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Constructing the "Good Transsexual": Christine Jorgensen, Whiteness, and Heteronormativity in the Mid-Twentieth-Century Press.

As with any new academic field, transgender studies has created its own pantheon of canonical texts and heroic figures. One of the most celebrated figures has been Christine Jorgensen, and not without good reason; when the news announced in late 1952 that the former GI had undergone sex reassignment surgery in Denmark, it created a maelstrom of media attention and introduced many Americans to the concept of transsexuality. Jorgensen remained in the news throughout the 1950s as she appeared on television talk shows, starred in her own nightclub show, and her 1967 autobiography was adapted and released as a motion picture, titled The Christine Jorgensen Story, in 1970. Her engaging personality captured the imagination of many Americans, both past and present, and she has remained the most prominent individual within historical treatments of transsexuality. (1) However, Jorgensen was not the only public representation of transsexuality in the mid-twentieth century. In April 1966, for example, African American transwoman Delisa Newton graced the cover of Sepia, and her autobiography was the subject of a two-part series featured in the magazine, Similar to much of the press coverage of Jorgensen, Sepia's coverage of Newton highlighted her lonely childhood and her fervent desire to one day be a good wife. However, whereas Jorgensen's story appeared in numerous mainstream news magazines, such as Time and Feminist Studies 37, no. 2 (Summer 2011), (c) 2011 by Feminist Studies, Inc. Newsweek and widely circulated newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times, Newton's story appeared only in the African American press and tabloid newspapers such as the National Insider. The disparity between the media reception of Jorgensen and Newton highlights the significance of race within media representations of transsexuality and suggests that such public narratives of transsexuality are not simply about gender but also about race, class, and sexuality.

Building on the emergent scholarship on transgender studies, this article denaturalizes the preeminent position Jorgensen has enjoyed within historical treatments of transsexuality and highlights the significance of Jorgensen's whiteness within public representations. By discussing Jorgensen in relation to the numerous other transwomen who appeared in the mainstream media in the mid-twentieth century, I track the formation of the "transsexual" within popular discourse. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was those transwomen (primarily Jorgensen) depicted with the most proximity to white womanhood, who gained the most visibility in the mainstream press and whose stories therefore came to define the boundaries of "transsexual" identity. In order to illustrate this, I will discuss the representations of three white transwomen from the 1950s: Christine Jorgensen, Charlotte McLeod, and Tamara Rees. I argue that these white transwomen were able to articulate transsexuality as an acceptable subject position through an embodiment of the norms of white womanhood, (2) most notably domesticity, respectability, and heterosexuality. However, this maneuver was only possible through the subjugation of other gender variant bodies; as the subject position of the transsexual was sanitized in the mainstream press and rendered visible through whiteness, other forms of gender variance were increasingly made visible through nonwhiteness. To illustrate this, I will discuss the representations of three transwomen of color who appeared in the mainstream, tabloid, and African American press in the 1950s and 1960s: Marta Olmos Ramiro, Laverne Peterson, and Delisa Newton. Although each of these transwomen articulated their embodiment in ways similar to Jorgensen, McLeod, and Rees, their bodies were less intelligible as "authentic" (read: white) women, and therefore they appeared in the mainstream press as subjects of ridicule, not as "authentic" transsexuals. Taken together, this article highlights the disciplining power of racialized gender ideologies, ideologies that regulate which bodies appear within the public sphere as legitimate and which bodies appear only in order to be disparaged.

This study focuses on representations of transsexuality in the mass circulation press in the period between 1952 and 1966, as it was during this period that advances in medical technology first made sex reassignment surgery possible; thus, it was in these years that the subject position of "the transsexual" was first introduced to popular audiences. Because it was through the mass circulation press not medical literature--that most Americans learned about transsexuality, it is therefore vital to understand the narrative structures that allowed the figure of the transsexual to have coherence within popular discourse. (3) Thus, in this article, I am particularly interested in tracking the ways in which the mass circulation press positioned transsexual identity vis-a-vis other social groups, because, as Stuart Hall has written, "There is always a politics of identity, a politics of position, which has no absolute guarantee in an unproblematic, transcendental 'law of origin." (4) In order to get at popular narratives of transsexuality, I have interrogated a wide range of sources, from mainstream weekly magazines such as Time and Newsweek to popular daily newspapers such as New York's Daily News, from African American publications such as Sepia and Ebony to cult tabloid magazines such as Mr. and Whisper. I pay particular attention to the ways in which narratives of transsexuality changed as they traveled from one publication to the next but ultimately prioritize the narratives that were produced in publications with the widest circulation. (5) Taken together, this essay asks, how was it that Jorgensen came to be produced as a "good transsexual" as opposed to "sex deviant"? What normative investments undergirded her celebrity? And lastly, which bodies were subjugated by the creation of the notion of a "good transsexual"?


Christine Jorgensen emerged in the mainstream press amidst rapid suburbanization, increasing birthrates, and heightened cold war tensions. In this context, popular culture and political rhetoric each upheld the nuclear family--complete with a male breadwinner and a stay-at-home mother--as the American ideal, a social formation promising both personal happiness and national defense against communism. This connection was perhaps nowhere more visible than in the 1959 "kitchen debate" between Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the American Exhibition in Moscow that year. Amidst the display of model homes, washing machines, and other appliances, Nixon remarked that this is "what freedom means to us." As many historians have pointed out, this image of domestic tranquility did not describe life as experienced by all Americans, yet it nonetheless represented an ideal that all Americans were instructed to strive for. (6)

Indeed, social formations that threatened the stability of the nuclear family fell under particular scrutiny in the mid-twentieth century, and gender and sexual deviancy were often equated with political subversion. In 1950, for example, the U.S. Senate held hearings on homosexuals "and other sex perverts" working for the government, spurring both the purge of thousands of lesbians and gay men from government agencies and also increased police surveillance of gay communities throughout the 1950s and 1960s. (7) Given the heightened concern over the domestic nuclear family and proper gendered and sexual behavior, it should be considered no small coincidence that representations of Jorgensen corresponded with the image of femininity that was most idealized in the mid-twentieth century. As a blond, heterosexual, and domestically oriented woman, Jorgensen's appearance in the mainstream press introduced readers to the concept of transsexuality and yet simultaneously assured them of continued dominance of gender roles forged in reference to white heteropatriarchy.

Tellingly, the December 1, 1952, headline that announced Jorgensen's transformation to the world read "Ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty" (fig. 1). With these words, the Daily News announced that Jorgensen's sex reassignment surgery had not simply turned Charles into Christine, but it had also transformed her into a "blond beauty." Demure blonde women represented the gender norm of white womanhood in the mid-twentieth century and regulated the gender intelligibility of all women in visual representations. (8) Therefore, the phrase "blond beauty" simultaneously aligned Jorgensen's body with an idealized femininity and asserted her desirability as a woman to an assumed male viewer. The caption below her "before" picture read "A World of Difference," suggesting that Jorgensen's body had been completely transformed by the procedure, again indicating to the male viewer that Jorgensen's body was an acceptable object of heterosexual desire. Similarly, in its coverage of Jorgensen's return to the United States in February 1953, the San Francisco Examiner reported: "Christine is not only female; she's a darn good looking female. She's tall, very blonde and chic." (9) In this way, from the earliest press coverage of Jorgensen's story, her body was produced as definitively female in part through her embodiment of the physical qualifies of an idealized form of femininity: her white skin, blond hair, and slender frame garnered constant comment throughout her tenure in the media, and these comments ensured that her body would be intelligible as female to readers.


