April Ashley

April Ashley
April Ashley
Born 25 April 1935 (1935-04-25) (age 76)

‎‎April Ashley (born on 29 April 1935) is an English model and restaurant hostess. She was the first British person[1] to be outed as a transsexual, which was by the Sunday People in 1961.[2] She is also known as the first British person to undergo sex reassignment surgery[3][4] and the ninth in the world to have the surgery.[5]



She was born Toni Jamieson on 29 April 1935, in Smithdown Road Hospital, Liverpool,[6] where she spent her childhood.[7] She was one of six surviving children of a Roman Catholic father and a Protestant mother.[2] She had suffered from calcium deficiency and required weekly calcium injections at the Alder Hey Children's Hospital.[2] Because she wet the bed she was given her own box room aged two when the family moved house.[6] She joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 14.[8] She had under-developed genitalia and by the age of 15 she had not developed secondary sexual characteristics. She attempted suicide after returning home from the Merchant Navy and was sent to the mental institution in Ormskirk for electric shock treatment.[2][7]

In her book The First Lady, Ashley tells the story of the rape she endured while still living as a man. A roommate raped her, and she was severely injured as a result of the sexual assault.

She moved to Paris in the 1950s and using the name April E became a Drag Queen.[7] She joined the cast of the cabaret show at the Carousel Theatre with the famous French entertainer Coccinelle.

Ashley had her seven hour long sex reassignment surgery on 12 May 1960[7] in Casablanca, Morocco under Dr Georges Burou.[9] All her hair fell out and she was in a lot of pain, but the operation succeeded.[7]

After returning to England, Ashley became a successful fashion model, appearing in such publications as Vogue (photographed by David Bailey[8]) and winning a small role in the film The Road to Hong Kong, which starred Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Her credit, however, was dropped from the film after she was outed as transsexual by the Sunday People in 1961.[2]

She married Hon. Arthur Corbett (later 3rd Baron Rowallan) in 1963. However, in 1970 Corbett had the marriage annulled on the grounds that Ashley had been born male,[2] even though he knew about her history when they married.[1][8][10]

After a heart attack in London, Ashley retired for some years to the Welsh border town of Hay-on-Wye. In her book "April Ashley's Odyssey" she stated that Amanda Lear was born male as Alain Tapp and they had worked together at Le Carousel where Lear had used the name Peki d'Oslo.[11] Ashley was once great friends with fellow performer Amanda Lear.[12] According to Ashley's book The First Lady, the two women had a major falling out and haven't spoken in years.

In the eighties, April married Jeffrey West, on the retired cruise ship RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach, California; and by all accounts is still married to same.[13]

In 2005, after the passage of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, Ashley was finally legally recognised as a female and issued with a new birth certificate. The then Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom John Prescott who knew Ashley from the 1950s, helped her with the procedure.[3][7]

Most recently April gave talks on her life at St George's Hall in Liverpool on 15 November 2008[14] and on 18 February 2009 at the South Bank Centre.[15]

April now lives on her own in Fulham, London.[2]

Biographies written about April Ashley

April Ashley's Odyssey, a biography by Duncan Fallowell, was published in 1982. In 2006, Ashley released her autobiography The First Lady[3] and made TV appearances on Channel Five News, This Morning and BBC News. In one interview, she said, "This is the real story and contains a lot of things I just couldn't say in 1982", including details of her alleged affairs with Michael Hutchence, Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Turner Prize sculptor Grayson Perry and the future 19th Duke of Infantado, among others. However, the book was pulped after it was discovered that it had heavily plagiarized the 1982 book on Ashley.[16] Most of the actors mentioned as being lovers of Ashley have denied the truth of these allegations.

See Also

Corbett v Corbett


  1. ^ a b Stanford, Peter (24 November 2009). "April Ashley 50 happy years for sex-swap pioneer". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/6637773/April-Ashley-50-happy-years-for-sex-swap-pioneer.html. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Durrant, Sabine (22 August 2010). "April Ashley interview: Britain's first transsexual". The Daily Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/7947945/April-Ashley-interview-Britains-first-transsexual.html. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  3. ^ a b c "April Ashley: the first Briton to undergo a sex change". The Independent. 2 February 2006. http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/features/april-ashley-the-first-briton-to-undergo-a-sex-change-525383.html. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  4. ^ Morris, Matthew (27 November 2009). "A woman ahead of her time". bbc.co.uk. http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/london/hi/people_and_places/newsid_8383000/8383720.stm. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  5. ^ Warren, Jane (28 July 2000). "Forty years after my sex change I'm still treated as a joke". The Daily Express. http://www.pfc.org.uk/node/716. Retrieved 2010-08-30. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b Ashley, April. "My Odyssey - Chapter One". AprilAshley.com. http://www.april-ashley.com/mo1.html. Retrieved 2010-05-23. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b c d e f Johnston, Jenny (3 June 2006). "How Prescott made a woman out of me of me". Mail online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-388926/How-Prescott-woman-me.html. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  8. ^ a b c "Sex and the single grande dame". The Sydney Morning Herald. 4 June 2005. http://www.smh.com.au/news/People/Sex-and-the-single-grande-dame/2005/06/03/1117568360972.html. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  9. ^ "Georges Burou, M.D.". http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/Burou/Burou.html. Retrieved 2010-05-23. 
  10. ^ {{cite web|url=http://www.vanuatu.usp.ac.fj/courses/LA306_Family_Law/Cases/Corbett_v_Corbett.html
  11. ^ Chapter 4:Paris;April Ashley's Odyssey; Duncan Fallowell & April Ashley Jonathan Cape, London, 1982 ISBN 0-224-01849-3
  12. ^ "At the court of Queen Lear". The Observer. 24 December 2000. http://www.guardian.co.uk/theobserver/2000/dec/24/focus.news. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  13. ^ Identity - April Ashley's US Resident Alien identification card - Wellcome Collection
  14. ^ "An Audience with April Ashley". Homotopia. http://www.homotopia.net/2008/2008-April%20Ashley.html. Retrieved 2010-08-30. [dead link]
  15. ^ "An Evening With April Ashley at the Southbank Centre". flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/blahflowers/3293013691/. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 
  16. ^ "Discriminating Beauty". Out Northwest. p. 23. http://issuu.com/outnorthwest/docs/issue86/23?mode=embed&documentId=081024154705-ebb5a1dbd41242b3b3aa0f4e69652515&layout=grey. Retrieved 2010-08-30. 

External links

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