Boomers Cross Over the Bridge: Pioneer Sex Change


“If you understand trans-genders, then you understand that gender doesn’t have to do with bed partners, it has to do with identity.” ~Christine Jorgensen, pioneer and celebrity



Cartoon headline



Real Headline, 12/1/52


One always heard: “Boys will be boys.” The boomer generation was ready for an update: “Boys will be girls.” The sexual revolution burst through gender.

A twenty-six-year-old World War II vet who never felt right in his body provided early inspiration. Sex-change operations were hardly imagined here at the time so George hopped a plane to his ancestral Denmark and became Christine. As one wag said: “He went abroad and came back a broad.”

The born-again blond femme fatale emerged as one of the few 1950s pop culture celebrities who could push atom bombs and starlet bombshells off tabloid front pages. Christine Jorgensen didn’t hide the new identity or duck the limelight. Her philosophy was “if you don’t have it, flaunt it.” After an audience with stampeding reporters, gawkers and autograph hounds on the runway of Idyllwild Airport, she cashed in immediately, collecting $20,000—a “princessly” sum in those days—to give a “tell-all” Hearst publication the exclusive inside story.

Well ahead of her times, it took until 1966 for the first major “gender reassignment” clinic to open in America. Over the years, young and not-so-young baby boomers entered well-publicized programs at prestigious Johns Hopkins or Stanford Medical Center and under-the-radar clinics, most notably a small Catholic hospital in Trinidad, Colorado.

The Chamber of Commerce described the hamlet as a “pocket of peace, plentiful clean air, and pure Western Americana,” neglecting to mention Trinidad was also the sex-change capital of the world. A visionary self-taught Dr. Stanley Biber skillfully completed over 5000 procedures there until his retirement, delivering discrete prosperity to a conservative, previously depressed coal town.

The hospital turned a handsome profit year after year. “It’s a boon to business here,” the Doctor said. “They come with their families, they stay in hotels, they eat in restaurants, they buy at florists.”

Inflation has pushed prices up. “Biber girls,” as they call themselves, had to pay about $12,000 in 2000. Female-to-male miracles were part of his repertoire and costlier—adding is more complicated than removing. Not all practitioners can keep overhead down like a small town doctor. A George-to-Christine metamorphosis, including hormonal treatments, averages $50,000+ nationwide. Depending on the number of operations and optional details—such as Adam’s apple shaving, voice surgery and facial work—the tab can pass six figures. There are a few who have crossed the great divide and returned. Regret costs.

Statistics on the number of such surgeries per year in the U.S. are unreliable. Most counts estimate at least 4000. Transgender people tend to be less accepted than traditional gays but have one distinct advantage. When procedures are cosmetically successful, who knows?


Trivia Factoids

~ The Christine Jorgensen Story came out in 1970, based on her autobiography. John Hansen played both George and Christine. No major stars appeared in the movie.

 ~ On April Fools Day 1970, John Lennon and Yoko Ono released a hoax announcement they were having dual sex change operations.

~ Three major religions treat transsexualism differently. The Catholic Church refuses to recognize the new gender; Reform Jews bless the act, allowing for marriages and conversions; and Shiite Islam, while declaring homosexuality a sin and felony, holds a surprisingly tolerant view of gender confusion. Under a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini, the desire to switch sex is regarded as a disease that can be cured by granting the wish. The leading Iranian sex-change surgeon has done over 330 procedures during the past 15 years.

~ A signed Christine Jorgensen photograph goes for about $75.

~ Must a man paying alimony to his ex-wife continue if she becomes a male? According to a 2007 Florida court ruling, yes, because the state does not recognize gender re-assignment.




In what television series did the first transgender character appear and who played the role?

All That Glitters
All in the Family
Ally McBeal

All these actors but one has portrayed a transvestite:

Tony Curtis
Patrick Swayze
Gene Hackman
Rock Hudson
Wesley Snipes


Answers at end of post 






Linda Grey, who would go on to make a big Hollywood name for herself as the alcoholic, dysfunctional wife of JR Ewing in Dallas, played transgendered fashion model Linda Murkland in the ill-fated All That Glitters television series (1977). It depicted a world of traditional role reversal, with women in command of industry and politics, while men stayed at home and were treated as sex objects.

Rock Hudson never played a transvestite. He is also the only gay on the list.


Share...Email this to someonePrint this pageShare on FacebookDigg thisShare on LinkedInPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponTweet about this on Twitter

Post a comment