However, given the heightened importance placed on the nuclear family in the 1950s, Jorgensen's intelligibility as female also rested upon her participation in a nuclear family unit. As such, the prominent place of Jorgensen's mother and father in much of her early coverage within the mainstream press was particularly significant. Articles repeatedly cited how supportive her parents were throughout the lengthy process of sex reassignment, and many images were published after her return to the United States showing Jorgensen in the loving arms of her family. In one Daily News article, her father is quoted saying he thinks Christine "deserves an award higher than the Congressional Medal of Honor" because she was brave enough to act as a pioneer within the field of sex reassignment surgery. (10) Additionally, in Jorgensen's 1953 autobiographical series in American Weekly (a magazine delivered to over 9.5 million homes), she appeared in several domestic photographs, one in which she was cooking in the kitchen with her mother, who reportedly was showing Jorgensen "some kitchen tricks." (11) These images, along with her frequent assertions that she desired to one day get married, helped Jorgensen illustrate that her body was contained within normative kinship structures--not opposed to them.

These images also helped to produce Jorgensen's body through notions of middle-class respectability--another factor that helped to normalize her body as a white woman. A Los Angeles Times article from May 1953 reported: "Christine Jorgensen is pretty, personable, and pleasant--by any standard. She's courteous and intelligent, too. Over lunch in a suite at the Statler yesterday, this reporter forgot to remember her past maleness and saw only the present femininity and charm." (12) In this quotation, Jorgensen's femininity is enabled by her embodiment of respectability, a vital aspect of white womanhood because of its connection to civility. In this way, it did not matter that Jorgensen grew up in the Bronx, the son of a carpenter; what was important was that as Christine she presented herself in ways corresponding to traditional notions of middle-class respectability--a respectability inherently racialized as white.

In the days and months that followed, newspapers' across the country published countless articles retelling the story, solidifying Jorgensen's status as a cultural icon. However, Jorgensen was not completely unaware of the press's expectations of her embodiment. She told the Washington Post in 1970, "Unlike other women I had to become super-female. I couldn't have a single masculine trait:" Tellingly, the Post reporter followed up by stating: "And she doesn't. She looks a bit like Lana Turner.... She has beautiful skin, shapely legs, soft feminine hands which she uses gracefully to gesture, push back her blonde curls or play with her black beads, and large grey eyes with lots of real eyelashes." (13) Here, Jorgensen's identity as a woman is naturalized by noting her "real" eyelashes and her "soft feminine hands," and perhaps most of all, by comparing her to 1940s pinup girl, Lana Turner. With each of these phrases, interviewer Sally Quinn naturalized Jorgensen's femininity and signaled her alignment with heteronormativity. In fact, Jorgensen's allegiance to heteronormativity was one of the key elements that enabled her body to be read as within normative kinship structures, respectable, attractive, and available to male viewers; in order to be read as acceptably female and not strangely deviant, Jorgensen's body had to be intelligible as heterosexual.

One of the primary ways through which Jorgensen asserted her heterosexuality was by distancing herself from other "deviant" groups and providing the mainstream press with a narrative of her embodiment that was distinct from narratives of homosexuality or cross-dressing. In her American Weekly series, for example, Jorgensen made a point of explaining that after surgeons had successfully reassigned her sex, she did not begin dressing as a woman until the sex on her passport had officially been changed by the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen. (14) In this way, Jorgensen avoiding being accused of ever having been a male cross-dresser, and, perhaps more importantly, Jorgensen placed her embodiment in terms of proper U.S. citizenship and narrated her sex reassignment through her allegiance to the disciplining apparatus of the U.S. state. Implied here is the suggestion that gender deviants cross-dress, but proper citizens dress according to the gender assigned to them by the state.

Jorgensen further articulated her allegiance to heteronormativity by illustrating her repulsion to homosexuality and other forms of sexuality considered immoral by mainstream America. In her 1967 autobiography, for example, Jorgensen described an incident prior to her transition in which she was the subject of the sexual advances of a man. The move reportedly sickened Jorgensen to the extent that she "spun away from his lumbering figure and pushed blindly through the crowd of young people into the darkness, heading for the beach ... leaned over the edge of the pier and vomited." (15) In this scene, Jorgensen not only violently rejected a man's advances, but the suggestion of same-sex sexual activity elicited a visceral response of disgust. This scene is significant as it suggests that Jorgensen strove to appeal to mainstream readers rather than to readers who shared same-sex desire.

Throughout Jorgensen's tenure in the public spotlight, she articulated conservative sexual mores that likely served to assure readers that her public presence was not motivated by a political agenda seeking to challenge the sanctity of heteropatriarchy. For example, in Jorgensen's 1954 interview with True Confessions Associate Editor Roy Ald, Jorgensen registered her distaste for prostitution. When Aid expressed sympathy for a prostitute who had recently been put on trial in New York City, Jorgensen replied, "I don't see why you should feel anything toward her. Those people make me sick. It's all right as long as they get away with what they're doing, but once they get caught they weep and plead for mercy. She had her fun-now she has to pay the price." When Ald countered that the woman in question came from "a broken home," Jorgensen "became more incensed. She couldn't stand people putting the blame on society to avoid personal responsibility for their actions." (16) In this way, Jorgensen signaled her alignment with conservative sexual mores and values that prized personal responsibility. The stakes of such positioning are clear; in the 1950s, the period in which transsexuality was introduced to the mainstream public, homosexuality, cross-dressing, and other forms of sexual and gender variance were often collapsed into the singular category of deviance; thus, in order to gain acceptance, transsexuals had to articulate their distinctiveness from other pathologized minorities they might have been grouped with.

Indeed, despite widespread criticism, Jorgensen was able to present herself as a respectable woman and continued to be represented positively in newspapers around the country throughout the mid-twentieth century. As Joanne Meyerowitz has written,
    Like Helen Keller, she served for some readers as a model of how the
   human will might triumph over adversity.... With ambition and a sense
   mission, she perpetuated her popularity and kept herself on stage.
   Although she could not control the media, she asserted her presence,
   she refused to let the press define her. She told a story that
   her and defended her right to pursue her own happiness, and she
   the public to acknowledge her status as a woman. (17) 

However, what I am interested in exploring are the normative investments that aided in Jorgensen's effort to "humanize" her story, namely, her avowed allegiance to white heteronormativity. Jorgensen was able to prevent the press from defining her because she had access to the institutional power of white womanhood--institutional power that allowed her to speak for herself, insisting that her words be taken seriously. Indeed, in order for Jorgensen to be taken seriously as a woman, she had to participate in the subjugation of other nonnormative bodies. In what follows, I will discuss other transsexuals who appeared in the press during the mid-twentieth century--none of whom were able to achieve the status of "good transsexual" in quite the same way that Jorgensen was. This failure is no accident, however, but the grounds upon which Jorgensen claimed respectability.


