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Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography.

Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography * Introduction by Susan Stryker * Cleis Press * $14.95

Before hormone replacement therapy, the Internet, and the Jerry Springer Show, there was Christine Jorgensen, transsexual superstar.

"I looked into a sea of faces ... then heard a roar of voices shouting my name," she wrote in her best-selling 1967 memoir, describing her return to the United States from Denmark after her gender reassignment surgery. "I thought for a moment that I had entered Dante's inferno, as flashbulbs exploded from all directions and newsreel cameras whirred."

Jorgensen wasn't the first person to seek gender reassignment when she went under the knife in 1952, but for millions of newspaper readers, she might as well have been. Her transformation made international headlines, and for decades she was the best-known transgendered person in the world.

Long out of print, Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography has remained a vital, if hard to find, resource for those questioning their gender. The book has recently been rereleased by Cleis Press, complete with previously unpublished photos and a new introduction by historian Susan Stryker. It's just one of a growing number of testaments from people who have not just ventured the journey between genders but have also lived to tell about it.

Even as transgender narratives multiply, Jorgensen's story still compels. As a boy Jorgensen struggled with feelings of wrong, less he could barely acknowledge, let alone identify. The doctors he visited were baffled, so he experimented with self-administered estrogen and eventually went overseas in search of a new identity.

Ironically, Jorgensen never really lived as an ordinary woman. Shortly after her initial surgery the media learned of her existence--tipped off, some said, by Jorgensen herself--and she was famous from then on as the woman who was once a man. She capitalized on this dual identity in a long-running nightclub act, traveling the world and meeting Judy Garland, Truman Capote, and other celebrities. As Stryker notes, "parts of her story seem little more than lists of which famous and important people she lunched with during any given week ... and which tasteful ensembles she wore while doing so."
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Title Annotation:Review
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 27, 2001
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