April Ashley MBE is the recipient of the Roberta Cowell Gay Times Honour as a Trailblazer.
April Ashley lost everything in 1961 when she was unceremoniously outed as transgender by a national newspaper. Resilient and courageous, her resolve to never give up or be held back in the face of adversity has inspired generations since.
April was honoured at the National Portrait Gallery during the inaugural event on 18 November, introduced to the stage by Talulah Eve – a leading transgender model that’s making waves in the fashion world.
“Well, I hope they remember me kindly,” April said. “I really don’t know. I don’t even think I care very much about what people think once you’ve gone.
“I’ve always said, you know, that the three things is to be kind to both yourself and to other people; and be beautiful inside and out because if you’re beautiful inside then you’re beautiful out. I say be bloody brave because you will need it.”
April added: “One of the things I found out about the trans community, most of them anyhow, they all have a good sense of humour – and I think that gets them through a lot of nonsense.”
The Gay Times Honours recognise those who have had a tremendous impact on what it means for us to live openly and freely as LGBTQ people in modern Britain.
In 1951, Roberta Cowell – whom the Honours is named after – became the first known British transsexual woman to undergo gender confirmation surgery.
There’s much to be said about the enduring contributions of the individuals and organisations amplified by their inclusion in the Gay Times Honours, but celebrated queer writer and author Armistead Maupin perhaps sums it up best: ”The world changes in direct proportion to the number of people willing to be honest about their lives.
In a bid to highlight those who’ve paved the way for justice, visibility and equality, the nine Honours are named posthumously after LGBTQ trailblazers.
Created in close collaboration with Gay Times Curator, Gemma Rolls-Bentley, and the nine Honourees themselves, specially commissioned artworks were created to recognise and reflect on the contributions of the individuals, organisations and institutions being honoured.
We’d like to extend a special thank you to Gemma for the passion and enthusiasm she has brought to the Gay Times Honours.
The recipients of the Gay Times Honours 2017 were decided by an esteemed panel of educators, activists and creators who volunteered their time and who worked hard to ensure comprehensive representation of the LGBTQ experience across the shortlists and Honourees.
They included Simon Millson, Topher Campbell, Polly Shute, Dr. Seb Buckle, Jacqui Gavin, Jon Huggett, Simon Black, Philippa Drew CB, Ryan Butcher and James Frost.
The Gay Times Honours 2017 was hosted by Jinkx Monsoon an Freida Slaves to an invited LGBT+ audience.
More information on the Gay Times Honours can be found here.