“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.