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Research Paper

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“Christine Jorgensen and the Media: Identity Politics in the Early 1950s Press” analyzes America’s first transgender celebrity and the interpretations of her identity by a seemingly celebratory press. Jorgensen, who rose to fame in December 1952, was propelled to stardom partly because of the cultural climate of the 1950s. The first portion of my essay begins by setting the historical context of how gender nonconforming individuals were treated in the press before Jorgensen, and then analyzes Jorgensen’s personal characteristics that also helped make her a media fixture. However, the veracity of Jorgensen’s female identity was doubted by the time she returned to the United States from Denmark, where she transitioned. Though much of the press began to sour towards Jorgensen in early 1953, it is important to consider the early language used to describe Jorgensen’s initial appearance in newspaper headlines, which arguably precipitated this trend. The media coverage of Jorgensen was often marked by ambivalence and skepticism, as the press seemingly struggled with whether or not to accept her identity as a woman. While this paper provides analysis of Las Vegas’ less-than-flattering interpretation of Jorgensen throughout, it concludes with an examination of Jorgensen’s performance in Vegas. Although Jorgensen was at first hesitant to enter show business, her later willingness to do so perhaps sheds light on her apparent desire to salvage her reputation. Her ability to secure a show in Las Vegas, let alone earn rave reviews, indicates the contradictory attitudes of the press towards Jorgensen in the early 1950s.


Ambivalence; Cold War (1945-1989); Discrimination; Gender; Identity politics; Jorgensen; Christine; 1926-1989; LGBT; Nevada – Las Vegas; Press; Sexual minorities in mass media; Sexuality; Transgender people; Transsexualism


Cultural History | History of Gender | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | United States History


Full bibliography is attached to research paper.

Terry_Calvert_Essay.docx (20 kB)
Essay highlighting my research process and use of sources