In February 1954, just one year after Jorgensen's return to the United States, the U.S. public learned that a second former GI had traveled to Europe to undergo sex reassignment surgery: Charlotte McLeod. Despite many similarities between the two cases, McLeod's story was produced in the mainstream press as being quite distinct from Jorgensen's; and, in fact, Jorgensen was often invoked as a positive example against which to negatively characterize McLeod. When she was introduced in Time, for example, the magazine reported, "Charlotte's story resembles Christine's. He was a sensitive boy, quiet and lonely, with a penchant for dressing up in women's clothing. Like Christine, he was drafted into the Army; unlike Christine, he found it too hard." (18) Thus, failing to live up to the standard of the "good transsexual" that Jorgensen's story had created, McLeod was castigated by the mainstream press and cast as less authentic as a woman.

Although McLeod sought to narrate her story through the tropes of white womanhood, articles in the mainstream press often focused on exactly the aspects of her story most violating the standards of white femininity--particularly her lack of middle-class decorum. Whereas press coverage of Jorgensen's return to the United States was full of comments on her beautiful features and delicate mannerisms, the coverage of McLeod's return was dominated by stories of an altercation she had with a reporter on the tarmac, highlighted in headlines such as "Charlotte Home, Battles Photog Like the Charles She Used to Be." In contrast to the gracefully posed photographs published upon Jorgensen's return, New York's Daily News and the New York Sunday Times published photographs of McLeod during or shortly after the altercation, whereto she was either struggling to get up off the ground or scowling in the backseat of a car, allegedly on the way to the police station. The Daily News even captioned a photograph. "The New Charles Wasn't Ladylike." (19) Thus, McLeod's assertions that she desired a quiet domestic life were put into question as newspapers highlighted her aggressive and confrontational manner.

However, even before McLeod set foot on U.S. soil, the mainstream press had been characterizing her as an individual of questionable morals. In their first story on McLeod, in February 1954, the Chicago Daily Tribune highlighted the fact that she had been kicked out of the Second Baptist Church lodging house where she had been staying. A church spokesperson told the paper, "We have done what we could for Charlotte and will continue to do our Christian duty toward a person in distress.... But we just cannot take this. We have therefore told Charlotte that we thought it would be wisest if she found another place to stay." (20) By highlighting this aspect of McLeod's story, the Chicago Daily Tribune thus produced McLeod as an individual unworthy of Christian charity--as an outsider who was without the supportive kinship network that was so prevalent in coverage of Jorgensen's case. Similarly, other newspapers often focused on McLeod's financial hardships in order to highlight the questionable choices she was forced to make in order to support herself. The San Francisco Examiner, for example, reported that McLeod told the paper "that she doesn't look forward to night club work, but thinks it necessary to pay bills.... She said she is looking forward to married life and a home of her own." (21) Here, it is clear that McLeod strove to position herself in relation to normative white womanhood, but the mass circulation press chose to deemphasize McLeod's dreams of domestic bliss and instead highlighted her lack of middle-class respectability. Herein lies one of the most significant distinctions between the ways in which Jorgensen's and McLeod's stories were told in the mainstream press: whereas Jorgensen's story was most often articulated through her own voice or within interviews of her parents, McLeod's story was rarely articulated in her own voice, and newspaper editors virtually always had the last word.

Jorgensen published an autobiographical series in the widely circulated American Weekly magazine, but McLeod's autobiography was relegated to the pages of Mr. magazine. Mr. was one of a plethora of "exploitation" magazines popular in the 1950s, featuring a blend of pinups, cartoons, and personality profiles, often emphasizing the unusual or bizarre. (22) Despite the fact that the readers of Mr. were accustomed to scandalized stories of sex, the tone of McLeod's autobiographical account published there is remarkably similar to much of Jorgensen's autobiographical writing. In particular, McLeod went to great lengths to articulate her distinction from homosexuals and drag queens. McLeod narrated her transition in part through an articulation of her distaste for the gay counterculture of New Orleans. She explains that doctors in the United States refused her surgery, suggesting instead that she "find such little happiness as I could in life by going to one of the 'colonies' that abound in our large cities." She took this advice at first but found this solution unsatisfying, writing
    I moved to the French Quarter of New Orleans, but my experiences
   were such as to convince me that I should definitely undertake the
   drastic step of a sex change. I did not fit into the normal world and
   whole spirit rebelled against trying to live the life of the
      I was appalled at their insincerity, insecurity, and promiscuity
   practiced among them. I did feel a great sympathy for many of these
   men and women who I met, but I could find no peace of mind among

Similar to Jorgensen's account of her disgust upon receiving the attentions of male suitors prior to her transformation, this narrative aligned McLeod's morality with the majority of Americans in 1956 who felt that homosexuality was a sin. Just as significantly, however, this passage also highlights McLeod's decision to get sex reassignment surgery as a result of her allegiance to heteronormativity, whereas many might take it as an indication of her sexual deviancy. Despite these normative investments, however, McLeod's story apparently lacked mainstream appeal; although McLeod attempted to perform white womanhood, she failed to live up to racialized gender expectations of respectability and domesticity, and thus her story troubled the bi-gender system in ways that Jorgensen's did not. Perhaps as a result, McLeod's story received far less attention in the mainstream press than Jorgensen's had, and what little press she did receive was markedly negative in tone.

Tellingly, however, McLeod reemerged in the mainstream press in 1959 with reports of her marriage in Florida. Several articles were published across the country (almost as many as were published as when her sex change was first made public in 1954), and in each account, McLeod's identity as a respectable middle-class white woman was highlighted through representations of her newly domestic nature. Many newspapers published the same photograph of McLeod in her Miami apartment, demurely looking into the camera, surrounded by the trappings of a middle-class home. (24) It seems that by settling down and marrying a white man, McLeod was afforded the respectability of white womanhood that earlier press had denied her. As Dreama Moon has written, "any whitewoman, regardless of class position, can aspire to become a 'good (white) girl' through the acquisition of a racialized notion of bourgeois respectability based on racial loyalty." (25) In this way, McLeod was afforded a brief opportunity to inhabit the public identity of the "good transsexual" through her alignment within the disciplining structure of heterosexual marriage. Perhaps bolstering her claims as a "good transsexual" here was the fact that just months before, Jorgensen's attempt to secure a marriage license had been denied by the state of New York, the marriage license clerk refusing since Jorgensen's birth certificate still indicated that she was male. (26)


In November 1954, newspapers across the country reported that the former Robert Rees, decorated World War II paratrooper and father of two, had returned from Amsterdam a woman. On the surface, it would seem that the story of Tamara Adel Rees was sensational enough to attract the same kind of attention Jorgensen had received two years before. However, after a brief flurry of attention within the mainstream press, Rees embarked on a career as a burlesque dancer, and aside from people who went to see her perform, very few ever heard of her after 1955. However brief her stay in the public eye, the ways in which Rees narrated her transformation within the mainstream press are significant as they again reiterate the importance of heterosexuality within articulations of transsexual acceptability in the mid-twentieth century.

