April Ashley awarded an MBE for services to trans rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Actress and human rights campaigner, April Ashley, who was the first Briton to be openly identified as having undergone a gender realignment surgery, has been awarded an MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for services to transgender equality.

Ms Ashley, 77, was born George Jamieson to a Liverpudlian family in 1935. Living as Mr Jamieson at the age of 25 she travelled to Casablanca, where she underwent gender reassignment surgery at the hands of one Doctor Burou, known as ‘The Wizard of Casablanca.’

Upon her return to London, she received a modelling assignment for Vogue, and was photographed by David Bailey.

However, just a year later, one of her close acquaintances sold her life story to the Sunday People, a popular tabloid, which caused a scandal that rippled through the British media. Her name has since been associated with several members of the upper echelons of British society, and celebrities, such as Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and Michael Hutchence of INXS.

All said, Ms Ashley was not officially recognised as a woman until 2004, after the introduction of the then Labour government’s Gender Recognition Act. A year later, with the help of Lord Prescott, once her housemate, she received a new birth certificate.