Related topics

Christine Jorgensen, First Sex Change Patient, Dies of Cancer

May 4, 1989 GMT

SAN CLEMENTE, Calif. (AP) _ Christine Jorgensen, who told the world in 1952 she was a woman trapped in a man’s body and shocked it by becoming the first person to undergo a sex change, is dead. She was 62.

Miss Jorgensen died of cancer at San Clemente Hospital on Wednesday, two days after she was admitted, said hospital spokeswoman Jami Piearson.

She fought a 2 1/2 -year battle with the cancer, which began in her bladder. And a few weeks ago doctors found a brain tumor, according to Chris Costello, a friend, publicist and daughter of the late comedian Lou Costello.


″She was a wonderful, understanding woman who loved everyone,″ said actress Dorothy Lamour, who also was a friend of Miss Jorgensen. ″She gave out so much love and was a God-loving woman; one of the finest women I have ever met,″ Miss Lamour said in a statement read by Ms. Costello.

Miss Jorgensen, a heavy smoker, said in an interview last year that when she learned she had cancer she told herself:

‴This is cancer.′ I wanted to be upfront and not try to deny it. It’s like anything else. I still joke and carry on. I see some of the patients who just shuffle in and out, and you just know that they aren’t going to make it.″

She voiced no regrets about the sex change and the ensuing international publicity.

″I am very proud now, looking back,″ she said. ″It was the sexual revolution that was going to start with or without me. We may not have started it, but we gave it a good swift kick in the pants.″

Her operation is much more commonplace today.

As of 1980, an estimates 3,000 to 6,000 adults in the United States had undergone hormonal and surgical sex changes, according to Harry Benjamin of the International Gender Dysphoria Association.

The association estimates that 30,000 to 60,000 people have considered themselves candidates for the surgery.

Miss Jorgensen said last year her operation ″wouldn’t get on the 95th page of the newspaper if it happened today.″

She cherished her privacy and spent her final years as a homebody who stayed as much as she could out of the limelight.

Still, the transsexual pioneer remained unafraid of publicity and sued a Mission Viejo hospital for treatment of a cracked shoulder bone and several vertebrae after she fell in September 1987.


She had said the injury was partially responsible for her not taking the lead role in an Anaheim production of the musical ″Mame.″

Miss Jorgensen was born George Jorgensen Jr. on May 30, 1926, in New York City to parents of Danish descent.

At age 26, the handsome former soldier shocked the world when news of the sex-change operation was leaked by a family friend.

The willowy blonde who left the operating room in Copenhagen, Denmark, found that her new life made her an instant celebrity. Her notoriety sent her on the talk show, lecture and nightclub circuits. She met royalty and celebrities and ended up with enough money, jewels and furs to live a comfortable life.

She never married and had lived the last few years in San Clemente, a seaside community about 50 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. She had lived in California the last 20 years, Ms. Costello said.

Miss Jorgensen had been planning a sequel to her 1967 book ″Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Biography,″ Ms. Costello said.

She also was working on finding a U.S. distributor for a documentary produced in Denmark on transsexuals, lesbians and female impersonators.

″Christine was the type of person who always had an iron in the fire even in the very end,″ Ms. Costello said.

Miss Jorgensen is survived by a sister and two nieces. A private memorial was planned, and arrangements for a public service are pending.