Trailblazing trans model April Ashley, one of the first people in the UK to have gender affirmation surgery, has died aged 86.
One of the first Britons to undergo gender reassignment surgery, she was made an MBE in 2012 for her work campaigning for the transgender community.
Born to a working-class family in Liverpool in 1935, Ashley joined the Merchant Navy as a teenager. Following a stint in a psychiatric unit and repeated suicide attempts, she moved to London in 1955 and then to Paris.
It was when performing at Le Carrousel nightclub – which was famous for its drag acts – she saved up money for the surgery, which she had in Morocco in 1960. She later said the operation, though excruciating, made her the happiest she had ever been. Upon returning to England, she obtained a passport and driving licence with female pronouns.
She left the UK, moving to the US west coast to escape the prejudice she faced – only returning to Britain in 2005 when she was legally recognised as female under the Gender Recognition Act.
“A true queen. Gone, but never forgotten. Rest in power.”