Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Other Side of April

When April Ashley was 25, she was on top of the world.

The jaw-dropping beauty was a top London fashion model, with an editorial in Vogue. She had just filmed her first role in a major film. She had a string of enviable affairs with handsome movie stars like Omar Sharif and Peter O'Toole. Her captivated admirers included Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso.

But in 1961, her world came crashing down.

A story, told by a former friend, revealed that April had been born a boy. She had received a sex change operation in Casablanca when she was 24.

The scandal shocked the entire world. Sex change operations were practically unheard of at the time. April had been the first British person to get one.

The backlash towards the promising young model was severe. Bookings were cancelled overnight. Her film credit was taken away. She received threatening phone calls. She was told her career was over, before it had even taken off.

April was heartbroken. After getting her sex change operation in 1960, she thought she had been set free.

But her struggles were only just beginning.

Born as George Jamieson in Liverpool to a working class family, April had always known she was different. She had under-developed genitalia. She was not growing normal, sexually. She looked and felt feminine. But it didnt' make any difference. She was born technically male. And if you were born male in the 1930s, you were male in the eyes of society.

At 14, she joined the Navy to grasp at some masculinity, but she encountered merciless bullying and was so unhappy with her identity crisis, she attempted suicide. She was put in a mental institution and given electro-shock therapy. After being released, she tried to lead a normal life as a man, but found it difficult. She was even raped by her roommate, which left her severely injured.

She eventually moved to Paris under a new name and became a drag queen at a prominent hot spot frequented by Ernest Hemingway and Bob Hope.

In 1960, she was introduced to a Moroccan surgeon who had successfully performed eight sex change operations. After becoming his ninth, she moved to London where her undeniable beauty immediately earned her a modeling contract.

When the scandal broke out, April didn't allow it to ruin her life. She kept her head held high.

In 1963, she fell in love with Arthur Corbett, a wealthy aristocratic married father of four who had a secret obsession with cross-dressing. He left his wife for April and they became the toast of high society.

But the marriage dissolved quickly and Arthur annulled the marriage on the grounds that it had never been legal to begin with, since April had been born male. The identity crisis came crashing down on April yet again.

In the next few decades, April put aside her unhappiness and embraced her difference. She wrote a heartfelt autobiography. She met the love of her life. She gave talks educating the masses on transsexualism. She advocated heavily for others like her.

Due to her hard work, she was recently awarded the MBE in the Queen's birthday honors for services to transgender equality.

Not bad for a girl who thought her life was over, right?


Swarnali said...

Wow...that was one amazing woman!! Great post Jenny, very informative as always :)

Cailin´s Place said...


Slauditory said...

She was super beautiful. This is a really good post! I'm enjoying these historical pieces.

Ramblings of a Redhead said...

What an inspiring, heartbreaking story! Thanks for sharing!

Shannon said...

You share the most amazing stories. She should be proud of her life. I can relate this story to someone very close to me. I have to send this link on.

socialitedreams said...

what an absolutely interesting life! i always learn the coolest things coming here, great as always

Josie said...

She persevered like nobody's business. Fantastic.
xo Josie

Tanvi said...

Not bad at all! Glad she found herself in the end!

∞ © ∞

The Grande Dame said...

Really great story to read. So glad she found the happiness she deserves in the end.

sherene said...

Very informative, i didnt know he was born male!
Thanks to you genius:))

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The Dainty Dolls House said...

What a beautiful and wonderful woman!! Such cruelty she received just because she was different. I wish people would understand a little bit more what it is like for those who feel they were born in the wrong body, it's not something they take so lightly. I'm glad she found happiness and honor at the end though!! Gorgeous woman!! xx

Tights Lover said...

Wow, I thought for sure this story was headed for an unhappy ending. I'm very glad I was wrong!

It's funny that everyone thought she was beautiful until they found out her secret. Really, what changed?

I wonder how different things would be if this happened today?

hellosimpleme said...

wow, I'm glad she found her happy ending! She is such a pretty lady!

I love reading your posts and I always am looking for them on my dashboard!

A BRIT GREEK said...

Incredible story and an amazing looking woman. How on earth did you hear about her?

Meri said...

I am so glad to see that her story is positive at this point, and that she was able to get past people's ignorance. I am afraid to say I don't think our society is much better now. Maybe a little, but still pretty ridiculously intolerant. Thanks for sharing April's story!

Midnight Cowgirl said...

How interesting!

Couture Carrie said...

What an amazing story!
Love your bio posts, darling!


Audrey Allure said...

Remarkable story - so inspiring!

Fashion Tales.... said...

Wow, I had no idea! Great post on her. Thanks so much for enlightening us about her life.

Olga said...

The last photo is absolutely magnificent. I would like to see myself with that posture and confidence when I'm at that age.

Dina's Days said...

WHAT!!!!!! Shut the front door! You are like an encyclopedia.

Kim (A Very Sweet Blog) said...

WOW! She got through it all. At the end of the day, that's all that matters. Fascinating story!

Gayatri said...

Wow! This is a great post. Can't get over how gorgeous she was.

Wiola said...

Wow what an incredible role-model! :) I love that she didn't give up and instead embraced who she was. Instead of thinking she was wrong, she realized that the society was wrong... and that society must change. She fought for what she believed in, and that's pretty amazing!