Today I’d like to take the opportunity to touch on a subject that many people find very uncomfortable. Sexual orientation and gender bias. I know people and have friends from all walks of life. I have straight female friends, I have straight male friends, I have bisexual friends of both genders and I have gay friends of both genders. What I never really thought about before or really knew anyone or anything about other than what I’ve read about or seen on TV was transgender.
When my two older kids were in elementary school, there was a little girl in one of my kids classes. I had always thought she was “different” but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. She was always a very sweet little girl but always seemed very sad. She seemed to long for acceptance and affection. My heart always went out to her. She always seemed to feel out of place. I understood that part because growing up I always felt out of place (for different reasons).
When they got to middle school and high school and the awkward stages of growing up she seemed to feel even more out of place, more lost, isolated and I always worried about her. Even after they graduated high school I would see her around town or at the mall and was surprised but not really shocked to find out that she had started going by what seemed to me to be a male name (I didn’t realize it was her middle name) and to see her dressing more in male clothes. I just assumed that she had “come out” and decided she was a lesbian and was living as such. See my ignorance… still not a clue about transgender.
I was her friend on FB and she and I would occasionally “chat” online. I knew she had joined the military and it seemed to be a good fit for her. The other day I saw a note she had posted and asked permission to post it on my blog. This really touched my heart. Please take the time to read HIS story. It all makes so much more sense to me now.
My story begins at a very young age. I didn’t understand why I wanted to hang out with boys and would stare at girls. I didn’t understand why I didn’t want to do normal girly things or why I wanted to play with boys toys and wear boys clothing. I knew enough that I wasn’t supposed to like girls, I just didn’t know why. Into school age I spent my days ripping lace from my socks and tearing holes in my pantyhose on purpose. I was a tall, skinny kid — my mother started taking me to Horsetown to purchase my clothing so they’d fit without alterations. I wanted a cowBOY hat and cowBOY boots and pants and anything else cowBOYish. Through these years, I prayed nightly I would wake up a boy and much to my disappointment every morning, I didn’t.
Enter 5th grade. Enter the beginnings of the awkward stages that didn’t end until I was 18. In 5th grade it became increasingly more important to wear “support.” I rebelled against this idea which brought on my slouching habit. I reveled in the fact that I was much taller than the other females so I didn’t quite feel like I was “one of them.” I tried to have and attend sleepovers a few times only to end up feeling like I didn’t belong. Through middle school I was ridiculed and bullied many times for A. the hairstyle my mother made me wear (what was she thinking?!) and B. because being “gay” wasn’t ok and they “needed to know if I was or not.” I went through those couple of years feeling alone in a cage…hidden. My sanctuary in the middle school years became my love for the French language and singing.
Into high school I decided I’d try something different with my look. I’d actually give in to the peer pressure and try to pull my hair back, wear it in feminine styles, wear low-cut shirts and regular bras…. I tried to do what the popular kids were doing but was quickly overwhelmed with the lies of this lifestyle for me and fell into prescription pills and depression. Luckily there were a handful of wonderful people in my life then who told on me and I’m probably still around today because of those young ladies. I succumbed to the pressures of living “the straight life” and slept with a male. I tried to be straight so my parents would be happy with me, so I wouldn’t be ridiculed anymore, so I could be “normal.” I tried to dress that way, I tried to act that way, I slept with a guy to be that way. I did it just to say that I made the effort to be straight, but it just wasn’t my personality, it just wasn’t happy, it just wasn’t me. My Junior year I began picking out my own clothing. I fed my mother some crap about how since I was so skinny and tall that men’s jeans would fit me better because you can choose waist and length. As true as that was for me, I just wanted to wear men’s clothing. I felt extremely weird wearing women’s clothing and I had become extremely depressed because of it. If it weren’t for taking Ms. O’****s Pacesetter class, I don’t know if I would have graduated I was so depressed. It really helped me, all the creative writing and the books we read. I was dating a female I was working with going into my Senior year. It came around time for the prom. I had no interest in going, but my gf’s best friend just so happened to be going with someone else in my class and wanted her friend to be there…and how convenient…I went to the same school. I had to come to the decision to go to the prom, then I knew I wasn’t going to be going in any dress……I went ahead with what was most comfortable, a tux. From our entering the door teacher and student mouths were dropping open, fingers pointing and whispers being passed around. Silence fell on the teachers except for Ms. O’*****…. she pulled me aside out in the lobby and asked to take a picture of me. The only adult who spoke to me. I attempted to stay hidden in the corner of the dancing area. Only 1 student spoke to me as well. A female a year younger, said that she thought it was really brave what I’d done and she thought it was really cool. Prom was exactly 2 weeks to the day before our graduation and for those next 2 weeks I swear I was the most talked about topic on campus.
I left school having this realization I was “gay.” I’m a female who likes females. I began performing drag around Atlanta, started seeing what other Atlanta gays looked like. Some “butch” or “stud,” others “femme”…… I couldn’t understand why two butch girls wanted to be together. I couldn’t understand why two femme girls wanted to be together. What’s wrong with these gay people in Atlanta? I didn’t realize until I was speaking with one of the drag kings that there was such a thing called “transgender.” He didn’t really say much about it, just said that’s what he was. I’d always heard of transsexual and gay. I didn’t want to be labeled transsexual because they were freakshows. Gay meant you weren’t going to heaven because baptists said so, but it was better than transsexual…so I went with gay. It wasn’t until the trans couple, the trans man who carried the baby for his wife went on Oprah. I listened to his story and thought back about Noah, that drag king I’d talked with. It became clear to me that this is why I never felt like I fit in with gays. This is why I never worked out trying to be a hetero female. This is why I never understood butch with butch, femme with femme. I’m transgender. I have, since I was small, always felt like I didn’t belong as a female but knew I wasn’t a male. I have become as close to male as I possibly can in appearance over the years without actually transitioning. I understand why I’ve struggled with depression all of my life. I understand why I hate being in pictures and videos. I understand why I lied to so many people about so many different things, I understand it all. I have, for as much of my 26 years as I can remember, always felt like a male…I’ve just felt trapped and held hostage in a female body.
