

The overwhelmingly positive reception Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner has gotten from her Vanity Fair photo spread has reminded me of Christine Jorgensen and the morbid curiosity which greeted her after her sex change operation.

Christine was born George Jorgensen in 1926 to a Danish-American carpenter and his wife in the Bronx. He was drafted into the US Army in 1945, attended a few schools, and felt increasingly uncomfortable with his male identity. In 1951, in Copenhagen, Jorgensen had an orchiectomy (had her testicles removed). In 1952, also in Copenhagen, Jorgensen had a penectomy (which is what it sounds like). And she later had a vaginoplasty in the US.

When the NY Daily News obtained a three page letter Christine had written her parents, and wrote a front page article on her in 1952, she became an instant celebrity. She later capitalized on this with a career as a singer and a nightclub act.

Here's George Jorgensen, circa 1951:


And here are two pictures of Christine in her later incarnation:



I have to admit, if I didn't know who she was, I'd have found her attractive, at least at first glance. And even if I didn't know who Caitlyn used to be, I would never have found her attractive.

The difference between the receptions each got was striking. All of the public pronouncements about Jenner have been supportive, even if much of the private commentary has not. Even President Obama weighed in by saying that Jenner showed "tremendous courage" in sharing her story.

Back in 1952, nobody felt obliged to be so supportive to Jorgensen. She was universally viewed as something sick, twisted, and unhealthy, an object of horrified fascination. She immediately became a cautionary tale, a walking punchline.

Are we a better society for welcoming -- or at least pretending to welcome -- Jenner with open arms?

I don't know.

One thing I do know: it took a lot more courage to be Christine Jorgensen than it took to be Caitlyn Jenner.

20 comments:

Mark Caplan said...

In the 1970s when Moog-maven Walter Carlos switched to Wendy, I don't recall any public reaction. The same lack of commotion greeted the reassignment of Richard Raskind to Renée Richards, except for the debate whether it was fair for the 6' 2" burly baritone Renée to compete against the likes of 5' 5" squeaky-voiced Tracy Austin.

John Craig said...

Mark -
I don't remember Carlos, but I do remember the debate over Renee Richards, and the more recent debate over MMA fighter Fallon Fox, which I wrote about here:

http://justnotsaid.blogspot.com/2013/05/should-transgenders-be-allowed-to-fight.html

But you're right, there was an intermediate period between the morbid fascination over Christine Jorgensen and the "celebration" of Caitlyn Jenner where there was little overt public reaction.

Anonymous said...

As a society, we're a more "enlightened" people (compared to earlier generations), being on the side of those who wrestle with gender issues, homosexuality, etc. For me, I'm not comfortable seeing Jenner with his new "look." All I could think about after seeing Jenner on the magazine cover were his kids. It has to be difficult seeing your dad transform into a female, the drastic changes in his appearance. Their dad is disappearing - he's turning into a woman. It's a mind bender.

- Susan

John Craig said...

Susan --
Yes, I think the vast majority of people had a similar reaction to seeing Jenner as a woman. There's definitely an "ick factor" there that many will deny, but most experience.

The little that I've read about his sons is that they support him in his new identity, but they don't think he should be making quite the spectacle of himself he is with the new E show, etc.

jova said...

But Jenner is just dressing up as a girl, he still has his balls and penis and still has sex with females
It is important to note, Bruce Jenner is not a homosexual and does not seek sex with men. This is one reason the Jenner story is not logical..if he actually felt like a female, one would expect he would want to have sex with men...but he is keeping his cock so he can still penetrate females...not typical female behavior .

I don't believe his false narrative..he married 3 times and had an active sex life with dozens of women, hard to believe such a heterosexual was hiding his true self...but he is likely insane, but not crazy enough to chop off his testicals and cock

John Craig said...

Jova --
You bring up a great point, which I was wondering about myself: has Jenner had the "final" surgery yet? I'm not sure. If you're right, he's still a "chick with a dick," as they call them on the porn sites. (And I'm told that many of them are not what they appear, but are merely Photoshopped amalgamations anyway.)

And yes, so true about his sexuality. Three wives, six children….it doesn't add up to a guy who wants to be with other guys. But there is a condition called "autogynephilia" (which that Navy Seal transsexual supposedly had) which means connotes men who get off on thinking of themselves as women.

But your main point, yes, exactly, if he hasn't had the defining surgery yet, he's mostly just a transvestite, not a woman, despite the hormone treatments and implants. And the silence from the mainstream media on this question is deafening, since everybody has to be curious about it.

jova said...

back in the 80's and 90s' a Transexual was a male who had surgery to become a female, like the example you cited, George Jorgensen. Today transvestites are considered transexuals if they choose to proclaim that they are females, while they retain their genitalia and continue to fornicate with women.

Those of us who grew up in the 70's and 80's assume people like Jenner, who claim to be transexuals, have had surgery to mutilate their genitals..but it seems like many of today's transexuals are merely men who dress as females (transvestites)

but if Jenner had 'come out' as a transvestite, would the press have made a big deal about it ? I doubt Vanity Fair would have put Bruce on the cover if he had come out as a transvestite, which seems a better description of the current Bruce Jenner.

John Craig said...

Jova --
I looked at that picture of Jenner on the cover of VF carefully, and saw enough of a pouch at his crotch to indicate that he might have been hiding something there. (Or, he may have just tucked his genitals down between his legs.) But either way, you're right, until he has that operation, he' just a transvestite. (And even if he does have it, as Remnant pointed out in today's post, he would just be a eunuch, not really a woman.)

Steven said...

No doubt Christine has a feminine face when viewed as a man but in the last photo, as women, she looks like a male. Its rare to get a man that truly passes as a women or vice versa, although there are racial differences in passibility (yeah, that's probably not a word but im sure you know what im talking about).

I think its right to accept somebody's choice...and I actually believe somebody can be born in the wrong body and I genuinely sympathise with those people..but would I 'be with' a female who was once male. no way!

John Craig said...

Steven --
I honestly think she looks like a woman, and a beautiful woman at that. If I knew who she was, I would be too weirded out, but if I hadn't know, frankly, she could have fooled me quite easily…..Although, who knows, maybe there would have been something like the voice or the walk that would have given her away.

My understanding is that in Thailand male tourists get fooled all the time by transvestites.

Steven said...

as for the last statement...that's absolutely true...and a certain race is more masculine, with more convincing female to male transvestites.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I don't think I've ever seen a black female to male transvestite, to tell the truth.

Steven said...

if yo had, you'd know what I was talking about. im sure you understand the genera point.

John Craig said...

Jova --

Question answered:

http://pagesix.com/2015/06/03/caityln-jenner-still-has-her-penis/

Steven said...

anyway, we live in a world where bullshit flourishes, and so glib sociopaths can flourish, so god bless u for telling the truth and cutting through the bullshit in your own way. You haven't mentioned your musical tastes much but I think you'd like Bob Dylans 'not dark yet'. Im sure you can relate to 'been down on the bottom of a world full of lies'. Truly honest men are rare and you are an honest man! that's what keeps me coming back.

John Craig said...

Thank you Steven.

Steven said...

wow I was drunk last night. Had to come back here to make sure what I wrote wasn't too embarrassing. Its all right. I'll stand by it.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I didn't notice anything embarrassing at all.

(I do hope you have better things to do when drunk than read my blog, however.)

Steven said...

I was at a little theatre watching a Leonard Cohen tribute act when I started drinking. I just came online when I got home. It wasn't the wildest end to an evening but I think the fact I went out semi-exonerates me.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, absolutely.