George Jamieson aged 17.
Courtesy of April Ashley
"I was born a boy in the Smithdown Road Hospital, Liverpool, on 29 April 1935." April Ashley
A difficult childhood
April Ashley was born George Jamieson, one of six children to Frederick, who served in the Royal Navy, and Ada, a factory worker.
The family's poor living conditions meant they were soon moved by Liverpool Corporation from Pitt Street, in the Chinatown area, to Norris Green. Although born a boy, April always felt and looked like a girl. Childhood was a lonely and very confusing time. At St Teresa's primary school she was bullied for being different. As a teenager April did not grow facial hair, her voice refused to break and she began to develop breasts.
Struggles with identity
Aged 15, April joined the Merchant Navy as "I decided to face up to my situation and it seemed to be one of the things that made you a man". Feeling and looking different in this very masculine environment, however, was very challenging. Whilst on leave in America, and seeing no way out, she attempted suicide in 1952. After recovering she was given a dishonourable discharge.
Back in Liverpool, April continued to struggle alone with her gender identity and in 1953 made another attempt to take her own life by jumping into the River Mersey. She was sent to Ormskirk Hospital psychiatric unit and later treated at Walton Hospital. Her care was brutal and included sodium pentothal injections and electro convulsive treatment followed by a course of male hormones. The experiences were devastating and had a detrimental effect on April's health and well-being. In 1955, aged 20, April decided to leave Liverpool for London.