1982: Transgenders = Transsexuals, Christine Jorgensen

Appeal-Democrat, Tuesday, May 11, 1982, p. A-10

Associated Press Article, 1982

‘Transgender’

FRESNO (AP)—Christine Jorgensen says her highly publicized sex change operation three decades age gave her the identity she needed to find “happiness and contentment.” Ms. Jorgensen, now 56, said in a speech to Fresno State University students Monday that she describes people who have had such operations’ “transgender” rather than transsexual. “Sexuality is who you sleep with, but gender is who you are,” she explained. The Laguna Beach resident said she has no doubt that changing from George Jorgensen Jr. to Christine Jorgensen was the right thing for her. “I’ve found a great deal of happiness and contentment,” she said. “Finally finding who I was and where I belong in the scheme of things helped.”

9 thoughts on “1982: Transgenders = Transsexuals, Christine Jorgensen

  1. she is stating “those who have such operations..”, not neccesarily trying to include transvestism,nor explicitedly annexing non-ops. i too originally took it as a replacement term for transexual.

    • Yes, that is one conclusion that can be drawn based upon this article. Hence the summery title of this post: “1982: Transgenders = Transsexuals, Christine Jorgensen.”

      However, a nuance that neither I nor you have dealt with (which someone will enviably point out) is that the context she claims to use the term in is: “Sexuality is who you sleep with, but gender is who you are…” if you read her previous statements, the second part of this assertion is that “… it has to do with identity” (her 1979 article) and from her 1985 article, she states, “I am a transgender because gender refers to who you are as a human.”

      Under those two contexts, it may be a bit bias to assert that she didn’t mean it in a way that excluded the many other types of trans folk she was know to have befriend and work with. Until there’s more concrete context about her usage, I’m not going to put any words into her mouth and assert as fact that she meant it in this absolute way or that absolute way. I can only assert that she used the term to refer to herself as a way to reject the “sexual” part of transsexual. That’s backed up by the fact that Websters dictionary credited her with coining the term “transsex” (in which she removed the -ual) in 1971 (even though the term “transsex” was in use decades prior to her receiving credit for the invention of the word).

      As my research continues, I’m sure I’ll continue to discover new instances of her usage and the full context will become clearer.

  2. 2012-02-24 extracted from pages 09-10 “a’top a dung-hill…” © 1987 – 2012 Brenda Lana Smith, R.af D.:
    Christine Jorgensen—the third and definitely the most outstanding of my late American housemates—privately decried her late friend, and mentor Dr Harry Benjamin having coined the term “somatopsychic transsexualist” to differentiate persons registered male at birth who sought chemosurgical therapeutic relief to become anatomical facsimiles of women from transvestite males. Benjamin’s postulation in effect retroactively relabeled Christine’s till then “transvestite” status: “Transsexual.” Much as Chris privately opined displeasure that the term misleadingly connoted a sexual preference instead of a gender preference, I have a notion that Chris’ dislike of Dr Benjamin’s label might have subconsciously emanated from the fact that—while it medically distanced her from her former transvestite status and transgenderists—it upstaged “Sex-Change,” a term that till then had universally been synonymous with “Christine Jorgensen!”
    UNQUOTE…

    • Thank you for posting this! This seems to support what I had deduced thus far:

      I can only assert that she used the term to refer to herself as a way to reject the “sexual” part of transsexual. That’s backed up by the fact that Websters dictionary credited her with coining the term “transsex” (in which she removed the -ual) in 1971 (even though the term “transsex” was in use decades prior to her receiving credit for the invention of the word).

      This also provides a tantalizing clue into the genesis of the term “transenderist.” Virginia Prince was friendly with Benjamin and would have heard Benjamin’s term “transsexualist.” We know the Prince coined the term “transgenderist” in the last 1970s. The term “transgendered” (attached to a supposed transsexual movie) was in used about a decade prior to that and was used to refer to transsexuals in a number of medical books. It’s quite possible that Jorgensen came across “transgender” via the medical books when she began using the term in the late 1970s.

    • Also, another thought about this… Benjamin closes chapter 2 of his 1966 book, ‘The Transsexual Phenomena’ (which CJ surely read) with:

      To bring the discussion regarding the three deviations of the title of this chapter to a close, a nutshell characterization would be this:

      The transvestite has a social problem.
      The transsexual has a gender problem.
      The homosexual has a sex problem.

      Again, just a few years later we have CJ rejecting the term “transsexual” for the term she was credited for creating in 1971 (by Webster’s Dictionary), “transsex” and later that same decade she had abandoned referring to herself as transsex-anything and took on “transgender”.

      Much as Chris privately opined displeasure that the term misleadingly connoted a sexual preference instead of a gender preference, I have a notion that Chris’ dislike of Dr Benjamin’s label might have subconsciously emanated from the fact that—while it medically distanced her from her former transvestite status and transgenderists—it upstaged “Sex-Change,” a term that till then had universally been synonymous with “Christine Jorgensen!

      Yes, it seems that she wasn’t generally referred to as a “transsexual” until the mid-1960s when the term was popularized. The term “transsexual” was missing entirely from her coming out in 1952.

      Have you published your journal yet?

      Again, thank you for sharing this!

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