British trans entertainer and advocate Chelsea Attonley has been found dead in a public park in Derby in the Midlands of England.
Attonley had struggled with her gender identity – at one point wanting to switch back to her previous name of Matthew.
This attracted widespread controversy in the UK press and in the trans community.
But despite this she had been heavily involved in the trans community, hosting the stage of leading UK trans festival Sparkle.
An ambulance was called to Bass’s Recreation Ground in the Derby city center around 12.40pm on Friday (29 July).
Attonley had initially been reported to be unconscious but the emergency services later confirmed she had died.
Police in Derby told GSN they do not believe there were any suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.
Chelsea’s transition story
Attonley, who was 33 on 25 July, had frequently shared her transition story.
As a child, called Matthew, Attonley struggled with gender issues and comfort ate, growing to 26st (364lbs, 165kgs) before joining a gym and becoming muscular.
When that new body didn’t deliver happiness, Attonley was inspired by Katie Price and modeled herself on the star.
Eventually, she met Price by chance in a club.
Attonley later told Closer magazine: ‘[Price] asked if my boobs were real and when I told her they were blow up ones she poked them because she didn’t believe me.
‘She said I looked great. She was really nice and down to earth. I told her one day I wanted real boobs bigger than hers and she said “Go for it!”’
A year later she paid £5,000 ($6,590 €5,900) for breast surgery in Thailand.
She also lost weight to help make her eligible for gender reassignment surgery in 2007.
But then, in 2014, a new story emerged, that Attonley wanted to transition back to male and take on the name Matthew again.
The cost of breast reduction and giving her back a penis again was estimated to be £14,000 ($18,460 €16,520) by newspapers including The Mirror.
Britain’s TaxPayers’ Alliance was outraged, saying the National Health Service should not pay out again.
TPA research director Alex Wild said: ‘The NHS must prioritize crucial frontline services over ridiculous vanity operations.’
In fact, it’s not entirely clear she had ever actually had the first set of surgery as she said several times she still had a penis.
Her gender rollercoaster ride led her to depression and attempted suicide.
But in the end, she decided she definitely was Chelsea.
She later told The Daily Mail: ‘It’s taken a while but I finally realize I could never be anyone but Chelsea.’
GSN correspondent and trans expert Jane Fae spoke with Attonley about her changing gender identity last year.
Fae told GSN today: ‘The impression I got was that they were very conflicted that they really wanted to transition but the social difficulties made it impossible to do so. In a more accepting society, they probably would have.’
Helping trans people Sparkle
Even during this journey, Attonley was able to contribute to trans life in the UK – hosting the main stage at the annual Sparkle trans festival in Manchester for many years.
Sparkle organizers said today: ‘We are really sad to hear of the passing of Chelsea Attonley over the weekend. Chelsea was a bubbly, larger-than-life character who was key to the success of Sparkle in the Park.
‘Chelsea was a huge friend to Sparkle, and taught many of the team how to party. Her bubbly personality and presence will be missed by many all over the country, and by her Sparkle family. Our thoughts go to her family and friends at this time.’
Attonley was always keen to give a positive message to other trans people.
She told Closer: ‘I love my curves and I’m so happy with my body now.
‘I see myself as a role model for plus-size women. You can be just as sexy with curves as you can if you’re skinny.’
Speaking to Transliving magazine earlier this year, she told other trans women that achieving an ideal body was not realistic but they could still love the body they have.
She said of her body: ‘It may not be my ideal, but it’s me, and now I think I do me well!’
Sadly Chelsea’s dreams of becoming a talk show host or having a Cinderella carriage at her wedding, just like her idol Katie Price did, were never realized.
But friends have paid tribute to her on her Facebook page, highlighting her fun, outgoing personality and her kindness.
Note on names: GSN would not usually use the previous name of a trans person. However, Chelsea maintained Matthew Attonley as the prime name on her Facebook profile and continued to identify with this name too.