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A History of
In the United States
a) Christine Jorgensen’s (1926-1989) return to the US, serves as catalyst for change. When Christine Jorgensen returned to the U.S. from Denmark in 1952 after successful gender reassignment under the care of Dr. Christian Hamburger, the ensuing media blitz brought the possibilities of gender transition to the forefront of American culture. Christine had been born and raised in the Bronx as a boy named George but was driven to seek gender-altering treatment abroad by her profound cross-sex identification. Captured by the story of the Ex-GI turned into Blond Bombshell, and fascinated by Christine’s refined manner and the sober, dignified way in which she presented herself, the American people were riveted to her story for years. Patients with gender dysphoria began to seek medical care in droves, and American doctors were suddenly faced with requests for treatment about a condition they knew nothing about. The press also turned to the medical community, asking questions about issues raised by Jorgenson’s story. As a result, doctors and scientists in the US began to discuss and debate the etiology, biology, and psychology of transsexualism, and were forced to explore the available treatments and develop language to reflect increasingly complex ideas about sexuality and gender. b) b) Harry Benjamin (1885-1986) Defines a New Syndrome Harry Benjamin, was a notable 20th century German-born endocrinologist who moved to the United States and became the leading medical authority on transsexuality in the 1950s. Dr. Benjamin treated many patients seeking gender transition with hormonal therapy. Most famously, Dr. Benjamin treated Christine Jorgensen, a trans woman whose story attracted international press attention in the 1950s due to her outspoken nature, beauty, and history as a GI. In July 1966, Dr. Benjamin published The Transsexual Phenomenon, a foundational work in which he described his decades of research with transgender patients and argued that a person’s gender identity could not be changed and that the doctor’s responsibility was thus to help trans people live fuller and happier lives in the gender they identified as their own.
1. Carlett Brown 1927-? (Two women of color who tried to transition when Christine did, but were unable—contrast experience of POC with that of Christine Jorgensen) 2. Ava Betty Brown (as above) 3. Elmer Belt. (may be included in surgical chapter instead)
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