The Art of Womanhood, Weeing and Wickedness.

You may have heard of transsexual pioneer April Ashley – whose alleged affairs include Michael Hutchence, Peter O’Toole, and Omar Sharif – but her story’s worth retelling.

In 1960 Ashley had an early sex reassignment procedure in Morocco which the surgeon, Dr. Georges Burou, warned her could be fatal. She would be his seventh such patient; nevertheless she went ahead. Ashley survived, but bled for weeks after and lost clumps of her hair, permanently. She made do with regular painkillers.

But better times lay ahead. Ashley cultivated a successful modelling career back in England, appearing in such magazines as Vogue, and the film The Road to Hong Kong, which starred Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Yet she’s most famous for marrying into the British establishment in the early 60’s, by making the Honourable (Horrible) Arthur Corbett her husband.

However, in 1961 the (lovely) Sunday People outed her as trans: instantly killing her modelling career. Her credit was also erased from The Road to Hong Kong. Charming.

Life had another kick waiting for April – and one which all British transsexuals would also feel for 24 years. In 1970 Ashley’s husband had their marriage annulled on the grounds she was born male, despite knowing her history before wedding her. What a sweetheart. But the judge ruled she was legally male, setting a precedent for the status of transsexuals in the UK, which was only overturned in 2004 by the Gender Recognition Act.

April Ashley – a true trans legend.

And now 74 years-old April is living art. She is appearing in ‘Eight Rooms, Nine Lives’; an exhibition exploring notions of identity.

Meanwhile in the literary arts, American transsexual Iolanthe Woulff (eldest child of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Herman Wouk) has released her debut novel, She’s My Dad. According to her agent it’s a “suspenseful tale of a transsexual woman forced to overcome unforeseen coincidences and prejudices”, designed to blow away “misconceptions about transsexuals”. It also sounds like a frigging good read – I wish it success.

And would you believe it, British artist Lisa Andrews has been inspired by a Thai-ladyboy muse:

British artist Lisa Andrews is inspired by ladyboys. I know one or two people who’ve been ‘inspired’ by those ladyboys…

Now forget art; I want to introduce vile media coverage of Sheffield University’s proposals to provide gender neutral toilets. Such toilets are a good idea, already used by many American students and also those at Manchester University. Some commentators don’t seem to realize but, cut trans people, and they bleed. Fill them with tea, and they wee. Enter the Shameful Transphobic Offensive Piece (STOP) Award. Henceforth, this new, special weekly prize will be given to crap journo’s, TV presenters and documentary makers. The very first STOP Award was originally a toss-up (calm down!) between The Mirror’s gritty investigative journalism in “Woman finds long lost dad… but, now he’s a laydee” and The Sheffield Telegraph’s frankly ridiculous take on the toilet-story “Transvestitie Student Allowed To Cross The Line” (

But then I saw this shocking letter to the editor of Yorkshire newspaper The Star about the genderless-loo’s, called Fools Who Hate Us All: ( I can’t even be bothered to deconstruct it. Suffice to say I congratulate The Star on publishing the most ignorant and transphobic piece this week. Please accept the inaugural STOP Award. Shame on you.

Loyal readers know I’m not one to focus on negativity, so let’s have a nice award too. Something like, say, the Not-offensive, Interesting, Clear and Educational Award? The recipient of this first, prestigious NICE Award is The Derby Telegraph via for “Transsexual’s fight for a visa”

Ah, isn’t that nice? I’m glad Fatine has found love in a confident man, quite rightly proud to call her his wife – even if The Sun’s version of this insists on calling her a ‘man’. It will be a national scandal if the Home Office send her back to Malaysia, as she’ll undoubtedly be imprisoned in a male jail for the crime of homosexuality. And you thought it was bad here!

Fatine must stay in this country. But she’d better enjoy herself wherever she is on earth – as she’s destined for hell.

Yes, sorry to finish on a downer, but Roman Catholic Cardinal Javier Barragan declared this week that: ‘Transsexuals and homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven, it’s not me who says it but St. Paul.”


Paris Lees

(The views expressed within this blog are those of the author, and may not reflect those of the Gender Trust).

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  • Iolanthe Woulff  On December 8, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you very much for the gracious mention of my recently-released novel, SHE’S MY DAD. (Available on I hope that readers will find it enjoyable.

    Best wishes,
    Lannie Woulff

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