April Ashley, a transgender woman who was reportedly one of the first British women to undergo gender confirmation surgery and also the first known trans woman ever to appear in Vogue magazine, died recently. She was 86 years old.
Born in 1935 to a working-class family in Liverpool, she enlisted in the merchant marines in her teenage years. She then spent time in a psychiatric unit after numerous suicide attempts.
At age 20, she moved to London and then Paris where she performed at the queer and drag venue Le Carrousel nightclub. There, she gradually saved money to eventually undergo gender confirmation surgery in Casablanca, Morocco.
She chose the first name, April, because it was her birth month. She chose her surname, Ashley, after Ashley Wilkes, an anti-war and pro-abolition character in the book and film “Gone With the Wind” whose life dramatically changes following the U.S. Civil War.
Upon returning to England, she received government ID documents — like a driver’s license and passport — that identified her as female. She later appeared in Vogue magazine and appeared in films such as “Road to Hong Kong.” In that film, she appeared alongside big-name stars like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Joan Collins.
A central figure in many episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Carmen Carrera first appeared on the show in its third season, and was the second contestant in the show’s history to rejoin the cast after being eliminated.
She also appeared as a drag “professor” in the spinoff series RuPaul’s Drag U. Carrerra presented as male during the third season of Drag Race, and came out as a trans woman the following year, in 2012.
Since then, she has appeared in many magazines, including the cover for the fifth anniversary edition of Candy, and is involved with AIDS activism and advocacy.
Bambi Lake, a songwriter, performer, Tenderloin fixture, and former member of the legendary Cockettes — the gender-bending performance troupe that grew out of the queer spaces in the Haight of the late 1960s and deeply influenced modern San Francisco drag — has died after a brief battle with cancer. She was 70
For those of you who may not know, “Some Like it Hot” is a 1959 classic film directed by Billy Wilder. The plot revolves two band members from gangster era Chicago who inadvertently witnessed a mob killing. The plot thickens when they had to flee Chicago for Florida as members of an all girl band.
The movie stars Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon in drag along side a very sexy and glamorous Marilyn Monroe as the band’s singer. The movie moves quickly with many of the usual problematic happenings you would expect from two guys thrust into playing women to save their lives. Of course along the way, you are left to your own imagination on how the two obtained their feminine attire as well as other key activities.
I clearly remember I was ten when this movie finally made it’s way to television. As the family watched it, I had to act like I was disinterested when exactly the opposite was true.
Over the years, “Some Like it Hot” has obtained “classic” movie status and is definitively worth a view if you haven’t seen it. Especially the last scene which I won’t disclose. The Turner Classic Movie channel shows it every now and then, or maybe you can order it on demand someplace. But one way or another, it is wonderful fast moving comedy!
Marilyn is fabulous, seen below with Tony Curtis and Jack Lemon.
Recently, the cross dresser transgender group I am part of asked a question concerning who were our non binary role models growing up. Perhaps not so surprisingly that “crazy wabbit” Bugs Bunny showed up on the lists.
Growing up, the only major performer (other than Bugs) I can remember cross dressing many times was Milton Berle. Who I have added a picture with Bob Hope. (below) Of course, Berle always played his drag for laughs.
Moving ahead, times changed dramatically as the so called ‘reality” talk shows became so popular on daytime television. Every so often transvestites and/or cross dressers would turn up trying to explain the world from their viewpoint. Depending on the show of course, many times the participants ended up being cast in an unkind light.
From there, the shows completely deteriorated into the Jerry Springer show and it’s abuse of the transgender community. All in all, I am sure you all can add in your own transgender influences, good or bad.
The problem is, there were way too few to chose from.
Transgender inclusion has long been a point of controversy for the VHI reality series. While several notable transgender contestants emerged from the Drag Race universe — among them, Carmen Carrera, Jiggly Caliente, Sonique, and Monica Beverly Hillz — only Peppermint was an out trans contestant, on season 9. Gia Gunn also competed on All Stars 4 after coming out but noted in a follow-up interview that she felt “completely disregarded” by RuPaul and the show during the experience.”
Detox, Carmen Carerra and Aja
Ironically, on Facebook recently I became embroiled in a heated conversation with a big fan of the privileged “Rude” one who positively makes me sick anytime I see him.
Then again, I am seeing an uptick of rump supporters too lately which I am busily blocking. For some reason, I have been running into a number of old cross dressers who really don’t care rump and his minions are busily trying to erase us as LGBTQ citizens.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Rude doesn’t support him too.
To be sure, I won’t be watching the Saturday Night Live he is on.
Over my life, I have suffered from a love/hate relationship with my mirror.
It started early on as I benefited from a long hallway we had in the house which featured a full length mirror at one end. I could get cross dressed up and fantasize I was a beautiful girl. Unfortunately it was much later in life when I learned how wrong the mirror could be. The best example would be when the mirror thought one of my best described as a drag queen outfit would look good at the mall. I even put together a tennis outfit once. I can only imagine now how ridiculous I looked. In fact, many times the public told me with their reaction.
As the cell phone camera began to emerge though, the mirror emerged in a new light. Even though I owned an aging regular camera which has since went totally obsolete, the cell phone gave me a new avenue to view myself and show myself to the world. After extensive experimentation, I found I could take a better picture of myself if I took it from the mirror. Or so I thought. Seemingly, I could put any picture on a dating site and get a positive reaction.
Actually though, one of my pictures attracted my partner Liz on a dating site called Zoosk. Rest assured the process was long and grueling, as I suffered many cases of being stood up by men looking for a date. On the other hand, Liz was attracted to my photo because of my sad eyes. She felt a connection.
Every once in a while, I still sneak in a mirror picture. Here is one of my favorites from two winters ago. It was taken after a fun night on the town with Liz, in our hotel room. It had one of those fancy lighted mirrors in the room and I couldn’t resist as Liz was already asleep.
After I see it, I want to color my hair again and shift the part back to the center. I have to keep telling myself to stay the course with my current silver gray hair which according to my “experts” (Liz and my stylist) is kinder to my complexion, age etc.
Plus, this mirror pic does not represent my real everyday life anymore. As with any picture, it only represents a small slice of time.