Reflecting on inspiration

Sometimes that ‘On this Date’ app on facebook can wake you up a bit to your own progress and growth in some areas. I found this post below from 5 years ago about Jason Collins, who was the first NBA player – and first active player in the 4 main sports – to come out, and reflect back on the impact that had on me as someone who has been more of a jock their whole lives. I’ve always struggled to meet people who I felt like I could relate to and who had a similar journey to mine but this one was very similar. This one was inspiring and this was something that I could take something from.

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On this day I saw someone who I could relate to finding a lot of love and support. Some people were shocked at the news but ultimately just wanted him to be happy. I found myself in a state of regret and wish that I had done something sooner and lived things on my own terms – unfortunately, I still find the same to be true today. I was excited and hoped this may start a bit of a new normal but things have kind of died down and there hasn’t been much progress in professional sports. However, while we haven’t seen more athletes come out I would tend to think that people have continued to become more open and accepting. People are champions for equality and there is a lot of optimism that people can be accepted. Can I find my way?

I’d think that Ashlee from 5 years ago would be so impressed by where we are at today? She asked the question “Is it possible for me to be supported as Ashlee?” and I have found that to absolutely be true. People who have known me for 10-15 years have expressed that they no longer look at me as a guy and only think of me as Ashlee. Others have said they barely recognize me as a guy now because they are so used to seeing the pictures of Ashlee. They’re so used to that because I’m finally finding a way to prioritize myself. Finding a way to make Ashlee important and to not allow myself to get bogged up in all of the reasons why I shouldn’t do it and to embrace the reasons I should.

The jock role will always be a part of me. I will always have that history in me. This post has reminded me what is possible. What can be done and the way that we can inspire. There is a lot of good ahead.

❤ Ashlee

 

 

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Playing our role

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This quote! THIS! The message I have needed for so long is the one that I’m finally using to make my best life. For years I worried about Ashlee stuff and the impact it would have on others. What would others think? How could I ever be accepted as a woman?

I just kind of had to do it. I had to get out there and the more that I got out there, the more comfortable and at ease I felt. The more comfortable I felt, the easier it was to be confident in who I was – and people were noticing. Not only were they noticing but they were appreciating my willingness to follow my heart and do me – do what made me happy. The media can portray transgender people in such poor ways – as if we are something to be scared of. At this point, I’m someone that women want makeup tips from. Someone that they see how I can walk around confidently and that they want to do the same. That if I can live my best life that they can too.

As I have been able to commit to getting out as Ashlee more than ever before, I am so excited to find a whole different perspective – to have the ability to gain a little bit of a routine and always have something to look forward to. To not worry that it may be several months before I can be Ashlee again. I don’t need to wait – I can do what is best for me. I can find my path and I can make her a priority because she IS a priority. No matter what society says.

The idea of being an inspiration isn’t new to me. I do it in my work every day and get to work with amazing students at such a transformational time in their own lives. I have had many students praise me as a mentor and I have been honored to play such a role in their lives. As I have let Ashlee out more, it has been incredible to see that I can offer similar support and make a difference for people. We all deserve to live our best lives. As we go through time, it’s baffling to me to see how many different times in history people have fought against equality. How we repeat the same history to have a problem with one thing – we find that equality and realize that yes, we all need to be treated equally. Then the next social issue comes up and we have an issue with that too. But then we realize that people are people and that we are all worthy of equality and living our best life.

As a transwoman, I am valid. I matter. I have a place in this world. I have a lot to bring to this world and I have a lot of lessons I can teach people. I can love myself. I can appreciate the person that I am and the perspective I can have in this world. We all have such a great responsibility in this world to make it a better place. To leave our legacy, no matter what that looks like. I’m finding my way and right now it is all about making a difference in the community. It’s about changing the image of transpeople and helping people see that we ALL matter. So excited to have that opportunity and knowing that I’m starting to make a difference.

❤ Ashlee

The Meaning of Affirmations

“Hey Ashlee! Thinking of you! Have a wonderful day!!”

