Transgender icon honoured in city

Share Button
April Ashley © sallypayne/CreativeCommons/Flickr

April Ashley © sallypayne/CreativeCommons/Flickr

April Ashley, who was the first person in the UK to undergo gender reassignment surgery, has become the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Liverpool.

The exhibition follows her incredible journey from her birth as George Ashley in 1935 to her prolific modelling career as April Ashley.

Born in Liverpool to what she claims was an abusive mother, Ashley has stated that she knew she had been born in the wrong body from the age of three.

By the age of 14 Ashley escaped her miserable home life by joining the Merchant Navy. Following two suicide attempts Ashley endured a year-long stay at a mental hospital, where she was pumped with male hormones and subjected to electric shock treatment.

The exhibition features a recreation of the Parisian drag club where Ashley began working once she had been released from hospital. It was here that Ashley met a patient of Dr Georges Boru, a Casablancan surgeon providing gender realignment surgery. Having saved the £3,000 required for the operation, she became his ninth patient and George became April in 1960.

From there Ashley went on to a career as a model for the likes of David Bailey, becoming one of Vogue’s most popular underwear models. Her success, however, was short lived after a ‘friend’ revealed her secret to the Sunday People for £5.

Following her modelling career Ashley continued to stay in the headlines as her marriage to Arthur Corbett was annulled as the judge declared that she was still a biological male and therefore the marriage was invalid.

Ashley has remained an icon as she has continued to bring transgender issues into the social consciousness. Her years of battling adversity were recognised in 2012 when she was awarded an MBE for her work with the transgender community.

The exhibition entitled ‘April Ashley: Portrait Of A Lady’ is curated by the Homotopia gay rights association and will be at the Museum of Liverpool for a year.

About Liberty Chrismas, JMU Journalism