April Ashley MBE: Fame and notoriety

In the UK, by far the most famous of the HSTS transwomen who were aided by Dr Burou was April Ashley. Unfortunately, her fame was perhaps less welcome than she might have desired.

Born George Jamison in 1935, April was a classic HSTS. She was bullied in her youth for her femininity and, according to her autobiography, never fully masculinised. Fully homosexual, she joined the Merchant Navy, where she was preyed on and raped.

In the late 1950s she moved to Paris and joined the cast at the Carousel Theatre, where she met Coccinelle. SHe took her name, ‘Ashley’ from the character in the film ‘Gone With the Wind’.

In 1960 she took £3000 in savings – a fortune in those days – and went to Casablanca. She became the first British person to have Genital Reconstruction Surgery (GRS) at Dr George Burou’s clinic there.

April Ashley with Arthur Corbett

Returning to London, she hit the celebrity glamour circuit, working as a model and dating film and theatre stars. In 1961, however, she was publicly outed by the Sunday People, a now-defunct tabloid that specialised in the salacious. With much of her career in tatters and many doors closed to her, in 1963 she met Arthur Corbett, who was married and had four children. He was Eton-educated and the heir of Lord Rowallan, as well as which, he was known to be an autogynephilic transvestite. (Today, it is well known that autogynephiles or AGPs are strongly attracted to HSTS transwomen.)

As is so often the case, though, having divorced his wife to marry April, this marriage also foundered in short order and a hugely notorious court case ensued, as April attempted to secure a financial settlement. The court decided that her husband owed her none, because, since she was legally male, they had never been legally married.

After the trial, April Ashley returned to occasional modelling, writing and public speaking. Although a life long activist for trans rights, she otherwise lived a quiet life and, at time of writing, was still doing so, in Fulham, West London.

April Ashley was able, finally, to legally change her gender marker in 2004, after the UK Government passed the Gender Recognition Act. In 2012 she was awarded the MBE for services to Transgender equality. She always maintained a friendship with Labour Politician John Prescott, whom she had met in the Merchant Navy.

In later life, April suffered considerably from osteoporosis, because she was not prescribed a maintenance dose of oestrogen HRT to keep this at bay.

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