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LGBT History - May 3, 1989:  Christine Jorgenson, Pioneering Transsexual, Dies of Cancer at 62 - Learn About Her Life.

LGBT History – May 3, 1989:  Christine Jorgenson, Pioneering Transsexual, Dies of Cancer at 62 – Learn About Her Life.

Christine Jorgensen was the worlds first transexual woman.

Christine Jorgensen was a pioneer in the transgender community, famous for being the first person in the United States to undergo gender reassignment surgery. Her life and legacy continue to inspire and educate people around the world.

Born George William Jorgensen Jr. in the Bronx, New York on May 30, 1926, Christine grew up in a middle-class family and was known for her artistic talents and love of music. She attended Christopher Columbus High School and later studied photography at the Manhattan campus of the Mohawk Valley Technical Institute.

After finishing her studies, Jorgensen was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in World War II. She was stationed in Europe and worked as a clerk typist, but she began to explore her gender identity during her time in the military.

In 1946, Jorgensen returned to the United States and began to transition. Jorgensen had intended to go to Sweden, where at the time the only doctors in the world performing this surgery were located. During a stopover in Copenhagen to visit relatives, however, she met Dr. Christian Hamburger, a Danish endocrinologist and specialist in rehabilitative hormonal therapy. Jorgensen stayed in Denmark, and under Dr. Hamburger’s direction, was allowed to again begin hormone replacement therapy. She then got special permission from the Danish Minister of Justice to undergo the series of operations for sex re-assignment.

After her surgery, Jorgensen returned to the United States and became an instant celebrity. She was featured in newspapers and magazines around the world, and her story helped to raise awareness about transgender issues.

Jorgensen used her celebrity to advocate for transgender rights and to educate the public about the challenges faced by transsexuals’ and transgender people. She gave lectures and appeared on television shows, including “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”

Despite the attention and fame that came with her transition, Jorgensen faced discrimination and harassment. She was denied a marriage license in New York, and she was often the target of jokes and ridicule in the media.

Despite these challenges, Jorgensen continued to speak out about transgender issues and to advocate for acceptance and understanding. She wrote a book about her experiences, titled “Christine Jorgensen: A Personal Autobiography,” and continued to give lectures and interviews throughout her life.

Christine Jorgensen passed away on May 3, 1989, but her legacy continues to inspire and educate people around the world. She was a true pioneer in the transgender community and helped to pave the way for future generations of transgender people to live their lives with dignity and respect.

New York City: Remembering "The Saint" (1980 - 1988)

Those Were The Days – New York City: Remembering “The Saint” (1980 – 1988)

The Saint (or Saint)was a legendary gay disco that operated in New York City’s East Village from 1980 to 1988. It was founded by entrepreneurs Bruce Mailman and Mark Hetrick, and quickly became one of the most popular and influential clubs in the city’s gay scene. With its cutting-edge music, stylish decor, and commitment to providing a safe and welcoming space for gay men, The Saint embodied the spirit of the era’s underground culture.

 Opened in the old premises of the Fillmore East, a 1926-built, former-theater-turned-classic-rock-and-roll venue of the late 1960s and early 1970s, at 105 Second Avenue at 6th Street.

The club’s name was inspired by the Roman Catholic tradition of saints, which celebrated individuals who had achieved spiritual enlightenment and performed miracles. The Saint’s founders saw their mission as creating a similarly transformative experience for their patrons. They wanted to offer a space where gay men could feel empowered and liberated, free from the social stigma and discrimination that still plagued the community in the 1980s..

Membership packs with floor plans were distributed and before the club opened 2,500 memberships had been sold at $150 each for the first 700 members and for $250 for the rest, with a waiting list established.

Mailman’s other gay venture, the nearby New St. Marks Baths – a gay mecca at the time paid for the nightclub’s renovation cost $4.5 million, being $2 million over budget ($17 million at 2017 prices).

The original opening date was set for July 30, 1980, but construction delays forced a deferral to September 20, 1980, with Alan Dodd as disc jockey.  

One of the most striking features of The Saint was its design.

The circular dance floor (5,000 square feet or 460 square meters) was topped by a perforated planetarium dome. 76 feet (23 meters) in diameter and 38 feet (12 meters) high. In addition to hiding the speakers, the dome served as a spectacular palette for the lighting effects. A circular opening at the top of the dome could be automatically opened and closed to allow a large mirrored disco ball to be lowered into the space.  In the center of the dance floor was a circular light tree constructed on a hydraulic lift. It contained 1,500 lights and as its centerpiece was a rotating, dual Spitz Space System hemisphere star projector, ten times brighter than those used in planetariums.

Another key feature of Saint was its music. The club’s DJs, including the legendary Frankie Knuckles and Robbie Leslie , played a mix of disco, house, and funk that was both danceable and experimental. They were known for their innovative mixing techniques, which created a seamless and hypnotic flow of music that kept the crowd moving all night long.

The Saint also hosted live performances by some of the biggest names in disco and dance music, including Grace Jones, Chaka Khan, Patti LuPone, Eartha Kitt, Divine, Sylvester and many many more.

Directly underneath the dance-floor level was a large lounge with several juice bars. Beer on tap was sometimes served for free to avoid the licensing oversight of the New York State Liquor Authority. Above and outside the dome was what would become the controversial balcony, where patrons could see down to the dance floor, through the scrim of the dome. It was there that men relaxed and could and did indulge in sexual activities. Several times during the year, themed parties such as the “Black Party” and the “White Party”. are considered by most gay historians to be the precursors to the circuit party.

But perhaps the most important aspect of The Saint was its role as a safe space for gay men In an era when homophobia was still rampant, and many gay men felt isolated. The Saint provided a space where they could come together and express themselves freely. The club’s founders were committed to creating environment where gay men could come together and have a good time. Something that is sorely missing in todays community.

Tragically, Saint’s run was cut short by the AIDS epidemic, which devastated the LGBTQ+ community in the 1980s. Mailman and Hetrick both died of AIDS-related complications, and the club’s closure was a devastating blow to the community. But Saint’s legacy lived on, both in the memories of those who had danced there and in the impact it had on the culture of New York City’s gay community.

The Saint closed permanently on April 30, 1988.

*Dedicated to Kevin Beck