The most substantive coverage of Rees's story was a three-part autobiographical series published in New York's Daily News in November of 1954. The series was published alongside numerous images of Rees, all of which positioned Rees within domestic settings, and showed her performing tasks such as pouring tea, doing needlepoint, and painting her fingernails (fig. 2). (27) These images suggested to readers the willingness of Rees to assume her new roles as a patriotic domestic woman. However, these images also displayed Rees's large frame, dark hair, and lack of conventional white feminine beauty, all of which made her body less intelligible as a white woman than Jorgensen or McLeod had been before her.

Interestingly, in the text of her autobiographical series, Rees focused on her past masculinity in order to assert her heterosexuality. She credited her desire to prevent others from thinking of her as a homosexual as compelling many of the decisions she made while male. In the first article of the series, Rees reported that the reason she joined the paratroopers wasn't "that the flags were flying, or because I loved the sea, or anything like that. My motive was just to keep people from thinking of me as a homosexual. When they saw me in uniform, I thought, they'd think instead, 'Here's a real man--he proved it.'" (28) In the second installment of the series, Rees described her marriage to a woman in similar terms: "I was sent to Camp McCall, N.C., where, in July of 1943, I married a Southern girl. It wasn't at all successful. She, I think, primarily wanted freedom from her family. I felt that marriage would automatically clear me of the homosexual implication that I have always bitterly resented." (29)


Although this strategy to claim white womanhood was successful at securing Rees several days on the front page of New York's Daily News, her story was quickly dropped by the mass circulation press, perhaps because it held the potential to raise questions about "normal" Americans. Both McLeod and Jorgensen articulated their heterosexuality by naturalizing their femininity; by explaining that they had always "really" been women, they positioned sex reassignment surgery as the only means through which they could participate in the heterosexual liaisons they so desired. However, Rees's focus on her part as a normative male disrupted this narrative of inherent femaleness and threatened to reveal the performative nature of both gender and heterosexuality. In addition, the fact that she was able to succeed at the most "masculine" activities-such as paratrooping--suggested that even the most seemingly "masculine" men might secretly hold cross-gender identifications. Jorgensen and McLeod, on the other hand, claimed white womanhood by not only asserting their heterosexuality but also by simultaneously participating in the hegemonic discourse that pathologized homosexuality and gender variance, a strategy that was apparently more palatable to the U.S. mainstream.


One result of the collusion of transsexuality and whiteness was the further collapse of gender deviance and nonwhiteness, a phenomenon that was even evident in the locations mentioned in the mainstream press as having performed sex reassignment surgeries. As Meyerowitz has noted, some of the appeal of Jorgensen's story came from the celebrated role of science and medicine during the atomic age. Even for those who felt a bit uneasy about sex reassignment surgery, the fact that science had made the surgery possible was often toted as being a symbol of progress and innovation. (30) The mainstream press articulated these advances as emanating exclusively from Europe, despite the fact that operations were also taking place in Mexico, Morocco, and Japan; and Americans were traveling to these locations for treatment as early as 1953. (31) However, it was only when a Mexican underwent surgery in Mexico City that the locale was discussed as one offering such advanced medical technology.

In May of 1954, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and New York Sunday Mirror all reported the sex reassignment of thirty-year-old Marta Olmos Ramiro, a native of Mexico City. Similar to the coverage of Jorgensen and McLeod, in interviews Ramiro articulated her sex reassignment surgery as the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, one that she hoped would include marriage and children. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that she felt "feminine impulses" and "liked to cook and sew and keep the house.... Although I was strong, I didn't rough house with the other boys. I finally took this step to end my torment." (32) However, Ramiro's coverage within the mainstream press was very different from that of the white transwomen discussed earlier, and no credit was given to the skill of the Mexican doctors who performed Ramiro's sex reassignment surgery. Throughout the mainstream press, linguistic markers were deployed to signal their lack of professional credentials, with the San Francisco Examiner referring to them as "interns" and the New York Sunday Mirror calling them "Mexican Medics." (33) In this way, Ramiro's status as a woman was rendered less legitimate because the doctors who performed the surgery were rendered as illegitimate, a theme that became even more prevalent when Ramiro's story was told in the tabloid magazine Whisper. (34)

Indeed, Ramiro's visibility within the mainstream press was very brief, but her story did reappear in the April 1955 issue of Whisper in an article titled "Mexico's Hush-Hush Clinic: Sex Surgery While You Wait!" According to the magazine, news of Ramiro's sex reassignment surgery "kicked up a fuss in his homeland" which "inspired several Mexican legislatures to consider making their country a haven for guys and gals who want to be gals and guys." Whisper suggested that Ramiro's transformation motivated the Mexican government to consider loosening legal regulations controlling sex reassignment surgery in order to attract tourists, reporting: "Mexico has embarked on a determined campaign to steal Copenhagen's crown as the mecca for mixed-up kids who don't like what the doc wrote on their birth certificates." Whisper suggested to its readers that this campaign was already underway and devoted the bulk of the article to efforts being made by Mexican lawmakers and doctors to cater to U.S. clients. The article discussed a clinic (or "fairy factory") operated by Alfredo Martinez that allegedly boasted rapid service and low cost. While Whisper reported that Mexican lawmakers were seeking to create looser regulations on sex reassignment surgery, the magazine also noted the various strategies undertaken by doctors at Martinez's clinic to raise awareness within the United States. In particular, Whisper reported that when well-known San Francisco millionaire Bunny Breckinridge announced his desire to change his sex in early 1955, Dr. Martinez's Mexico City clinic offered him free treatment in hopes that "the power of his name might attract other gilt-edge customers." (35)

As this brief summary makes clear, despite the fact that images of Ramiro were featured prominently within the Whisper article, the particularities of her case were cast as irrelevant as the magazine used Ramiro's body to link gender and sexual deviance with nonwhiteness. In fact, the article mentions that Rafael Sandoval Camacho, one of the surgeons who treated Ramiro, "disclaims any connection with or knowledge of the clinic described in this report." Sex reassignment surgery is cast as completely illegitimate, and all those who seek treatment are cast as homosexuals--both before and after. This link is made explicit by both the dual focus on Breckinridge (an openly gay man) and Ramiro and by the willingness of Mexican politicians to open their borders to "jasmine jokers." (36)

This article is significant here for many reasons, particularly in the ways in which it articulates race and nation through tropes of sexuality. Throughout the article, Mexico is cast as a space welcoming to transsexuals--a characteristic not celebrated as being indicative of Mexican open-mindedness but scandalized as evidence of Mexican depravity. For example, Whisper reports that
    many of the re-tread "he-to-shes" refuse to go home after
their surgery,
   fearing the deluge of jibes, jokes and embarrassing questions which
   engulfed Christine Jorgensen when she returned to her native land.
      Mexico has provided an answer for that, too, in the form of
   the noted quickie divorce capital which is now rapidly becoming a
   paradise. Faintly alarmed over the influx of mincing males in recent
   months, Mexico's federal police recently estimated that the
   small resort city now boasts a population of some 5,000 gay guys? 

