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Christine Jorgensen

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Christine JorgensenIn our spotlight is Christine Jorgenson, a true pioneer in the world of sexual reassignment surgery. She had undergone this procedure during a time long before such a thing would have been considered to be safe or acceptable.

Without question Christine Jorgenson's most significant contribution to vaginoplasty surgery was making the procedure commonly known to the public. Accounts of sexual reassignments in Europe had been occasionally published in journals and popular magazines but only a handful of transsexuals such as Jorgenson were able to sift through more arcane medical reports, make their way overseas and somehow attain surgery.

Few people in history endured the day-in-day-out media glare that dogged Christine Jorgenson as she crowded the Korean War, the Cold War, and the hydrogen bomb tests off the front page. Transsexuals now knew reassignment surgery was available in in the Scandinavian countries and had bombarded Christine's doctor, Chriastian Hamburger, with heartfelt pleas. Between 1953 and 1955 Dr. Hanburger received well over a thousand letters.

 

At this time vaginaoplasty wasn't exactly an established procedure that always resulted in a fully functional vag

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ina. Doctors would first remove the transsexual's male organs in one or more surgeries and the patient waited through an extended healing period. Then surgeons would use skin grafts from the patient's thighs or buttocks to construct the vagina. It was often a painful process fraught with potential complications.

When the media first exposed Christine her Danish doctors had just completed the predatory work to reconstruct the genital region a "complete feminine appearance" including shaping the labia - but she hadn't yet undergone the full vaginoplasty. Unfortunately, the public was not fully aware of this, and after Dr. Hamburger published a summary of her procedure, American doctors and the media immediately began referring to her as nothing more than a "castrated male". Christine's vaginoplasty surgery was actually completed in 1954 in a New Jersey hospital. (It is believed that Christine had since had to undergo a series of "touchup surgeries" at Johns Hopkins and later in Oklahoma. Ironically while Denmark soon became the target of an endless stream of crude sex jokes, Jorgenson's vagina was actually 100% American made.

The media constantly mused over Jorgenson's sex life to the point of obsession. She claimed to have had a number of sexual relationships - most later in her life after the media stir had lessened. Dr. Eugene de Savitsch had noted in 1942 that: "It should be noted that no matter what we do, whether an artificial vagina is created for a man or a woman, we are unable to create one without its valuable sexual attributes - a normal nerve supply - essential for a pleasurable sensation during intercourse. Only the immense psychological benefit justifies the risk involved in constructing what may be otherwise regarded as a useless luxury."

Christine basically underwent this, and it wasn't until further medical advances were made that she was able to have this corrected. But up until that time, doctors were happy at having had created a vagina, and Christine was happy with her new true self.

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Last modified onTuesday, 11 March 2014 13:33
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