To celebrate their 10th anniversary, Homotopia created the exhibition ‘April Ashley: Portrait of a Lady.’ She was one of the first people in the world to undergo pioneering gender reassignment surgery and had a significant role in Britain’s social and political development. The Museum of Liverpool (MoL) exhibition was the culmination of a far wider project to record the in-depth stories of twenty people from the Trans community, describing their personal journeys and the impact April had on them. Challenging homophobia and prejudice, the exhibition showed the progress society had made from prejudice to inclusion and how far there still is to travel.
April’s unique and previously unseen collection of photographs and personal documents inspired eight young people from the Homotopia youth strand to take part in training at Liverpool Record Office and catalogue the material. A yearlong series of reminiscence sessions followed where oral historians, community members and young people collected real-life stories. Further volunteers were recruited at these sessions to research the background to April’s objects and create a timeline of Trans social and legislative conditions from Ancient Rome to the present. An un-straight museum conference shared the project’s findings and helped heritage organisations make more inclusive exhibitions.
Beverley Ayre, Fundraising & Development Director at Homotopia, said: “Partnering the museum was a very different way of working. We were used to making decisions over a phone call so it was very different to have two months of meetings with 30 people. We learnt so much about heritage from MoL and I think we taught the museum some things through our arts and theatre based approach. Together we created a unique, ground breaking educational exhibition which we are all really proud of.”
More information about April Ashley can be found at the April Ashley website.