“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.
Returning to the prompt challenge to discuss Little Victories and Successes!
When I think about a little victory and success that I’ve had recently, it was most related to finding my way as Ashlee. To own my truths and be my best self. To be proud of who I am and know that I belong. To know that I can be truly accepted as my truest self and seen for my heart.
I’ve met a lot of tremendous people as Ashlee. I’ve met friends who knew me as a boy as Ashlee and have had them appreciate this more true version of myself and see that this truer side had been there the whole time. More recently, I’ve had the opportunity to meet two amazing women who I had originally met online in the last few years. I met both women in a facebook makeup group. They were both incredibly beautiful and so talented with their makeup. We got connected and began to develop that online friendship. I found that they were both even more beautiful as people and both so inspiring for who they were. They were encouraging and fantastic at building me up. The exact kinds of people I would love to be friends with but always doubted could really ever see me as Ashlee if they saw me in person. I could always show my best selfies online and show off my best angles to look as feminine as possible – they would never have to see my real linebacker shoulders and have it ruin their view of me.
The first friend I met was in Denver when I was there for business. I was so nervous in feeling like I wanted to do my makeup perfect. She was so beautiful and so good with her makeup and I started to worry if I could keep up. All the doubt crept up in me – will she not think I’m fun enough? Will I not be passable enough or feminine enough? Will I just stand out too much? The second friend I met at her home south of Boston. She was also so beautiful and such a talent with makeup. She wanted to DO my makeup and help transform me. I worried about her “meeting me” as a male and having that cloud her vision of me. I worried that I would come out looking like a typical jock and it would ruin her view of Ashlee. I couldn’t have been more off with my thinking. Both women were incredible and they were just as genuine and supportive in real life than they were online. They were still building me up and still celebrating my womanhood.
I never could have imagined these kinds of friendships. These strong, inspiring, and beautiful women wanting to be friends with me as Ashlee and appreciate me for the person that I am. For viewing me for my heart and appreciating the light I could have in their lives as well. In both instances, we went out and and just enjoyed drinks and dinner. I could sit back with no worries – to just enjoy the evening and a night with a friend who just appreciated me for my heart and knew that deep down that I was a woman. I was just like anyone else. That’s a pretty great victory in my eyes. To just be and be happy with good people. Best victory there is. 🙂
Experiencing life in two genders can be such an incredible look at the way that we are socialized and how we are expected to act. Even the different mannerisms and cues that we each have become so different. Being someone who is trans but has very masculine tendencies these are things that I had considered when I finally began allowing my Ashlee side to live and get out there more. It can take a lot of mental thought to sit or stand a certain way that ‘Ashlee’ might do as opposed to what I have been socialized to do my whole life.
Recently, I found this hit me over the head on social media. Facebook’s new reactions have been a fun addition to the site. It can certainly cause uproar in some instances but for someone like me that really just uses facebook to keep up with people in my life it was a pretty simple addition. I have a facebook account for both my male and female accounts and on my Ashlee account I can’t hit that love button enough. Seeing other people happy is one of the things that makes me truly happy and knowing that someone is able to celebrate their wins on facebook is truly awesome, it doesn’t matter what it is. I think back to all the LOVES I’ve hit on my Ashlee page in the last week alone – a friend posts a selfie that she feels great about and you can see the confidence beaming from her: LOVE, a friend celebrates a new life change that has made her life free and wonderful: LOVE, a friend posts a loving picture with her child: LOVE, a friend NAILED a makeup look she has been working on: LOVE, a friend posts something proud of quitting smoking: LOVE, a friend posts an inspirational quote that really hit me: LOVE, a friend writes a blog that speaks to me: LOVE, a friend posts something where you can just see that she might need a little bit of love and support: LOVE – you’ve got this girl! Spreading the love is a wonderful thing – and from me it’s real. Each of those examples I listed – along with the many others I didn’t – are things that make me happy because I know that these things are making those people happy and that’s an awesome thing to celebrate and as Ashlee, it’s great to be able to do that and be real and spread that love and just send that message to the poster to say “this is fucking awesome.”
I had been on a run of LOVES on my Ashlee page and then logged over to my guy page. I scrolled through it a bit and found a beautiful picture of a friend of mine with his wife and young child and they looked absolutely adorable and so happy. I immediately hit the LOVE button….but then I remembered I wasn’t on my Ashlee page any longer…and then I changed the LOVE to a LIKE. I sat back and thought about the thought process that went into that. Just minutes ago I was loving posts left and right but the “change” in the person made me feel that I couldn’t show that same level of enthusiasm. I had to tone it down. It may be “just another like or love” to the poster and something that they wouldn’t think anything about otherwise, but I instantly felt a little bit of shame over it – like it wasn’t ok for me to LOVE this other guy’s picture. This is someone that I have been friends with for 20 years. Someone that works hard and has always been a great person – why wouldn’t I LOVE the fact that he has found a wonderful woman that he loves and has created a beautiful little family life? It’s just different for guys – and that’s kind of crappy.
