Actress and transgender pioneer April Ashley was given a MBE for services to equality today (16 June).
Ashley, 77, was the first British person to have gender reassignment surgery in 1960, and since has dedicated her life to transgender equality.
She was given a MBE, or Member of the British Empire, as part of the annual Queen’s Birthday Honors list.
On her website, she says: ‘In Paris, I debated with myself the decision to have a sex change. It was a hard decision. I knew I would be pioneering a dangerous operation.
‘The doctor told me there was a 50/50 chance I would not come through. However, I knew I was a woman and that I could not live in a male body. I had no choice. I flew to Casablanca and the rest, as they say, is history.’
After her tortuous 7-hour surgery, Ashley became a successful model and actress, appearing in movies like Road to Hong Kong. She was outed as transgender by The Sunday People in 1961.
April Ashley’s Odyssey, a biography written by Duncan Fallowell, was published in 1982. In 2006, she released her first autobiography titled The First Lady.
Other people honored by the Queen this year include Take That’s Gary Barlow, and actor Kenneth Branagh.
Ashley is currently writing her second autobiography, about her life from 1980 to the present day.