It’s probably me but I am still taken with a sense of wonder when I read stories like the one I read today, totally inspiring.
April Ashley born in Liverpool 1935 as George Jamieson was recently awarded the MBE for services to transgender equality in the 2012 Summer Queen’s Birthday Honours.
On hearing the news April was also astonished (but for different reasons maybe than mine) – “I didn’t think I was doing anything special, so to be suddenly awarded this is astonishing” she said.
April had joined the Navy at 14 but felt isolated and attempted suicide. In the 1950’s she moved to Paris and started dressing as a woman, before finding success as a performer at Le Carrousel nightclub. In 1960 she underwent experimental sex reassignment surgery in Casablanca, Morocco (of all the surgeries in all the world …. 🙂 ), despite being told by the doctor there was only a 50/50 chance of survival. Once recovered she returned to London and became an actress and model, nobody knew about her past, she appeared in publications such as Vogue travelling the world on assignments. However her life was turned upside down in 1961 when someone sold her story to The Sunday People Newspaper, at the time the intrigue and scandal caused untold problems in her life, leaving her feeling “humiliated in front of the world”.
April didn’t stop her quest to live life as a woman, and latter married a man Arthur Corbett. In 1970 her divorce from Arthur made the headlines when the judge ruled that despite her surgery she remained a biological man and therefore the marriage was invalid and annulled. This ruling ended the hopes of any transsexuals marrying until 2004 when the Gender Recognition Act allowed people to legally change gender.
Her MBE last summer was for her work in the transgender community. She said that for over half a century she had “been writing to people and helping people and I’ve written thousands and thousands of letters”. “To me it was just a normal thing to do – I never thought I was doing anything special quite frankly, so to be suddenly awarded this is astonishing.”
Well done April Ashley that’s what I say!
I started this post by stating I was taken with a sense of wonder when I read stories like this. Really it shouldn’t be news I know, but it is and I suppose that’s why I am taken with a sense of wonder – it is news and it shouldn’t have ever been, she should have been accepted as a person way back, and yet against the odds she fought and she achieved, which is inspiring!
If you would like to read more about April there is a book called the The First Lady available on Amazon.