April Ashley

April Ashley 1975 from www.aprilashley.com

When we did Art in school, we had to lay out sheets of newspaper over the tables first. I remember one particular art session when I was eight (so somewhere around 1978-9). The sheet of paper that was laid out in front of me had a double-paged article about a man who had become a woman. I forget what artwork it was that we were supposed to be doing, but needless to say that I didn’t do any, and got into trouble for this. Instead of painting, I spent the whole session reading that article, and trying to find the rest of it which was in front of someone else.

The woman in the article under the paint pot on my desk was called April. It might have been that the paper was also dated April. Her name before had been the same as my Granddad: George. There was a giant photo of her as a beautiful woman surrounded by flowers, and smaller photos of her as a boy and a man. She had been in the navy and there was a photo of her in uniform. It blew my mind. I had spent most of my childhood believing that I was actually a boy and not a girl, but thinking that apart from growing a willy, there wasn’t much I could do about it. Now I saw that someone else had felt like this, and that it was possible to have an operation.

Wow. April Ashley, I’ve always thought you were beautiful. And although the article in the paper may have been designed to be salacious and shocking, for me it was an education much more than the art lesson would have been.

Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room


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