April Ashley, London Socialite and Transgender Pioneer, Dies at 86


Back in Liverpool, she checked herself right into a psychological hospital, the place she begged the medical doctors to “make me more manly,” she wrote in a first-person account for News of the World in 1961. They handled her with medication and electroshock remedy. “It lasted a year,” she recalled, “and at the end of the day they told me it was no use.”

Unwelcome at dwelling, she moved to London, the place she began dressing as a lady. During a trip in France, she met a bunch of drag performers, who obtained her a job dancing at Le Carrousel, a famed Paris nightclub.

By then Ms. Ashley was taking estrogen and saving for her transition surgical procedure. In 1960, with a reference letter from Coccinelle, a Carrousel dancer and the primary recognized French individual to transition, she traveled to Casablanca, Morocco. There she met Dr. Georges Burou, a gynecologist who had pioneered strategies in gender transition.

The surgical procedure lasted seven hours. Ms. Ashley recalled that simply earlier than she went beneath, Dr. Burou mentioned, “Au revoir, Monsieur.” When she awakened, he greeted her with “Bonjour, Mademoiselle.”

She returned to London, the place she registered with the federal government as a lady beneath the identify April Ashley. Her gorgeous seems and her background as a dancer eased her means into London’s vogue world, and she was quickly modeling lingerie for a few of Britain’s high designers. She started performing, too, showing in a small function in “The Road to Hong Kong,” the final of the Bob Hope-Bing Crosby “Road” films, which was launched in 1962.

But her budding profession was reduce brief in 1961 when a buddy bought Ms. Ashley’s story to a British tabloid. Six months of modeling contracts dried up instantly, and the producers of the movie reduce her identify from the credit.