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.