Transsituated publics : from Christine Jorgensen to Holly Woodlawn
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The single most recognized transgender woman in the 1950s and throughout much of the 1960s, Christine Jorgensen symbolized in many ways the quintessential white, upper-middle-class woman and the medicalized standard by which other transgender women were measured, including poor transgender women and transgender women of color. In the late 1960s and 1970s, however, a new class of transgender women would come to denounce such an image. Holly Woodlawn, a cult icon in the late 1960s and early 1970s, for example, viewed Christine as outdated and out-of-sync with her own gendered desires for expression. Holly gained notoriety for her outrageous role in Andy Warhol's film Trash (1970). In the film, she plays the glamorous and co-dependent role of the counter-culture sex addicted welfare queen. In the film, she denounces traditional transsexual women narratives and engenders instead new forms of gendered expressions unencumbered by sex change anxieties. Christine and Holly are but two historical transgender icons, who, in the 1950s, 60s and 70s suggested new possibilities for gendered expressions. Their public personas historicize the construction of transgender identity, making visible the classed and racialized privileging of sex change surgery and the alternative expressions embodied by poor transgender women and transgender women of color. Although unable to afford sex change surgery, poor transgender women, in particular, transgender women of color, embodied new models of gender identity beyond the gendered constructs of whiteness.