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Ashley, April (b. 1935)  
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Following this judgment, Tony Blair's Labour government introduced a bill that would allow the change of gender on birth certificates and other government documents. After an intense debate in both Houses of Parliament, the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 was passed. It received the Royal Assent on July 1, 2004.

Ashley wrote numerous letters to government officials, including the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor, on behalf of the legislation. "They said: 'Be patient,' and eventually the law did change," she recalled in 2012.

She finally received her amended birth certificate in 2005. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, who had been a friend of hers in the 1950s, helped her navigate the maze of bureaucracy to correct her birth certificate.

In 2006, Ashley announced the publication of a "new autobiography" entitled The First Lady, which she co-authored with Douglas Thompson. In interviews and television appearances promoting the book, Ashley declared that it contained material that she could not include in My Odyssey in 1982, including details of her alleged affairs with Michael Hutchence, Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Grayson Perry, and the future 19th Duke of Infantado, among others. However, when it was discovered that the book heavily repeated passages in the 1982 book, the publisher of My Odyssey sued and a court ordered that copies of The First Lady be recalled from book stores and pulped.

Perhaps Ashley's most significant role in advancing understanding of transgenderism has been through her response to thousands of people who have written her or otherwise sought her out over the years. "I would always wish people three things--to be kind to yourself and to others. To be beautiful, on the inside, which makes you beautiful on the outside. And most of all to be brave, because you will need that," she told an interviewer.

In her advice to others, especially young people, Ashley is always careful to tell them that she is not a medical expert. She directs them to organizations that can provide professional advice.

Although she believes that some young children should be allowed access to sex reassignment surgery, she also recognizes that others should wait. As she told Peter Stanford in 2009, "For me it was clear-cut. When the doctors in the loony bin told me, 'Go away and be gay,' I said, 'I'm not a homosexual. I want to be a woman.' But some people do get confused. I have known quite a few who committed suicide after the operation because they realised they'd made a terrible mistake."

Ashley has been featured in documentaries and exhibitions about gender identity, such as the 2006 exhibition at London's Wellcome Collection called "Eight Rooms, Nine Lives." For several years, a film based on Ashley's life was rumored to be in the making, with Catherine Zeta Jones in the title role, but it has not materialized.

When informed that she had been included in the Queen's Honours List as a Member of the British Empire on June 16, 2012, Ashley was thrilled. "It's unbelievable and wonderful and especially fantastic to receive it in the year of Her Majesty's Jubilee," she said.

Claude J. Summers

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literature >> Overview:  Autobiography, Transsexual

Transgendered individuals have published autobiographies not only to tell or to clarify the stories of their lives, but also to educate others in an effort to gain greater acceptance for transgender people.

arts >> Overview:  Cabarets and Revues

Historically, cabarets and revues have been much more likely to mention or imply same-sex desire than the "legitimate" theater; and same-sex desire has been less frequently condemned in cabarets and revues than in mainstream plays.

arts >> Overview:  Drag Shows: Drag Queens and Female Impersonators

Female impersonation need say nothing about sexual identity, but it has for a long time been almost an institutionalized aspect of gay male culture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Intersexuality

Intersexuality (formerly referred to as hermaphroditism) is a congenital anomaly in which an individual's external genitalia or internal reproductive systems fall outside the norms for either male or female bodies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender

"Transgender" has become an umbrella term representing a political alliance between all gender variant people who do not conform to social norms for typical men and women and who suffer political oppression as a result.

social sciences >> Overview:  Transgender Activism

Since the late nineteenth century, transgendered people have advocated legal and social reforms that would ameliorate the kinds of oppression and discrimination they suffer.

arts >> Beyer, Georgina

As the first open transgender person in New Zealand to be elected to the offices of mayor and Member of Parliament, Georgina Beyer has evinced courage, humor, and personal honesty.

arts >> Close, Roberta

One of the world's most famous transsexual celebrities, Brazilian model, actress, and television performer Roberta Close has challenged the laws of her country that prevent her from defining her own gender.

literature >> Dillon, Michael

Michael Dillon, the first person known to have transitioned both hormonally and surgically from female to male, was a man of singular determination who articulated his life as an evolving struggle toward corporeal, intellectual, and spiritual integrity.

arts >> Elbe, Lili

Einar Wegener, a male Danish painter of some renown, became Lili Elbe, one of the world's first male-to-female transsexuals to undergo sexual reassignment surgery.

social sciences >> European Commission on Human Rights / European Court of Human Rights

The European Commission on Human Rights was the first international human rights organization to condemn homophobia; the European Court of Human Rights, which replaced the Commission, has also helped enforce glbtq rights.

arts >> Jorgensen, Christine

Actress, singer, and writer Christine Jorgenson was not the first male-to-female transsexual to undergo sex reassignment surgery, but the publicity surrounding her case enabled her to educate the public about the differences between homosexuality, transvestism, and transsexualtiy.

literature >> Morris, Jan

The talented and prolific Anglo-Welsh journalist, historian, and travel writer Jan Morris was one of the first transsexuals to tell her story publicly in a memoir.

arts >> Richards, Renee

Transsexual tennis player Renee Richards successfully sued the United States Tennis Association when it barred her from competing in the U.S. Women's Open, establishing an important precedent for the rights of transsexual athletes.


"April Ashley: The First Briton to Undergo a Sex Change." The Independent (London) (February 2, 2006):

Ashley, April, and Duncan Fallowell. My Odyssey. London: Jonathan Cape, 1982.

Bell, Matthew. "April MBE: Transsexual Crusader Honoured." The Independent (London) (June 17, 2012):

Durrant, Sabine. "April Ashley Interview: Britain's First Transsexual." The Telegraph (London) (August 22, 2010):

Johnston, Jenny. "How Prescott Made a Woman Out of Me." Daily Mail (London) (June 3, 2006):

Stanford, Peter. "April Ashley: 50 Happy Years for Sex Swap Pioneer." The Telegraph (London) (November 24, 2009):


    Citation Information
    Author: Summers, Claude J.  
    Entry Title: Ashley, April  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2012  
    Date Last Updated June 21, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2012 glbtq Inc.  


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