The Life & Times of April Ashley

April Ashley, April Ashley transgender

April Ashley was born April 29, 1935, under the name George Jamieson in Liverpool, England. She was one of the earliest British person known to have had the sex reassignment surgery. April’s early life was difficult. She was tormented by her peers due to the fact that, while born a male, looked more like a female. She didn’t go through the normal puberty of a male. Her voice never broke, her facial hair never started to grow and to make the hardship of going through puberty worse, she started to develop breasts as a man. Despite doing her best to become more masculine, April attempted suicide twice due to the struggle of finding her gender identity. After the second attempt, she was sent to Ormskirk Hospital’s psychiatric unit before being moved to Walton Hospital. This had a devastating effect on April’s life due to the horrific treatment she underwent. Electroconvulsive treatment with sodium pentothal injections followed by male hormone therapy was enough to really affect April’s health and well-being. April decided to leave for London at the age of 20 in 1955, two years after being admitted to the psychiatric unit.

After moving to London, April found that it was much easier to show her feminine identity in the anonymity of the big city. It was in 1956 that she was able to make her way to Le Carrousel in Paris and later to Dr. George Burou. Dr. Burou was a pioneer in gender reassignment surgery and April left for Casablanca on May 12, 1960 to receive the gender that April felt had always been hers. She returned to London and with a deed poll, legally changed her name to April Ashley. With her new happy and confident outlook on life, she became a high profile model and actress. In 1961, April met Arthur Corbett who left his wife and four children to begin a relationship with April, despite knowing that she was not born a woman.

After being outed by the Sunday People newspaper and portrayed in an inhuman way, April never worked in London again. In 1963, April and Arthur married, but in 1967 Arthur petitioned for divorce under the grounds that it was illegal due to April being born a man. This lead to the case of Corbett v Corbett in February 1970. The medical ‘test’ given to April to determine her gender was a huge setback for all transgendered persons. It wasn’t until 2004 that the legal status of transgender people would be fully recognized with the introduction of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Through the 90s and early 00s, April campaigned for gender recognition and in 2005, she was finally legally recognized as a female and issued a new birth certificate with her correct gender on it. John Prescott, now former Deputy Prime Minister, appointed April a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her service to transgender equality.

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