Transgender pioneer April Ashley given MBE
Actress and model April Ashley was honored by Queen Elizabeth II for services to transgender equality
Actress and transgender pioneer April Ashley was given a MBE for services to equality today (16 June).
Ashley, 77, was the first British person to have gender reassignment surgery in 1960, and since has dedicated her life to transgender equality.
She was given a MBE, or Member of the British Empire, as part of the annual Queen’s Birthday Honors list.
On her website, she says: ‘In Paris, I debated with myself the decision to have a sex change. It was a hard decision. I knew I would be pioneering a dangerous operation.
‘The doctor told me there was a 50/50 chance I would not come through. However, I knew I was a woman and that I could not live in a male body. I had no choice. I flew to Casablanca and the rest, as they say, is history.’
After her tortuous 7-hour surgery, Ashley became a successful model and actress, appearing in movies like Road to Hong Kong. She was outed as transgender by The Sunday People in 1961.
April Ashley’s Odyssey, a biography written by Duncan Fallowell, was published in 1982. In 2006, she released her first autobiography titled The First Lady.
Other people honored by the Queen this year include Take That’s Gary Barlow, and actor Kenneth Branagh.
Ashley is currently writing her second autobiography, about her life from 1980 to the present day.
Sheffield: Call for public art tribute to early gay activist Edward Carpenter
A new community group has been set up in Sheffield to campaign for a permanent public tribute to Edward Carpenter.
Friends of Edward Carpenter is calling for the tribute that recognises his historical and social importance as a writer and political campaigner.
Edward Carpenter, who died in 1929 aged 84, was a significant cultural and political activist, who for over forty years formed a strong bond with the people of Sheffield.
Mainly remembered now as a pioneer of gay rights campaigning – living openly with his lover and writing bravely about it as the same time that Oscar Wilde was imprisoned – he was also an advocate of environmentalism, socialism, anarchism, trade unions, feminism, vegetarianism, clothes reform and teetotalism.
He opposed imperialism, vivisection, war and capital punishment. He travelled widely, writing sympathetically about India and Ceylon. He believed in nude sunbathing, and wearing sandals, which he designed, made and popularised.
He was the friend and possibly lover of the famous American poet Walt Whitman, and imitated him in his own long poetry cycle Towards Democracy, the touchstone for many early socialists. He is reputed to have helped EM Forster both to ‘come out’ and write. He led meetings with William Morris, supported the suffragette movement, and the campaign for clean air.