Have you ever heard about those people who have a family in one state then a family in another? This is the life I’ve had to live since 2009 when I began living to others as a male in certain places and others knowing me as female in other areas. Do you know how hard it is to have a fb page with these 2 worlds colliding? How I have to police what people write? How I have to watch what I say? Have to block information on my profile? Pictures? Etc? This part of my life is why I will not be reenlisting or even extending my military contract even though I belong in the military. I love it, it’s the only place that’s ever made me feel like I’m worth a damn. Unfortunately I have to give up on that love to stop living a lie.
So, to tell you the truth: I’ve always felt like I was a guy stuck in a woman’s body. I loved performing drag because women wanted me as a man and not as a butch female. I did start going by Ashton (my middle name) at work because there was someone else working there with the name S*****, but I soon liked being referred to by a unisex name and continue to use it today. There are people in some towns who know me only as a male and I feel like that’s how it should have always been. I have struggled for many years with going to Pride because I don’t feel like I’m gay. I was in relationship this past October when Pride rolled around, I said I’d go because it’s fun even if I don’t feel like I belong. We went knowing that at some point we would like to make our relationship official yet we had no plans of marriage at the time & no rings. We said, if we find rings we like, we’ll look further into it. Out of ALL the vendors, we both liked just 1 ring each. We then said, ok, if we’re able to register for the ceremony here, then we’ll do it. You can register the day of. So, as of October 9th, 2010, I was married in Piedmont Park to a lovely young single mother of 2 awesome kids. I am a stepdad (looks weird, huh) of a 10yr old girl and a 5yr old boy. We hope to have our own in the next couple years, but my being transgender and my horrible illness back in 2003 may kill that dream.
So….now what? What do I call you? What happens when someone “transitions?”
Transitioning begins with therapy that continues through the hormone treatments. From there you may undergo top surgery that removes the breasts and reconstructs the area to look like a male’s chest. For me, I could care less about shaving, I could care less about having a Barry White voice, I just want my chest gone and to be legally recognized as a male, no strings attached. No, “Ashton used to be a girl” or “not completely a male,” just a male. Even though I will tell you I don’t care if you say “she” or call me by my first name, I truly prefer male pronouns and Ashton, but I surely can’t expect anyone to just jump on board with something that sounds weird at first. All I ask for now is that if you’re uncomfortable with this at first, just refrain from using any pronouns or names, especially in front of my kids. This is something I will discuss with them in the future when they’re old enough to handle it, not now. I will expect everyone to move forward with the male pronouns and name eventually, but there are many moons before that time.
I hope I’ve covered my story well, there’s so much to say about it and there’s so much to miss. I want to thank you for taking the time to read this and allowing me to take this burden off of my shoulders. I hope that I do not lose you as a person in my life, but I will never be mad at anyone who just can’t find it in themselves to be around me and my choices in life. I wish only the best for you. I am deleting this fb in the near future, because there are so many people blocked from this that and the other I’d rather just start fresh. SO…. if you wish to no longer be in my life you are free to delete yourself or wait for me to delete this page. If you’d like to follow me on this open journey through life…
I would like to move forward with my new profile as open as possible, but I’d rather not make this transitioning thing the theme of my page where my wall is full of heartfelt messages so if you’d like to know more or if you’d like to say something, send me a fb message or an email. Thank you for being in my life, you’ve made a difference and I feel I owe this truth to you. I hope you will join me as a large support group to lean on as I enter into this next chapter. I love you all.
My heart goes out to this young man…. Yes, I said MAN. That’s what he wants to be recognized as and that’s what I will try my best to do from now on. Yes, it will be hard since I have known Ashton since elementary school and I’ve always known him by his “female” name. I hope not to mess up and I hope that I might be a support to him since he told me that his parents have turned their backs on him. He hasn’t spoken to his mom in over a year. I cannot imagine going a year without talking to my child. I thought our roles as parents were to support our children, especially in attaining their hopes and dreams. And this is Ashton’s hope and dream. It’s not like what he’s doing is illegal or going to physically harm anyone (other than what he will have to undergo to transition and that is his choice).
I do want to make a clarification too. I sent this to Ashton after I finished it so he could proof it to make sure it’s correct and he felt he needed to clarify the difference between gay and transgender and sexual orientation and gender identification. This is the way he explained it: they believe transgender people become transgender in the womb. Males start out as female then change & the brain doesn’t move over. I don’t know how to then explain females who are transgender as I am, but it’s gender identity rather than sexual orientation. We never “feel” gay in our brains, just straight in the wrong body.
That said, my plea and my desire is that we can all open our hearts and minds and stop being so close minded to things that we might not consider “normal”. This is what is normal for some people whether not it is for us. We need to take off our gender biased glasses and accept people for what they are. It’s time we stopped discriminating against people because of their gender or transgender or sexual orientation. I also think it’s horrible that he can’t re-enlist in the military because he doesn’t “fit” into their pigeon hole assignment of sexual gender or orientation. He has been helping protect our country as a female so why can’t he continue to do so as a male? I find it unacceptable that he can’t continue to do what he loves because of something like this. Ashton, I pray that you find the happiness you so richly deserve.