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Ashley, April (b. 1935)  
 
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In April 1963, on Gibraltar, Ashley married Arthur Corbett, an Eton-educated aristocrat who later became the 3rd Baron Rowallan. Corbett, the heir to a castle and 7,000 acres in Scotland, had four children with his first wife, whom he divorced in 1961 after becoming smitten with Ashley. He frequently cross-dressed himself. Indeed, he first met Ashley in Paris when she worked at the Cabaret Le Carousel, which he frequented.

Corbett's divorce from his first wife and his affair with Ashley created a scandal. Allegedly, his father threatened to disinherit him and he was often portrayed as having romantically sacrificed all for the sake of Ashley. However, the marriage was not a happy one and soon they parted, rarely living together during the seven years duration of the marriage.

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Corbett knew of Ashley's history when they married, but as their relationship turned sour, he was ruthless in using it against her. In 1969, in order to avoid paying alimony, he sued to have the marriage annulled on the grounds that Ashley had been born male.

The divorce proceedings, known as Corbett v. Corbett, were heard in 1970 and created a media sensation as the couple hurled charges against each other. During the proceedings details of Ashley's anatomy were plastered across the tabloids.

The decision, in Corbett's favor, was devastating to Ashley. Not only had her privacy been violated, but she also felt that she had officially been denied recognition as a woman, either legally, socially, or biologically.

The decision in the case had ramifications not merely for Ashley, but for all transgender people in the United Kingdom and Australia. The judge not only granted Corbett's plea for an annulment, ruling the marriage null and void, but he also ruled that a person born male is a male in perpetuity.

The case established a precedent that left intersexuals and transgendered persons in legal limbo, with no means to correct their gender on government documents, including birth certificates. From 1970 until 2004, when the Gender Recognition Act took effect, the United Kingdom refused to change birth certificates of transgendered individuals, including those who had undergone sex reassignment surgery.

Despite the defeat in court, Ashley rallied. With the help of friends, she opened a restaurant near Harrod's in Knightsbridge called AD8. On the opening night 2,000 people came and she began a new career as the owner of a fashionable watering hole.

In 1975, however, Ashley, overworked and out of shape from excessive drinking, suffered a heart attack. Once she recovered, to the surprise of her friends she gave up London's frenetic pace and retired to the sleepy bookshop-filled town Hay-on-Wye on the Welsh border.

There she began working with an old friend, writer Duncan Fallowell, on telling her life story. My Odyssey (also issued as April Ashley's Odyssey) was published in 1982.

Ever restless, in 1986 Ashley abandoned the quiet life in Hay-on-Wye and relocated to the United States, living first in New York and then in San Diego, where she worked at art galleries and as a fundraiser for Greenpeace. She is alleged to have married a man named Jeffrey West aboard the docked ship Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.

In 1989, suffering from a variety of health problems, she relocated to Nice, in the south of France. During these years she lived modestly, supporting herself through stints as an art consultant and interior designer.

As transgender issues began to be taken more seriously in the 1990s and the 2000s, Ashley reinvented herself once more as something of an activist. She became the face of transgenderism in the United Kingdom.

She moved back to England and became active in the movement for transgender equality. Not only did she campaign for legal reform, but she also gave numerous interviews about transgenderism. In her television appearances and interviews, she denied any scientific expertise, and evinced little interest in the causes of transgenderism, but she was invariably happy to share her own story and to offer encouragement to others.

Her glamour and regal bearing, combined with her self-deprecating humor and hints of the scandalous, brought new attention to the plight of the transgendered, especially the inability to correct legal documents.

The campaign for legal reform gained a necessary impetus in 2002, when the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Christine Goodwin v. The United Kingdom that the human rights of transgendered individuals were violated by the impossibility of changing gender on government documents in the United Kingdom.

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