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April Ashley exhibition celebrates life of Liverpool trans pioneer

A new exhibition celebrates the life and work of leading Liverpool trans pioneer April Ashley.

The show, part of the city’s RISE programme of events, is being staged at Liverpool Central Library from tomorrow until the end of September.

Uncovering April Ashley’s Archive and Exploring Liverpool’s Trans Lives features the model and actress’s original birth certificate alongside her corrected certificate which she received following the introduction of the Gender Recognition Act in 2004.

Ashley was born George Jamieson in Liverpool in 1935, and in 1958 became one of the first people in the world to have successful gender reassignment surgery. She was made an MBE in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to transgender equality.

The exhibition also includes artefacts showing her role as one of Vogue’s most popular models along with photographs charting her glamorous lifestyle, correspondence with John Prescott - following a friendship struck up in the 1950s, and newspaper cuttings from when she was outed as a transgender woman by the Sunday People in 1961 and which illustrate the prejudice Ashley and many other trans people faced.

It also explores the private worlds of gender variant people including William Seymour – who lived in Liverpool as a woman in the 19th century – and will showcase personal items documenting the lives and activism of people and organisations from across Liverpool.

Uncovering April Ashley’s Archive and Exploring Liverpool’s Trans Lives is at Liverpool Central Library from July 4 to September 23.

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