Here, no distinctions are made between homosexuals and transsexuals, as both groups are cast as equally deviant. Both groups are welcomed by physicians and law officials in Mexico-indicating to the reader that the Mexican people as a whole are also sexually deviant.

As such, Mexico is portrayed as a space of sexual deviance, a characterization that falls directly in line with the tropes pioneered in imperial travel narratives, wherein colonized spaces were frequently cast as spaces of moral depravity, signaled by improper sexual and gender formations. And just as in imperial travel narratives, Whisper magazine's discussion of "Mexico's Hush-Hush Clinic" was concerned not simply with defining Mexican immorality but also with defining the depravity of sexual and gender deviants within the United States. As Ann Laura Stoler has written,
    Discourses of sexuality do more than define the distinctions of the
   bourgeois self; in identifying marginal members of the body politic,
   have mapped the moral parameters of European nations. These deeply
   sedimented discourses on sexual morality could redraw the
   frontiers" of national communities, frontiers that were secured
   through--and sometimes in collusion with--the boundaries of race....
   marked out those whose claims to property rights, citizenship, and
   relief were worthy of recognition and whose were not." (38) 

Thus, Whisper's account of "Mexico's Hush-Hush Clinic" cast U.S. gay people and transsexuals as deviants unworthy of citizenship through racialized tropes of sexual morality. However, the circulation of this discourse highlights the stakes of Jorgensen, McLeod, and Rees's rejection of homosexuality in their self-presentation; given that sexual deviance was often articulated through racialized tropes of difference, it was all the more vital that they present themselves as heterosexual in order to legitimate their status as white women.


Significantly, racialized tropes of sexuality do not produce all nonwhite bodies in the same way. Popular representations of Asian Americans, for example, also reflect the legacy of imperial discourse, and yet the effect is quite different than in the previous example. Western Orientalizing images have consistently characterized the East as female, with a connotation of both submission and sexual invitation. As a result, Asian men have been feminized and considered to be "not real men," and Asian women have been the subject of many an imperialist fantasy, exoticized for their supposed availability and willingness to serve. (39) According to this racialized logic, in the mid-twentieth century, Asian American transsexuals appeared to be less of a threat to the bi-gender system, as their race aided in the legibility of their bodies as female. However, given the nonwhiteness of Asian American transsexuals, mainstream media coverage that acknowledged the femininity of Asian American transsexuals required the simultaneous deployment of the racist stereotype of the "exotic" Asian woman in order to register the distinction between this form of femininity and white womanhood. This trope is clearly evident in the 1964 coverage of the sex reassignment surgery of Pacific Islander Laverne Peterson. As she was not white or blonde, it likely would have seemed out of place if reporters deployed the same effusive commentary on her beauty as Jorgensen had received, and yet it is clear from Peterson's press coverage that reporters were not completely hostile to accepting her as feminine.

In Honolulu's Sunday Star-Bulletin and Advertiser's account, Peterson's identity is invoked as one of an enigmatic performer, a characterization even reflected in the caption to her pre- and postoperative photographs in the article "New Life Opens for Local Dancer." (40) The article switched back and forth between Peterson's chosen female name, Laverne, and her stage name, Linn Loo, as if to characterize Peterson's lives on- and offstage as equally performative. Her exotic nature was portrayed as being reflected in places of employment: the Tahitian Hut, the Kon Tiki Room in the Chicago Hilton, and the Forbidden City. She is described not as Jorgensen had been described, as a "natural" woman, but, rather, as a "sexual enigma." When Peterson herself was quoted, however, she articulated a far different version of her subjecthood, aligning herself along the lines of normative white womanhood rather than in the racialist tropes deployed by the Star Bulletin reporter. Peterson reported that she wanted to "live a normal, quiet, happy life. I'll stay in show business maybe a year--no more. In this business your life isn't your own. I want a normal life." (41) Here, Peterson presented herself as a respectable woman who seeks to improve her life by leaving her job as a dancer and settling down with a husband.

The Star-Bulletin refused to let this image be the last word, however, and the photographs published alongside the article clearly invoke racialized gender expectations. In her postoperative photograph, Peterson is posed seductively holding the trunk of a tree with her long dark hair pulled around her left shoulder, as if to accentuate its length and sheen (fig. 3). She is wearing a coy smile and a tight tank top that displays her moderately sized breasts. In contrast to her preoperative photo, her gaze does not address the viewer, and she is thus positioned more as an object of sexual interest rather than as a subject. Whereas posed photographs of white transsexuals such as Jorgensen, McLeod, and Rees in the 1950s were virtually all taken in domestic settings, the outdoor setting of Peterson's portrait seems to accentuate her exotic nature, while the coyness of her presentation harkens back to Orientalist representations of Asian women. It would seem that Peterson's past as a male did not inhibit her availability as a subject of sexual interest for heterosexual men; by invoking Orientalist tropes of the exotic nature of Asian women, she was depicted as no less of a sexual enigma than all Asian women.



Thus far, this article has focused on representations of transsexuality within the mainstream and tabloid press. Significantly, however, the African American press, beginning in the 1950s, was covering transgender issues in a much different way than the white mainstream press. (42) Emblematic of this is the 1966 coverage of transwoman Delisa Newton in the African American magazine Sepia. Newton not only was on the cover of the April issue, but the two-part series, titled "From Man to Woman," was advertised in the African American newspaper Chicago Defender. (43) In this autographical account of Newton's life, Sepia afforded her the space to articulate her experiences and her desire for acceptance in her own words.

Significantly. one of the things that Newton highlights in narrating her life is her proclivity toward domesticity, a tendency that she dates back to her early childhood. She writes, "At first, mama would shoo me out into the garden of our home.... Finally she got used to having me around her, and she got to like it. To this day, I have kept up my housekeeping skill; it was good early training." (44) The photographs accompanying Newton's articles also highlight her domesticity; in one photograph, she is shown wearing an apron and smiling happily at the camera, the caption declaring: "A picture of domesticity, Delisa sweeps the floor of her apartment" (fig. 4). Other photos show her dressed in form-fitting dresses and furs, some of which appear to be promotional photographs for her nightclub act "Queen of the Blues." Even in these publicity shots, however, she presents herself as a demure woman and not a sexy stripper.