Those words came from a friend that I have know for 10 years. Just a few months ago if you asked her about me she would have thought about my connection with football or my work in the gym. She would have thought of me as a jock – the typical guy’s guy. Recently, I came out to her and told her about Ashlee. She was shocked and became even more shocked when she saw pictures of me for the first time and saw a beautiful woman. She could see my truest self in those pictures. She was touched that I felt comfortable to talk with her about this and as I allowed my guard to let down a little she was able to see how tortured I had been but now that I was letting my true self shine just how beautiful i really was. Recently, she shared that she realized that she just thinks of me as Ashlee – and when we talk that is who she pictures. We may communicate mostly through my male accounts which can show my guy side but she sees the person I am in my heart. When she thinks of me she thinks of my as Ashlee – the woman that she has known for a few weeks and not the guy that she has know for 10 years. It’s all about the heart.

When I’ve thought about transition this was always one of my biggest hang ups. I live such a ‘guy’s guy’ life that I often wonder how people are supposed to take me seriously as a woman. It’s been a place of shame and feelings that I could never be accepted. I’ve been very lucky to meet friends as Ashlee and it always felt that is where it needed to stay. Those that met me as Ashlee would know me as Ashlee and those that would know me as a guy would know me that way. They couldn’t see otherwise. But now, perhaps they can.

One of the beautiful things about where our society is headed is that many people can appreciate diversity and inclusion. We can open our mind to other people’s experiences and work to validate them. It may be coming slow but it’s coming and we see it in our young people better than ever. I am lucky to have friends that have always viewed me in a positive light but may have felt like something was missing as if they weren’t getting the true story. Now many of them are. They are seeing the truest piece of me and they are seeing my thrive. They are seeing me comfortable and genuinely happy. What is better than that?

We all need more kindness and love in the world and I am so proud to find my path to put this out there. My role is important. I have been able to start conversations with people about gender that never would have considered those issues and never understood the struggle. They are the people that are looking to learn more and become better allies and supports. That kind of work helps others and makes it easier for other people to come out. I am so proud when people share that they are learning more about gender and that their perceptions have changed after talking more with me about it. It’s a great way to contribute to the cause.

At the end of the day, I think we all crave to know we matter. That we are valid. That we count. It’s amazing to finally get that recognition and know that the opportunity is out there. No matter what path I go, I have options to be great. It’s an exciting thing.

❤ Ashlee

Prompt 9 – What are my priorities right now?

This prompt is appropriate as April often becomes one of the busier months of my year. This is a tremendous opportunity to settle down and re-examine my own priorities as I look at supporting my own self care during this chaotic time of year.

Life as Ashlee and finding my own acceptance is a strong priority for me right now. It’s been incredible to look around and find the many different ways that I’ve been accepted and encouraged to succeed. To be affirmed is one of the best feelings that I have some hope to find my path. I’ve set a goal to find a way to celebrate Ashlee at least once per week so that I’m able to allow my truest self to come out and that has been so good for my soul.

The easiest way has been to take the time to do something as Ashlee. To get completely made up and dressed up for the occasion. Even just a simple dinner can go a long way to helping me feel good for my soul. This commitment has made taking it all off so much easier and stronger because I am focused on knowing that I will make time again soon and there is no fear that weeks may go by before I am able to be here again.

For so long, the presentation was important. Feeling everything needed to be in place for me to be truly Ashlee but as I have come out more and have the opportunity to connect with others as Ashlee, it has taken it to a whole different level.

At the end of the day, this is a priority about my own self love. We all deserve the opportunity to have that self love and to practice it daily – to do what we need to feel comfortable in my own skin. I am Ashlee. I am transgender. I am valid. I matter.

Making that a priority has been the best decision I’ve made. I’m so proud of myself because I can finally say those things. We all deserve that.

❤ Ashlee

 

Prompt 8 – Letting go of the blame

This week’s prompt covers What’s bothering me? Why?

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A breakup’s aftermath can be hard – especially in this day of social media where your business can be plastered everywhere. People can watch your life unfold over someone’s social media pages and make their own assumptions about how what’s happening for you. A matter that should be private and shared at your own pace becomes everyone’s news.

Last month I wrote about a recent breakup and how our paths no longer intertwined. My partner is an incredible person and someone I truly admire. I wish nothing but the best of things for them but I know that our timing was just not right and our particulars just weren’t good fit. We both fought long and hard to do our best but in the end we weren’t good for each other and it was just causing more stress and sadness than good. Ever since our firm and final break, I have felt more at peace and I’ve felt lighter. The different stress is gone and I can be happy and at ease. It affirms the decision was for the best.

