CHRISTINE JORGENSEN, American transsexual, died on this date (b. 1926); Jorgenson was famous for having been the first widely-known individual to have sex reassignment surgery — in this case, male-to-female, or “MTF.” Returning to New York after her military service and increasingly concerned over what one obituary called her “lack of male physical development,” Jorgensen heard about the possibility of sex reassignment surgery, began taking the female hormone ethinyl estradiol on her own, and researched the subject with the help of Dr. Joseph Angelo, a husband of one of Jorgensen’s classmates at the Manhattan Medical and Dental Assistant School.
She intended to go to Sweden, where she had found the only doctors in the world performing this type of surgery at the time. At a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, however, Jorgensen met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish surgeon and specialist in sex-reassignment surgery. She ended up staying in Denmark and under Dr. Hamburger’s direction was allowed to begin hormone replacement therapy and eventually underwent a series of surgeries. During this first round of surgeries in Copenhagen, Jorgensen was castrated.
According to an obituary, “With special permission from the Danish minister of justice, Jorgensen had his testicles removed first and his still-undeveloped penis a year later. Though technically a eunuch, Jorgensen received large doses of hormones, which led to changes in his body contours and fat distribution, and with help from the American ambassador had her passport changed to identify her as female and began life as a woman.” Several years later Jorgensen obtained a vaginoplasty, when the procedure became available in the U.S., under the direction of Dr. Angelo and a medical advisor Harry Benjamin. Jorgensen chose the name Christine in honor of Dr. Hamburger and became a spokesperson for transexual and transgender people.