chapter  2
20 Pages

TRANSSEXUALISM: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES, 1952 TO PRESENT

The year 1952 was an important TUrning point in the history of transscxualism because it was the year in which Christine Jorgensen had surgery that was somewhat sensationally described as changing her from a man to a woman. Hers was not the first genital surgery, nor did it make her into a female-but it was the publicity, and not the reality, which counted. In fact, removal of penis and testes has an old history, and eunuchs have a n ancient historical tradition. In the twemieth century, advances in surgi,al technique and the development of anesthesia had allowed su rgeons to better shape ambiguous genitalia in the case of hermaphrodites, and during World War I and World War II , there had even been attempts to reconstruct penises on those wounded in the war. Some surgeons had gone further and attempted to help those who wanted to change their sexual identity, as they did with the Danish painter Einar Wegener, who became Lili Elbe in the 19305 (Hoyer, 1933), and Robert Cowell, a World War II flyer who became Roberta Cowell before Jorgensen had the surgery (Cowell, 1954). However, none achieved the notoriety that Jorgensen did.