When prompted to think about what bothers me right now, my ex-partner’s attitude and attempts to victimize themselves is at the top of the list. Social media continues to be a negative platform to let this attitude fester. It is full of so many quotes aimed at taking shots at the other person and allowing the poster to remove their own accountability. There are opportunities to victimize oneself instead of looking inside to figure out where things went wrong. Certainly, there are awful relationships out there and situations where people are done severely wrong but in many relationships it’s about not being the right match – and that has to be ok. But we cannot blame other people for our life and we cannot let other people define it. I still struggle with missing my old partner – I miss what we had and what we are capable of. It’s a shame that our live particulars couldn’t blend but that’s part of life. It’s an opportunity to learn.

Now a days people are so quick to victimize themselves or look out to get back at someone. I think we need to look deeper in the situation and try to learn from each one. We are all responsible for our own happiness and if your partner isn’t making you happy, no matter how hard you BOTH try it’s ok to walk away from that. There is someone better out there for you and there is someone better out there for your partner. Getting to that point of acceptance is the best thing for anyone going through a breakup. Appreciate the good from the relationship, the lessons learned, and hopeful the good memories along the way but also understand why you are no longer together – which includes your own contributions to the relationship as well. Acceptance finally gives you that welcome sense of exhalation. You come to realize what the past meant and what the future can hold. Everything is alright again. You feel like yourself again and you have so much good ahead.

Unfortunately, my ex-partner isn’t there yet and I still have to deal with the jabs and the self pity. Getting scrubbed from social media – guess I should have saved some of those great pictures they got of me. But that’s where they are and that doesn’t define me. I can look in the mirror and know I gave it my best. I miss my ex-partner but I will never regret making the right decision for me. Maybe our paths cross again but if they don’t I will forever appreciate our time. Hopefully they get to that point of acceptance too. We all deserve that.

❤ Ashlee

Feeling like a fraud

Yesterday was the Transgender Day of Visibility and I felt like a fraud. I had a typical cisgender male day – I went to the gym, fixed up some things around the house, grabbed food with friends, and cooked up a steak. It felt so incomplete. I thought about all of the things I could be doing and how different things could be if I had the courage to be my truest self. So many people were celebrating their journey and being proud to be trans and I just sat on the sidelines trying to convince others that I was who society expects me to be instead of who I know I truly am in my heart. A constant struggle that I play with in my head that is always magnified in moments like these when so many are owning their truths and I continue to hide out of fear. Then reality set in that the encouragement truly is there.

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A friend of mine that I work with posted this on his facebook page. Another transman that looks at me as this great straight white ally hit on some of the things that I hold my biggest insecurities over. My biggest worries. The parts of me that make me question my validity and make me feel like a fraud. I’ve struggled in the trans community of being judged for my journey – in fact, people within that community have made me feel more invalidated or unworthy than anyone else – and some of my biggest concerns in coming out fully surround other transpeople that I have felt would judge me for not acting sooner. This friend has really looked up to me as the “straight white ally” and has felt that if a “guy’s guy” like me can be open and supportive than anyone can. I worry about tarnishing that for him.

Two years ago, he sent me a throw away email wanting to learn more about our policies around transpeople as he was doing for the whole school. He had several meetings with clueless people who were severely uneducated about the topic and awkward in their response. In his mind, I had to be yet another waste of time that would further speak for how woefully under prepared we were. Usually guarded on these topics, something got into me. I responded with tremendous enthusiasm and told him how great it was that he was looking at this and how excited I was to talk with him about it. I didn’t know him well at the time but I could still tell he was skeptical about me when he came in – but then I blew him away.

I could speak his language. I could understand his concerns. I already had made policies and practices to support transpeople and make my area more gender inclusive. He was amazed at how well I spoke on it. I told him that people might not understand it from me, but it hits a lot closer to home than some people might expect. He left that meeting so thrilled that someone at the school got it. That he wasn’t alone in this. That there was opportunity to make a difference and to have someone in his corner not because they had to be but because they had educated themselves to think smarter – he just didn’t understand the scope and just how close it did hit me. I’ve felt that if I came out that it would let him down – that he would be disappointed that I wasn’t who he thought I was. When I read this though, I do feel like there is hope. Perhaps he could understand why I’ve chosen to live this way and why for me it just hasn’t been the right at this time and that I’m just not ready.

