Today, being a celebrity and being transgender are separate things. The few transgender celebrities you can name were celebrities first who then transitioned: Caitlyn Jenner, Eliot Page, Lana and Lily Wachowski, etc. In 1952, all it took was daring to transition to become a celebrity. That happened to Christine Jorgenson, who spent two years in Denmark transitioning and expected to return to the US to live a quiet life as a woman. But someone leaked the story to the press, which caused a sensation. Jorgensen delayed returning home, and when she arrived in New York February of 1953, she was confronted by 300 reporters.
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Although gender affirmation surgery was pioneered in Berlin in the 1920s and ’30s, the Nazis shut that down. Most Americans first heard about it when Jorgensen’s story hit the news. I recall hearing of the 1970 movie The Christine Jorgensen Story and thought “They can do that?” While Jorgensen was appalled at the unwanted publicity, she also heard from many people who wanted to follow in her footsteps. It was for them that she decided to go ahead and embrace her celebrity. And she also needed the money. Jorgensen gave interviews and took to the stage as a singer and dancer. Read the story of Christine Jorgensen at Mental Floss.
(Image credit: Maurice Seymour)