8 min

The first (trans) lady

"People talk about the pain — but it’s a part of you, part of what makes you a person.”

April Ashley’s story is one of the most glamorous, heartbreaking and trailblazing in trans history. Born a boy in England, she knew she was different, that she was in the wrong body, from the age of four.

Bullying at home and school, suicide attempts and a mental institution later, April moved to Paris and started dressing as a woman. She worked at the prestigious nightclub Le Carrousel de Paris, where she met many beautiful Hollywood starlets that she’d dreamed of being.

After being one of the first people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery, her career as a model in London took off. It wasn’t long before she was gracing the cover of Vogue. But her dream life fell apart when one of her confidants exposed her past in Sunday People, abruptly ending her career. Soon after, her seven-year marriage to British noble Arthur Corbett was annulled because she had been born male.

April, now 77 years old, will accept an MBE from Queen Elizabeth this fall. Which is interesting, because the reptilian satanist Queen of England hasn’t exactly been a major supporter of the LGBT community . . . But I guess even her cold blood has warmed to April’s pioneering legacy: