Atomic Training is proud to participate in 2022 LGBTQ history month. In the second week, we look at another group of history makers, the Mattachine Society and Christine Jorgenson. While the Mattachine Society was not the first gay rights group, it was the longest sustaining one operating from 1950-1987, and Christine Jorgenson an American veteran and transgender woman who had a career as an actress, singer, and recording artist.
Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles. Harry Hay, Bob Hull, Chuck Roland, Dale Jennings, Konrad Stevens, James Gruber, and Rudi Gernreich founded the organized board of directors. Although not the first organized gay rights group, it was the longest sustained one. The focus was on social acceptance and other support for homosexuals. The Mattachine Society went on to become one of several prominent groups organized during the Homophile Movement. Chapters around the country were formed. In 1957 the board moved its headquarters to San Francisco and sent out a letter to other chapters, dissolving their charter and encouraging all to continue to operate independently.
The New York Daily News ran a front-page story on December 1st of 1952, under the headline “ex-GI Becomes Blonde Beauty” announcing that Christine had undergone the first “sex-change” surgery. This was incorrect, as all she had gone through at that time was hormone therapy and orchiectomy surgery (removal of the testicles). After returning to the States, she quickly found out that the only way she could make a living was to make public appearances. Soon after she launched a successful nightclub act and appeared on TV, radio, and theatrical productions. In 1967 she published her autobiography, Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography, which sold almost 450,000 copies. After her vaginoplasty surgery, she planned to marry labor union statistician John Traub, but the engagement was called off. IN 1959 she announced her marriage to typist Howard J. Knox in Massapequa Park, New York, however, the couple was unable to obtain a marriage license because Jorgensen’s birth certificate listed her as a male.
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