Newton's emphasis on domesticity reads very similarly to the autographical writings of Jorgensen, McLeod, and Rees, and yet it marks her series as distinct from Sepia's coverage of other African American women. Unlike white mainstream publications wherein images of women centered on the roles of mothers and housewives, Sepia had, from its inception in 1945, depicted women in a variety of roles and often featured stories of African American career women and entertainers. (45) This standard remained in the 1960s, and within 1966 alone, model Mitty Lawrence, dancer Lola Falana, singer Lena Home, stage actress Diana Sands, singer Dionne Warwick, and actress Carole Cole were all featured on Sepia covers. Within each of the accompanying articles, Sepia focused on these women's careers and rarely published images of them performing domestic chores. Thus, the fact that Newton portrayed herself visually as exclusively domestic is very significant, as it suggests that, given her identity as a transsexual, the stakes for her appearing respectable were much higher than with biological African American women who appeared in Sepia.

Newton's performance of domesticity should not be read as an act of capitulating to white standards of respectability, however. Newton portrayed herself as embodying the space of bourgeois respectability, and yet from that space, she launched powerful critiques against white supremacy. In fact, one of the dominant themes within Newton's second installment of her autobiography was the impact racism had on her transition. The article opens:
    Because I am a Negro it took me twice as long to get my sex change
   operation as it would have a white person. Because I am a Negro many
   doctors showed me little sympathy and understanding. "You people
are too
   emotional for such an ordeal," one doctor told me.
      But finding medical attention wasn't the only problem
complicated by
   the color of my skin. Even with my college and nursing education, I
   couldn't get a good, steady job to raise money for the
operation. (46) 

Thus, by embodying what Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham has called the "politics of respectability," Newton was able to illustrate to Sepia readers that she was not a gender deviant and protest white supremacy simultaneously. (47) In extending Higginbotham's insights, it is useful here to employ Jose Esteban Munoz's theory of "disidentification" in thinking through the ways in which Newton narrated her body to Sepia readers, Munoz writes: "Disidentification is [a] mode of dealing with dominant ideology, one that neither opts to assimilate within such a structure nor strictly opposes it; rather, disidentification is a strategy that works on and against dominant ideology." (48) Indeed, it was through an embodiment of white norms of respectability that Newton was able to launch a critique against white supremacy. In addition, by highlighting the impact of racism upon her story, Newton narrated her story in a way that many African American readers likely could identify with, even if they approached her story with some trepidation. This apparently was an effective strategy, as Sepia's published letters to the editor indicate that Newton's series was received very well by the magazine's readership. (49)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Newton's story was discussed very differently outside of the African American press. In fact, the only other publication in which Newton's story was published was the National Insider, a tabloid magazine sold in supermarkets nationwide beginning in 1962. The coverage of Newton's story here was very different than it was in Sepia, as illustrated by the inflammatory 1965 headlines: "My Lover Beat Me" and "Why I Could Never Marry a White Man." (50) The articles accompanying these headlines portrayed Newton in a way that conformed to hegemonic images of African American women as oppositional to white womanhood; Newton was depicted as sexually deviant and incapable of maintaining a monogamous heterosexual relationship)I Seemingly, the anticipated reader of the National Insider was not interested in seeing Newton posing with a broom but was anxious to read about her experiences with domestic violence and interracial sex. (52) Whereas Sepia provided Newton the space to articulate her story in her own words, the editors of the National Insider narrated her story for her, shaping it to conform to mid-America's racialized gender expectations.

However, the National Insider's scandalized portrayal of Newton should not be blamed entirely on its readership's appetite for stories of African American women as victims of domestic violence; rather, these representations must be considered within the larger field of representations of race and gender in the mid-twentieth century. This period was one of tremendous racial turmoil within the United States, as white mobilization against the black freedom movement powerfully illustrated how invested many whites were in maintaining the status quo. White anxiety about protecting racial boundaries was often expressed through the policing of gender and sexuality, as illustrated by the brutal lynching in 1955 of fourteen- year-old Emmett Till for allegedly whistling at a white woman. (53) Acts of violence against black men (or boys, in Till's case) were normalized in part through the demonization of black masculinity within popular culture. (54) Indeed, black men were often represented as antithetical to white women; whereas black men were cast as violent, incapable of controlling their emotions or sexual drive, and uneducated, white women were cast as chaste, moral, and refined. To mainstream audiences well acquainted with these images, it seems likely that African American men would have been perceived as poor candidates for "passable" women. The visual dissonance produced by black men inhabiting the normative scripts of femininity--scripts created in reference to whiteness--holds the potential to highlight the performativity of race and gender. Thus, in order to naturalize white womanhood as the universal ideal (and thereby maintain the legitimacy of strict racial boundaries), it was vital that the mainstream press either ignore cases such as Newton's or treat such individuals as objects of ridicule for attempting to present themselves as "real" women.


This article has illustrated that the interrogation of race and racism must be central to the study of media representations of transsexuality. Thus far, scholarship on the history of transsexuality in the United States has focused on Jorgensen to the exclusion of other transwomen and has failed to interpret the significance of her whiteness. This elision has allowed for the public discourse of transsexuality to be analyzed as if it were only about gender, whereas, as this article has shown, narratives of transsexuality are always already about race, class, and sexuality as well as gender. By placing representations of Jorgensen in conversation with the representations of other transwomen in the postwar period. I have shown that Jorgensen's ability to "humanize" her story was dependent upon her performance of the scripts of white, middle-class womanhood.

Indeed, it was not just Jorgensen, but also Rees and McLeod. who, as public pioneers of transsexuality, had the opportunity to put forth an inclusive display of gender variance. Instead, they each sought to claim an identity "just like" other women, and in calling upon the notion of a universal sisterhood, they conflated transsexuahty with whiteness, heterosexuality, and middle-classness. (55) This maneuver should not be viewed as a personal failure on the part of these transwomen but, rather, should be taken as evidence of the strong disciplinary mechanisms within the cultural ideology of race, gender, and sexuality. As Hillary Harris has written, "Whiteness is invested in, like property, but it is also a means of accumulating property and keeping it from others." (56) Thus, as public representations of transsexuality became visible through whiteness, white transwomen were motivated to articulate transsexuality in exclusionary ways in order to protect their respectability because, as Harris explains, the ideological power of white womanhood (and the bi-gender system that it supports) rests in large part in the exclusive nature of its construction.

The implications of this exclusivity can be seen not only in representations of the white transwomen discussed here but also within the representations of transwomen of color. Whereas Jorgensen's whiteness enabled her ascension to the category of "woman," Peterson's Pacific Islander heritage ensured that she would be characterized not as a "real" woman but rather as a "sexual enigma." Peterson was not ridiculed in the mainstream press for her desire for sex reassignment, perhaps due in part to the ways in ways Asian men have been effeminized within mainstream U.S. popular culture, In contrast, African American and Latino men have both been hypermasculinized in the media, making their bodies virtually incompatible with mainstream expectations of femininity. As a result, when Latina or African American transwomen appeared in the media in the mid-twentieth century, they did so as objects of ridicule, as evidenced by the coverage of Ramiro and Newton in the tabloid press.

