Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Interview with Ashlee Edwards

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Ashlee Edwards, a young American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Ashlee!
Ashlee: Hi Monika, it's a pleasure talking with you today.
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ashlee: Sure, I'm 19 years old, really into film and television producing, and just like to go hiking and relax.
Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Ashlee: I decided to share my transition in a hope to show that it is OK to be yourself, and to show other girls like me that you're not alone in this.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Ashlee: I've been living full time as the woman I am for just over a year now. I've been taking hormones for a few months longer than that. I'm really in a comfortable place right now, and am just living life.

Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Ashlee: I am, I'm very happy. It's helped me to feel and look more like the woman I am. I'm very lucky to have been born with pretty feminine features already, but the hormones have definitely helped.
Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Ashlee: There wasn't really a specific time or revelation, but I've basically known in some way my whole life. I started researching what I was feeling when I was 11 or 12. And when I was 17 I fully accepted that this is who I am, and 18 when I came out. There had been moments where I've really felt like a girl, and then I think I would try and hide that, for fear of what my parents might think.
There were times in my childhood where it was pretty obvious though. I always hung out with girls more, I had a Barbie dream house, etc. Not to say that's the same examples for every trans girl or boy, just what I've noticed when looking back.

1 year of hormones anniversary.

Monika: For most transgender girls, the most traumatic time is the time spent at school, college, or university when they had to face lots of discrimination. Was it the same in your case?
Ashlee: Luckily for me I've not had to experience that yet. I came out right after high school, then I took a year off, and am going back to school this fall. So we'll see what happens then.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Ashlee: Yes, there are several trans role models who I really look up to. Janet Mock, who is the former People Magazine.com editor and a political activist, is really one of my idols. She fights for us every single day, she's a great role model.
Also Laverne Cox, who is a trans actress, and is in a new show on Netflix called Orange Is the New Black (which is really good, by the way), is a big role model for me, as she is also in the entertainment industry.
These are just a few of the growing number of great role models that our community can look up to.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ashlee: The hardest thing about coming out for me, was the fact that I didn't know how my parents and family would react, although they've all been supportive of me. I think the hardest part is probably the unknown, because once you come out, you feel so much better.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Ashlee: It's not great, but it's much better than what is was in the past, even like 5 years ago. It's constantly improving. More government agencies are letting people change their gender marker without surgery, and providing hormones for their employees. There's more awareness, and the support is constantly growing.

Monika: We are witnessing more and more transgender ladies coming out. Unlike in the previous years some of them have status of celebrities or are really well-known, just to mention Lana Wachowski in film-directing, Jenna Talackova in modelling, Kate Bornstein in academic life, Laura Jane Grace in music or Candis Cayne in acting. Do you think we will have more and more such women?
Ashlee:  I do. I think as our society gets more accepting, people will feel more comfortable coming out and being who they are.
Monika: Do you think that in our lifetime we could live until the day when a transgender lady could become the President of the USA?
Ashlee: I certainly think that someday that could happen, I'm just not sure how long it will take. I think that society is becoming more accepting, but I think that especially in America that there are still a lot of bigoted people, that it could take a long time for a trans President to become a reality. Although I sincerely hope that I'll be able to see it happen.

Year and half on hormones.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Ashlee: I do like fashion. I'm not really that big into it, but I do love looking at photos of it. I would say my style is pretty modest. Usually just a pair of jeans and a top. I really like flowy tops, like peasant blouse, etc.
I know, I know, they're kinda out of style, but I still have a soft spot for them. I also really like loose tank tops. And of course flouncy dresses and skirts, haha. I really love navy blue, and cream.
Monika: What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Ashlee: I think that transgender beauty pageants are all right, as long as its tasteful and not offensive.
Although I think that most trans women don't want special treatment, and would just like to compete in standard beauty pageants. Drag Queen pageants, on the other hand, I find offensive, as they seem to make fun of trans women, and it's like taking a step back for trans rights.
Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Ashlee: I'm not involved in my local LGBT community, as there isn't really a community where I live right now. Although I'm moving to a bigger city this fall, and plan to be involved there. I'm very involved in online petitions and such though, which I believe is really important too.
Monika: Do you intend to get married and have a family? Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ashlee: I completely intend to have a wife and kids some day. It's very important to me. I haven't dated before actually, as I wasn't able to be who I am before a few years ago. But I very much am looking for love, and want to be loved in return. And I'd really like to adopt, and be a mom.

Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Ashlee: I would say that while it is scary at first, once you are able to be yourself, it truly is liberating and wonderful. The earlier you transition the better, as it gives your body more room to adapt and change, but you've got to do what's most comfortable for you first and foremost.
Discrimination and hate is very scary, but I would say its more important to be yourself, and not let anyone tell you different. You've hot to be yourself, but also when it's the most comfortable and safe.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Ashlee: Next step for me is going to school, and then hopefully becoming a television producer. Transition wise, I'm going to be starting electrolysis on preparation for surgery.
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Ashlee: I am definitely a happy woman, yes. Very very happy.
Monika: Ashlee, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Ashlee: Of course, Monika! It was fun! Thank you.

All the photos: courtesy of Ashlee Edwards.
© 2013 - Monika Kowalska  

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