Monday, January 10, 2022

April Ashley - Transgender Pioneer (1935-2021 )


Personal Note: Almost exactly a year ago, I posted a "I Love A Success Story" on April Ashley.  It was an a wonderful story about Britain's First Transsexual. What an amazingly beautiful woman. Sadly, I learned for one of my loyal readers, Kelly, that she died on Dec. 27 at her home in London. She was 86.

From The NY Times
Jan. 3, 2022
By Clay Risen

Ms. Ashley was named to the Order of the
British Empire in 2012 for her
 “service to transgender equality.”

April Ashley, a model and socialite who rose from poverty in Liverpool to the heights of London society, a feat achieved as much through her striking good looks as it was through her status as one of the first Britons to undergo gender confirmation surgery, died on Dec. 27 at her home in London. She was 86.

Tim Brunsden, a friend, confirmed the death. He did not specify a cause but said she had been in failing health.

With her statuesque figure, her enrapturing doe eyes and her Zeligesque ability to rub shoulders with everyone worth knowing among the European chic set, Ms. Ashley embodied the swinging hedonism of 1960s Britain as it sloughed off decades of austerity to embrace material wealth.

She partied with John Lennon and Mick Jagger. Salvador DalĂ­ wanted to paint her (nude; she declined). Elvis Presley wooed her. Later, in a series of tell-all memoirs, she disclosed the names of some of her many lovers, including the actor Omar Sharif and the singer Michael Hutchence.

She worked, when she needed to, as a hostess and a dancer. But she also cultivated enough wealthy friends that such need was infrequent.

“If you decided to fly to Geneva in your private plane for lunch, then April was your girl,” The Sunday Observer wrote in 1982.

Scandal seemed to follow Ms. Ashley: A friend outed her as transgender to a tabloid in 1961. Her brief marriage to the son of a British baron set off a high-profile annulment fight, resulting in a landmark 1970 decision denying transgender women legal status as women — and denying Ms. Ashley any of her husband’s inheritance.

She eventually retreated from the limelight, first to the English countryside, then to California and finally to the South of France.

By the time she returned to Britain in 2005, the country’s attitudes about gender identity were starting to change. When she had left, in the early 1980s, she called herself a “freak” and said that strangers had poked and sneered at her; now she was embraced as a hero.

Read the complete obituary at the NYTimes 

Ms. Ashley in 2006. Late in life she was once again a celebrity, this time as an activist, and she adopted the identity of the upper-crust dowager.Credit...

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