In order to think through the implications of these insights, it is productive to draw upon Lisa Duggan's notion of homonormativity. Duggan defines homonormativity as "a politics that does not contest dominant heteronormative assumptions and institutions, but upholds and sustains them, while promising the possibility of a demobilized gay constituency, and a gay culture anchored in domesticity and consumption." (57) Although Duggan defines homonormativity with specific reference to gay culture and articulates the notion as having a particular relationship with neoliberalism, the concept is nonetheless still useful here and provides a rubric for understanding how certain queer subjects can be produced as acceptable while other queer subjects are produced as pathological. In addition, it allows for a more complicated understanding of queer subjectivity in relation to dominant power structures, highlighting contingency and normative investments.

In Joanne Meyerowitz's pathbreaking How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States, she argues that the emergence of Jorgensen in the 1950s destabilized gender norms and introduced the public to a more fluid understanding of the relationship between sex and gender. However, as I have sought to illustrate here, Jorgensen and other white transwomen who appeared in the mainstream press in the mid-twentieth century articulated their acceptability through their performance of the scripts of white womanhood and by implication, normative investments in heterosexualivy, consumerism, and white supremacy. Their ascension to respectability was dependent upon the subjugation of other forms of gender variance, particularly drag queens and homosexuals, Jorgensen, McLeod, and Rees created a narrative of the "good transsexual," and this narrative helped to support the continued dominance of the bi-gender system and gender norms forged in white heteronormativity.

In this article, I seek to make both historical and historiographical interventions. I argue that it is vital that historians and theorists grapple with the normative investments contained within representations of early transsexuals in order to understand that the ways in which transsexuality is articulated as a phenomenon are not only about gender but also race, class, and sexuality. However, the narrative of the "good transsexual" was not something that only the mid-twentieth-century mainstream press created, as historians and other scholars within transgender studies also bear responsibility, often being motivated, as Dan Irving has recently noted, "by efforts to construct proper trans social subjects that can integrate successfully into mainstream North American society." (58) Susan Stryker has also noted this tendency within academic scholarship, noting that information on the 1966 Compton Cafeteria riot in San Francisco's Tenderloin district--a riot led by drag queens in response to police harassment- -has been discussed most frequently in public history works by nonacademic writers and disseminated through community-based publications rather than through professional academic venues. (59) Thus, in taking note of how the narrative of the "good transsexual" was constructed in the mid-twentieth century, it is vital that we as scholars interrogate its implications within our scholarship; as the narrative of the "good transsexual" aided in the ability of certain transbodies to become visible and articulate their acceptability, other gender variant bodies were subjugated in the mainstream press, and as such, are more difficult for researchers to uncover. As I have sought to illustrate here, this invisibility was constructed, and therefore researchers must pay as much attention to the structures regulating visibility (both within today's archives and within yesterday's representations) as we do to the representations themselves.


This article is the winner of the 2008 Feminist Studies Award for the best article submitted by a graduate student.

(1.) In this article, I focus only on the media discourse around male-to-female transsexuals as they were far more visible than female-to-male transsexuals in the mid- twentieth century, and thus in many ways transsexuality was first understood as a phenomenon that affected only those born male. I use the term "transwomen" to refer to male-to-female transsexuals in order to highlight the specificity of this discussion, as the dynamics regulating the visibility of female-to-male transbodies are much different.

(2.) I use the term "white womanhood" to refer to the norms of white femininity in order to signify both their disciplinary ideological implications as well as their institutional power.

(3.) See Joanne Meyerowitz, "Sex Change and the Popular Press: Historical Notes on Transsexuality in the United States, 1930-1955," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 4, no. 2 (1998): 159-87. Lisa Duggan interrogates the formation of what she terms the "lesbian love murder story" in the 1890s, and her insights on the relationships between the mass circulation press and the formation of social identities are particularly useful here. See her Sapphic Slashers: Sex, Violence, and American Modernity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000), 33-34.

(4.) Stuart Hall, "Cultural Identity and Diaspora," in Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory, ed. Patrick Williams and Laura Chrisman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 395.

(5.) Often in this article I will focus on the popular press rather than more "serious" news magazines because of the broad reach of many popular daily newspapers. For example, in 1952, New York's Daily News had an average daily circulation of 2,251,430, well over four times that of the New York Times (507,281) and almost three times that of the weekly circulation of Newsweek (851,036). See N.W. Ayer & Son, Inc (comp.), A. W. Ayer & Son's Directory: Newspapers and Periodicals, 1952, ed. R. Bruce Jones (Philadelphia: N.W. Ayer & Son, 1953), 695, 710.

(6.) Lizabeth Cohen, The Consumer's Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America (New York: Vintage Books, 2004), 126. For literature on gender roles in the 1950s, see Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era (New York: Basic Books, 1988); Joanne Meyerowitz, ed., Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994); and Beth Bailey, Sex in the Heartland (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994).

(7.) Craig Loftin, "Unacceptable Mannerisms: Gender Anxieties, Homosexual Activism, and Swish in the United States, 1945-1965," Journal of Social History 40 (Spring 2007): 577.

(8.) bell hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resistin8 Representations (New York: Routledge, 1994), 20.

(9.) "Former Boy Real Girl, Writer Says," San Francisco Examiner, 13 Feb. 1953, Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, Louise Lawrence Collection, Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction (hereafter referred to as LLC and KI).

(10.) Theo Wilson, "Folks Proud of GI Who Became Blonde Beauty," Daily News, l Dec. 1952, Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, LLC.

(11.) Christine Jorgensen, "The Story of My Life," American Weekly, 15 Mar. 1953, 13. For circulation information, see A. W. Ayer & Son's Directory, 665.

(12.) Fay Hammond, "Christine's Femininity Charms Interviewer," Los Angeles Times, 9 May 1953, Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, LLC.

(13.) Sally Quinn, "Christine," Washington Post and Times Herald, 8 July 1970, B1.

(14.) Jorgensen, "Story of My Life."

(15.) Christine Jorgensen, Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography (New York: Paul Ericksson, 1967), 83.

(16.) Roy Ald, "Christine Jorgensen," True Confessions, September 1954, 64.

(17.) Joanne Meyerowitz, How Sex Changed: A History of Transsexuality in the United States (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002), 96-97.

(18.) "In Christine's Footsteps," Time, 8 Mar. 1954, 63.

(19.) "Charlotte Home, Battles Photog Like the Charles She Used to Be," Daily News, 14 Apr. 1954; "Untitled," New York Sunday Times, 9 May 1954, all from Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, LLC.

(20.) "Ex-GI Changes Sex after Surgery," Chicago Daily Tribune, 25 Feb, 1954, B2.

(21.) "Charlotte Would Wed," San Francisco Examiner, 25 June 1954, Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, LLC.

(22.) Alan Betrock, Unseen America: The Greatest Cult Exploitation Masazines, 1950-1966 (New York: Shake Books, 1990), 57.

