Throughout the month of March, celebrate the lives of LGBTQ+ Womxn at SDPL!
In 1930 Germany
, Danish painter, Lili Elbe
became one of the first individuals that history would track as having had male-to-female sex reassignment surgery. The transition was intense, comprising of a series of surgeries to remove her original reproductive organs as well as implantation of those that matched her identity (Folley, 2017). Having married her wife pre-transition, Elbe was able to find a loving support system through the difficult times of transitioning, relocating and living as a lesbian couple. Despite the success of having changed her name on paper, once she changed her sex, Elbe’s marriage was nullified due to the Parisian government not recognizing same-sex marriage at the time. After undergoing a uterus transplant in 1931, Lili Elbe suffered from heart failure and died shortly after. A fictionalized story of her life
was published in 2000, and adapted into film
in 2016. Her posthumous autobiography, Man into woman: the first sex change
, can be found at university libraries across the nation.
, an American soldier in the 1940’s, made headlines on December 1, 1952 as America’s introduction to sex reassignment surgery (SRS). With the operation being illegal in the United States at the time, Jorgensen had to travel to Europe to complete herself, originally planning to have to see a surgeon in Sweden, but stopping in Denmark and coming across a surgeon who specialized in the procedure. And though she was far from the first recipient of SRS, her case was one of the few that included hormone therapy. After serving with the Army during World War II, Jorgensen dabbled in several other career fields. She settled into her unsought after fame upon her repatriation to New York. Jorgensen’s notoriety provided a platform for her to become an actress and singer (Rosenthal, n.d.). While she did achieve professional success as a result of her surgical procedures, Jorgensen remained unmarried due to the state of New York refusing to issue a marriage license to her and her intended husband (Long, 2010). In May of 1989, Christine Jorgensen passed away from cancer
, after having given the sexual revolution “a good swift kick in the pants” (Parke, Roisman, Rose, 2019).
In the 21st
Century, these types of surgeries have evolved well past the visions of the women who were first to go under the knife in order to become their true selves. In 2017, an individual received gender affirmation surgery in New York City
after giving her surgeon the novel idea to redesign the surgery using incised tissue from another part of her body. The surgery was a success.
Parke, R. D., Roisman, G. I., Rose, A. J., (2019). Biological Factors in Gender Differences. Social Development 3rd edition. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Hoboken, NJ.
In the summer of 1969
, a gay club called the Stonewall Inn in New York City was raided by NYPD. As a result, LGBTQ+ community members protested for six days against the violent treatment. The days that followed are now known as The Stonewall Riots
, and have become what many now refer to as the catalyst for the gays rights movement not only within the United States, but around the world (History.com, 2019). Being that homosexuality was still illegal at the time, many gay bars were owned and operated by the Mafia, as they had the money and influence to keep the police at bay (Pruitt, 2019). The relationships between Mafia families and the police meant that gay bars often got tipped off before police raids, however, in the case of the Stonewall Inn, the tip off never came. The Stonewall uprising became the springboard for many early gay rights organizations such as Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD and PFLAG.
Transgender women often were on the front lines of the early Gay Rights Movement. Most notably, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, are thought to be some of the first to antagonize police on the night of the raid.
Johnson & Rivera were not only monumental in the early days of gay rights activism, but dedicated themselves to providing resources to homeless, transgender and HIV-positive youth until their deaths (Maxouris, 2019). The two women co-founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), a group that fought tirelessly for equal civil rights for transgender and queer youth.
After being booed off stage at a Pride March in 1973, Sylvia Rivera took her exit from activism, returning only after Johnson’s tragic death. Rivera’s presence was requested annually across the globe to reflect on that first riot night in 1969, and the evolution of civil rights within the queer community. Rivera, who was involved in civil rights struggles until the moment she passed from liver cancer in 2002, was referred to as the “Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement” (Brockell, 2019).
Having been photographed by Andy Warhol in 1975 and performed abroad with the Hot Peaches, Marsha P. Johnson found fame in New York City. But her status was not enough to protect her. Johnson’s July 1992 death was originally ruled a suicide, but the case reopened in 2012, and remains unsolved.
In 2019, as the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots was celebrated, New York City began planning to permanently honor Johnson & Rivera with a statue in Greenwich Village. The monument will hopefully be completed by 2021 (Jacobs, 2019).
was the first American woman and the youngest American to go into space at the age of 32 in 1983. Ride was a Southern California Native who received her English and Physics degrees from Stanford University. She later earned a master’s and PhD in physics, also from Stanford, before becoming the first known LGBTQ+ astronaut (Garofoli, 2012). After spending over 343 hours in space, it was Ride who eventually discovered that O-rings (a packing joint used to create a seal) becoming stiff at low temperatures is what caused the 1986 Challenger
disaster (Dean, 2016).
At the San Diego Public Library, we recognize Sally Ride’s accomplishments and contributions to her community by making available to the public her many biographies
, books that she has written
and science themed workshops done in conjunction with Sally Ride Science at UC San Diego with our Library NExT
programming. Sally Ride Science was reacted by Ride and her long-time partner Tam O’Shaughnessy to provide a platform for young girls who are in STEM.
Photo credits: NASA