Digital Transgender Archive

Stepping Out from the Shadows of History

McLeod in a SalonThe Charlotte McLeod collection from Transas City contains news clippings and photographs of Charlotte McLeod, whose gender realignment surgery became the second such surgery widely known to the U.S. public (the first being Christine Jorgensen’s). The photographs and news articles are dated throughout the 1950s. The news clippings document McLeod’s public appearances, the story of her gender realignment surgery, and public reception upon returning home. The collection’s photographs primarily show McLeod’s “private” life, depicting her at work and at restaurants.

As the second transwoman from the United States to undergo a publicly recognized gender realignment surgery, McLeod is often left in the shadow of Christine Jorgensen. McLeod’s public life was closely followed, even before she returned from Copenhagen. One photograph of McLeod working in a hotel salon proved particularly interesting to the DTA team because it represents one of the few pieces of the collection that speaks about Charlotte McLeod without referencing her gender realignment surgery. The content of the photograph reveals a stark contrast between the lives McLeod and Jorgensen lived after their respective surgeries. Whereas Jorgensen went on to become an entertainer and celebrity in her own right, McLeod engaged in less public pursuits following her transition. Because of this, her story eventually faded from the spotlight of the media who continued to consider her as “second” to Jorgensen.