(23.) Charlotte McLeod, "I Changed My Sex," Mr., December 1956, 12, Transsexualism Vertical File (folder 1), KI.

(24.) "Sex-Change GI a Bride," News-Call Bulletin, 13 Nov, 1959; "Sex Change, Ex-GI Now Is a Bride," New York Herald Tribune, 14 Nov. 1959, both in Transsexualism Vertical File (folder 2), KI.

(25.) Dreama Moon, "White Enculturation and Bourgeois Ideology: The Discursive Production of 'Good (White) Girls,'" in Whiteness: The Communication of Social Identity, ed. Thomas K. Nakayama and Judith Martin (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999), 182.

(26.) "Bars Marriage Permit," New York Times. 4 Apr. 1959, 20.

(27.) Tamara Adel Rees and Henry Lee, "Tamara Tells Her Story: A Boy Wanted to Grow Up as a Girl" (11 Nov. 1954, 12) and "Tamara Joined Paratroopers as Test of Manhood" (12 Nov. 1954, 3, 24), both in the Daily News.

(28.) "Tamara Tells Her Story."

(29.) "Tamara Joined Paratroopers as Test of Manhood," Daily News, 34.

(30.) Meyerowitz, How Sex Changed, 52.

(31.) Louise Lawrence to Harry Benjamin, 23 Feb. 1953, 1, Correspondence on Christine Jorgensen and Cross Dressing, 1953, Harris Whefled Collection, Bullough Collection on Human Sexuality, California State University, Northridge.

(32.) "Male Clerk Now Wants to Be a Mother," San Francisco Chronicle, 7 May 1954, Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, LLC.

(33.) "Mexican Medics in Miracle Make-Over Turn Him into Her," New York Sunday Mirror, 30 May 1954; "Surgery by Interns Turns Mexican Man into Woman," San Francisco Examiner, 6 May 1954, both in Christine Jorgensen Scrapbook, LLC.

(34.) Whisper magazine was known for its features on adventures and oddities and had a circulation in the mid-1950s of about 600,000. It began in 1946 as a girlie magazine, and pinups were still a common feature by 1955, so it appears as though the imagined

Whisper reader was a heterosexual male. For information on Whisper, see Betrock, Unseen America, 111.

(35.) Juan Morales, "Mexico's Hush-Hush Secret: Sex Surgery While You Wait!" Whisper, April 1955, 24-26, 43, Transsexualism Vertical File (folder 2), KI.

(36.) Ibid., 25.

(37.) Ibid., 25.

(38.) Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault's History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 7-8.

(39.) For a discussion of the feminization of Asian males in U.S, culture, see, for example, David L. Eng, Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001); and Richard Fung, "Looking for My Penis: The Eroticized Asian in Gay Porn Video," in How Do I Look? ed. Bad Object Choices (Seattle: Bay Press, 1991), 145-68. For examples of literature on media exoticizing of Asian women, see Marina Heung, "Representing Ourselves: Films and Videos by Asian American/ Canadian Women," in Feminism, Multiculturalism, and the Media: Global Diversities, ed. Angharad N. Valdivia (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1995), 82-104.

(40.) Honolulu's Star-Bulletin was founded in 1882 by J.W. Robertson and Company, and from its inception, its political views were aligned with the interests of white capital rather than of indigenous Hawaiians. In 1964, the paper was owned by a group of local investors headed by Elizabeth Farrington, a former Republican representative. For information on newspapers in Hawaii, see Patricia Leigh Gibbs, "Alternative Things Considered: A Comparative Political Economic Analysis of Honolulu Mainstream and Alternative Print News Communication and Organization" (Ph.D. diss., University of Hawai'i, 1999).

(41.) Honolulan, "Unhappy as a Male, Becomes a Woman through Surgery," Sunday Star-Bulletin and Advertiser, 1 Nov. 1964, A14, in Transsexual Vertical File (folder 2), KI.

(42.) See, for example, Willie Sabb, "My Mother Was a Man," Ebony, June 1953, 75; "Male Dancer Becomes Danish Citizen to Change His Sex," Jet, 25 June 1953, 26; "Male Shake Dancer Plans to Change Sex, Wed GI in Europe," Jet, 18 June 1953, 24-25.

(43.) Display Ad 12, Chicago Defender, 26 Mar. 1966, national edition, 4.

(44.) Delisa Newton, "From Man to Woman," Sepia, April 1966, 9.

(45.) Sherilyn Brandenstein, "Prominent Roles of Black Womanhood in Sepia Record, 1952-1954" (master's thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 1989), 77-78.

(46.) Delisa Newton, "From Man to Woman," Sepia, May 1966, 66.

(47.) Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 185-229.

(48.) Jose Esteban Munoz, Disidentification: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1998), 11-12.

(49.) See John W. Williams and Mrs. M.L. Anderson, letters to the editor, both in Sepia, July 1966, 6; and J.A. Wilmington, letter to the editor, Sepia, May 1966, 6,

(50.) Delisa Newton, "My Lover Beat Me," National Insider, 20 June 1965, 4-5, and "Why I Could Never Marry a White Man," National Insider, 18 July 1965, 17.

(51.) For a discussion of the construction of the pathological Mack female in the 1960s, see Robin D.G. Kelley, Yo' Mama's Disfunktional!: Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America (Boston: Beacon Press, 1997), 15-42, 78-102.

(52.) The National Insider was founded in 1962, and while its weekly readership averaged between 65,000 and 70,000 throughout the mid-1960s, millions more people viewed its headlines while waiting in line in supermarkets. See Bill Sloan, "I Watched a Wild Hog Eat My Baby!" A Colorful History of Tabloids :and Their Cultural Impact (New York: Prometheus Books, 2001), 69.

(53.) Although many scholars have discussed the murder of Emmett Till, Davis Houck's "Killing Emmett," Rhetoric and Public Affairs 8, no. 2 (2005): 225-62, does an excellent job of discussing the role of newspapers in shaping the conditions that allowed both his murder and for his murderers to be acquitted.

(54.) Ella Shohat and Robert Slam, Unthinking Eurocentricism: Multiculturalism and the Media (New York: Routledge, 1994), 137-204.

(55.) Emi Koyama makes a similar claim in her essay, "Whose Feminism Is It Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of the Trans Inclusion Debate," in The Transgender Studies Reader, ed. Susan Stryker and Stephen Whittle (New York: Routledge, 2006), 698-705.

(56.) Hillary Harris, "Failing 'White Woman': Interrogating the Performance of Respectability," Theatre Journal 42, no. 2 (2000): 185.

(57.) Lisa Duggan, The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy (Boston: Beacon, 2004), 50.

(58.) Dan Irving, "Normalized Transgressions: Legitimizing the Transsexual Body as Productive," Radical History Review, no. 100 (Winter 2008): 39.

(59.) Susan Stryker, "Transgender History, Homonormativity, and Disciplinarity," Radical History Review, no. 100 (Winter 2008): 153.
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Author:Skidmore, Emily
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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