This is where the growth continues to come into place. I am so excited to be challenged to see where things may come and how I can keep working at finding my truths. I’ve been so fortunate to have had so much luck coming out to people but I have avoided him because I worried that it would upset him. Knowing that he can understand may change things and may ope up an incredible door. So excited to see where this takes me. The affirmation remains the same – I am valid, I am worthy, and I do matter.

❤ Ashlee

 

Pulled Over As Ashlee

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As we sit on the eve of the Transgender Day of Visibility (TDOV), I reflect on my journey over the last year and am so proud of my successes, growth, and progress. 2018 is turning into The Year of Ashlee and there is so much good ahead! I work very hard to be a positive example of the trans community. I always try to dress classy and appropriately for what I am doing and I blend very well into the community. I’ve been complimented by strangers who have told me how awesome it is to live my truth and to walk so proudly and just own it. My hope is that people can see that I’m not as different and they may think. They see someone who is happy with themselves – at least in that moment when I can be most authentic – and just living their best lives. I’m not the monster that the media may try to portray but just another girl looking to find her way in this world. Living in a mostly progressive area, I am fortunate that many people are open minded and can appreciate people’s difference. Overall my treatment has been amazing. When I’m not treated well, it’s a surprise and I ran into a situation last night that gave me pause.

I was looking at the GPS on my phone trying to figure out how to get home as the lights started flashing behind me – using your cellphone while driving is illegal. I pulled over and began collecting my things not really thinking about the fact that I was Ashlee. As the officer approached, it hit me that this could be interesting for the officer. He walked with a bit of a strut and actually had a bit of a grin on his face. As he approached and “smoothly” asked me for my license, I told him that I wanted to share that I was transgender and he immediately jumped back and got super uncomfortable. I told him I was looking at my phone because I was trying to pull up the GPS and could admit that I was in the wrong. He couldn’t have run away fast enough – and didn’t even ask for my registration. Shortly after he came back with a ticket and told me that they were really cracking down on it here. Yes, I was in the wrong. But I owned it. I explained that I knew what I did and why I was being pulled over. I was polite and courteous and I had my information ready to go. I am generally a safe driver and don’t get pulled over often but when I do, I usually know what I did wrong and I usually get off with a warning. I hadn’t gotten a ticket since my teens and this was the time that I got one? Over something small when I owned it? If I were presenting as a male and got the ticket then I wouldn’t think much of it but it’s very curious that it happened to me here. I wonder how much of me presenting as a woman impacted his decision to ticket me.

I can deal with a ticket and the consequences that come with it but the possibility that I was ticketed because I was trans really didn’t sit well with me. Perhaps how I looked had nothing to do with why I was pulled over but it breaks my heart that it could have been. That I could have been targeted or mistreated because I was different. But this is small stuff – and the situation could have been much worse. I never felt unsafe. I never felt that things could escalate. This was minor. But for many transpeople, these situations are all too common.

Discrimination for people that are transgender is rampant. This is the reason that we need to have a Transgender Day of Visability. We need to make this world a kinder, more empathetic place. Our young people deserve a better opportunity than what I had and what others before me did. We need to be better. The statistics are scary! Recent statistics have shown that 80% trans students feel unsafe at school because of their gender expression. 50% of trans people have been raped or sexually assaulted by a romantic partner. 49% of trans people have reported physical abuse. 1 in 5 transgender people have experienced homelessness in their lives. 41% of transpeople – myself included – have attempted suicide. Quite frankly, we need to be better.

This is why this conversation is important. This is why I walk into places with my head held high and that I work so hard to represent my community well. I’m proud to have been praised by my friends who are more open minded and understanding about trans issues – that they have taken the time to learn more about trans issues so that they can be as open and supportive as possible. Things are getting better and the future is bright. I will never know what that officer was thinking when he ticketed me. Perhaps I would have been ticketed no matter what. Maybe he did freeze and panic – and maybe it wasn’t intentional. My hope, however, is that he thought more about that interaction as well. In small town New England, I may have been the first trans person that he ever encountered. Hopefully he could see someone who was cooperative and respectful and that maybe I wasn’t as scary as he may have expected. Hopeful for that growth.

❤ Ashlee