Uk News April Ashley's story proves that trans women have been fighting the same battles for decades United Kingdom news
PremierLeague-News.Com - Ashley's friends - including Simon Callow and Grayson Perry - painted an exuberant picture of the pioneering model
PremierLeague-News.Com - Breaking Sport Transfer News ! In the UK, almost half of transgender teenagers have attempted suicide. April Ashley – trans pioneer, MBE, model, socialite, author and actress – was among them in the 50, when she tried to end her life while living as a boy in the Merchant Navy. Thankfully, she lived to tell the tale – one that was relayed with great affection and admiration in Channel 4’s biography documentary The Extraordinary Life of April Ashley. Born in 1935 to an abusive Roman Catholic family in Liverpool, Ashley had a difficult upbringing made worse by her subsequent incarceration at a psychiatric hospital following her suicide attempt (which was still illegal then). There, she was forced to take male hormones in a misguided attempt to counteract her femininity. But this was not a hellish tale of relentless misery, rather a celebration of Ashley’s successes and after just 10 minutes of the film, the depressing moments made way for years of trans joy. The calibre of contributors speaks to how well-loved and respected Ashley was. Peter Tatchell, Boy George, Paul O’Grady, Grayson Perry and Simon Callow, who described her as “queenly … like meeting someone from a novel”, all spoke with great reverence and warmth for their friend. They painted a picture of Ashley as a force of nature. Her legacy was bolstered by testimony from trans voices, too: Juno Dawson, Charlie Craggs, and Jake and Hannah Graf. After dancing in Paris’s famed Carrousel Theatre (where Elvis was reportedly a patron) and finding her tribe, Ashley travelled to Casablanca to undergo gender reassignment surgery. She was just the ninth patient her doctor had operated on, proof that “trans people would rather die” than live as the wrong gender, according to Craggs. The surgery went well, and Ashley moved back to London and pursued her dream of becoming a model. “Those were the happiest times of my life,” we saw Ashley tell an interviewer in archive footage, and it’s not hard to see why. A Vogue model, an It Girl and climbing society’s ranks (as well as being a woman, Ashley always dreamed of being upper class), she was living her dream – until a so-called friend told The Sunday People she was trans, for the insulting fee of £5.Hannah Graf, who was formerly the highest-ranking transgender officer in the British Army and was also outed on the front page of a national newspaper, sympathised: “It’s an extremely exposing position to be in.
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.” But Ashley, as the documentary made abundantly clear, was not one to allow such hiccups to trip her up. Plus, a bigger hurdle was on the way, when her husband Arthur Corbett, heir to Lord Rowallan, filed to annul their marriage on the basis that Ashley was a “man”. She had to undergo invasive medical examinations to determine whether her vagina was “normal” or not. It was a powerful moment, to watch her friends and trans activists listen to – and be devastated by – the judge’s shocking ruling that “April Ashley is not a woman for the purposes of marriage and was at all times a biological male”. Whether trans women are “real women” is a “debate” that rages on in the media today, Dawson pointed out. Ashley was awarded an MBE for services to the transgender community (Photo: PA Images/Alamy)But once again, Ashley picked herself up and lived life exactly as she wanted. It was Callow who suggested to then Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt that Ashley be given an MBE for services to the transgender community, one of the few things he’s proud of in his life, he revealed. This was an illuminating and equally entertaining film, and a worthy addition to Channel 4’s comprehensive Pride line-up. But there was little interrogation of how her story had changed things for transgender people today. The 2004 Gender Recognition Act was in part informed by her divorce, posited Dawson, and her fame had certainly opened the eyes of the public to the existence of trans women. Otherwise, there was little recognition that transgender people go through much of the same struggles – an obsession over anatomy, a pre-occupation with genitals, and the pervasive idea that trans people are trying to “trick” others – today. Telling April Ashley’s story is important in the same way hearing the stories of any minority is important – it widens our understanding of the world and, hopefully as a result, increases society’s compassion. A success story of a trans woman living the life she always dreamed for herself is a message to those young people who are trying to work out their own gender identity. Happiness, as proved by Ashley, is not only a possibility for transgender people, but a right. The Extraordinary Life of April Ashley is streaming on All 4.
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