As I have come out to more people, those that know me well would talk about how I always had those traits that are considered “more female” – that I was caring and empathetic and that I was more “soft” than most guys – but that I was this football player so how could anyone really expect this? Some of these things that I almost felt like I had to tone down to not be considered weak were actually points of strength and points that I should be willing to embrace and own. What a freeing feeling that realization was! As I have become more comfortable with myself and gotten that reinforcement to just be me, I have been able to allow that soft side to show more and it’s amazing the positive impact that it seems to show in my male life as well.
I really started letting it loose in the workplace. I work with college students and have always had that jock image – but more recently I have used it to my benefit to get students to think differently. If I can have a caring and supportive mindset and allow someone to be soft, then anyone would. If I say it’s ok to cry or show some emotion then people – my male students especially – feel ok and safe to do so. What an awesome power! I’ve created this wonderful safe space for my students – a spot that they can let their guard down and where they can be their true selves and not worry about that macho bullshit that they might feel they have to let out otherwise. Not only has this space been created but they come back for more and know that they can count on me. I’ve always had that knack with students but this has allowed a whole new opportunity and allows me to better do my job to support students. In my personal life, it has been a tremendous benefit as well to support my friends and allow them to be open and real. Allowing friends that have been buttoned up for 20 years to come out with their own struggles and frustrations I have been able to offer true help and support much more than the “it’ll be ok, man. You’ll get through it” bullshit that most men deal with. My friends are thriving and getting the appropriate support that they likely wouldn’t be doing otherwise – and I am damn proud of that!
It’s funny to have a sneak peak into life as both male and female and see the noticeable differences. Here’s to hoping that we can do better as we move forward – to know that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, to empower ALL of our children, to teach consent and respect at an early age, to give all of our children their best opportunity to be the best person that they can be. But I do hope to continue to spread that goodness to all the people I can. To be more willing to talk about our feelings and not be ashamed of them. To know that there is a lot of wonderful in this world and the more that we can appreciate and build each other up the more wonderful it can be. I’m committed to continue to lead by example and hope that it can continue to blossom and that we can all just live our most authentic and true lives. It just feels better that way.
What would make me happy right now?
Consistency. Finding my path.
For years I have lived a life thinking that I am stuck. Stuck as a male who cannot transition or find a true path as Ashlee. My life was a secret and I lived in such shame, not believing I had this life in me. I have lived for so many other people and thoughts that I could never truly transition and that I would have to live in this life forever. Never quite fulfilled.
More recently though, I have challenged that thought. I have looked at different options and considered a transition more than ever before. For the first time in my life it looks doable – even believing in that is such a huge piece for me. I still feel like I have so many roadblocks – highlighted by my want to live for others instead of living for myself – but for the fist time there is a true hope.
I came out to many friends that I have known for a long time over the summer and their acceptance helped me get into a groove that I had not found in 10 years. I have been able to prioritize Ashlee time and make it my own. I have had 8 straight months of at least one Ashlee night and many of those months have had multiple opportunities. I am connecting with friends – those that I knew as a guy and online friends that I have known only through a computer. Most recently, I found outings just days apart with online friends that have built me up and made me feel welcome. They did not look at me different but they looked at me as a woman. The gender didn’t matter – I was their friend.
The idea of acceptance has been a beautiful thing. There is so much growth among our society and something that seems like such a big deal years ago really seems small now – I am judged for the person that I am and nothing else. It’s all about what is in my heart. Last week we saw International Women’s Day. So many people were quick to point out the importance of including ALL women – women of color, women with disabilities, and so many more, including transwomen. While it is always great to see that represented on random posts it really meant something to me when I had friends on both ends reaching out and wanting to include me as well. I have been accepted and loved as a woman.
As I move ahead and think about what will make me happy – I need more consistency. I don’t know where these gender issues will take me but having a plan is so helpful. One of the most important things and keeping me in my groove has been to have something to look forward to each time. I planned the next outing to keep a focus and know that even at the end of the night as I have to take my true face off that I still had something to look forward to. A true commitment to loving and embracing Ashlee has worked wonders for everything that I needed. That commitment to the next time has been a huge help but as I look forward I want to have a new plan to find the consistency in my options. Is there a way to give myself a few times a month? Can I make Wednesdays Ashlee nights? Are there different ways to incorporate Ashlee time even in the busy times? Finding those boundaries and setting those goals should help me find that peace into myself and the more that I can find that peace and the more I can break those parts down, the happier I will be. So much good ahead.