Monday 17 March 2014

Interview with Ashley Jones

Monika: Today’s interview will be with Ashley Jones, an American video blogger that documents her transition on YouTube. Hello Ashley!
Ashley: Hello and thanks for having me!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ashley: Sure thing! I am 23 years old, half Russian and half Ukrainian. My hobbies include: mixing/producing EDM music, playing guitar, doing yoga, and running. I’m a “gamer girl” I mostly play RPG’s, MMO’s, Sci-Fi and Fantasy games. I also love me some anime!! Top 3 would be: Cowboy Bebop, FLCL and Samurai Champloo.
I have been on hormones for 1 year and I would like to try to reach out to the LGBT community and help in any way I can! I have been through a lot of pain in the time I've spent transitioning and I would like to help others get through it all and be proud of who they are. The transgender community has a 41% suicide rate and I think that enough is enough!! If I can help just 1% of that 41% than I will be happy.

Monika: Why did you decide to share your transition details on YouTube?
Ashley: Well at one point in my life before my transition (around 21 years old) I felt very bad about the whole thing, like I was a freak for even thinking of transitioning. It got so bad that I almost committed suicide but in that instance something hit me and I thought to myself “How many others have done this? Could I be the solution instead of the problem?” 
From then on I started my transition and after a while I started to try to help people instead of add more to the problem and my life changed in many positive ways and I felt better than I ever thought I could.
After about a year one on HRT my closest friend Puppy (nickname) kept pestering me over and over to “Make a YouTube girl!!!” and many others asked me as well until I finally said “Fine just stop bugging me about it!!”and so here I am now.
Monika: At which stage of the transition are you right now?
Ashley: I am currently 1 year and 3 months into my transition.
Monika: Are you satisfied with the results of the hormone therapy?
Ashley: Very satisfied!! I couldn’t be happier! My skin, hair and nails have gotten softer, hair growth has slowed down tremendously I gained “girl fat” everywhere so my body looks more girly and my mood and thinking is even a bit changed now oddly but in a good way.

Rocking out in her room.

Monika: Could you describe your childhood? When did you feel for the first time that you should not be a boy or man?
Ashley: My family came from Russia to Washington State when I was only 1 year old, they were very religious Christians and didn’t tolerate anything to do with the LGBT community, they thought it was all wrong and sick and they all needed help.
I had always felt different from all the boys when I was young, I never wanted to do sports or chase girls like they did, I didn’t like to gossip about girls and how cute they were and things like that, sometimes my friends would say “ so-and-so is getting so cute now! I would love to go on a date with her!” or something along those lines and all I was thinking was “I wonder how she gets her make-up like that…”
I knew this wasn’t normal for a boy but at around 8 years old I started messing with my mother’s wigs and make-up, it made me feel at peace and I felt more relaxed and myself for some reason, but I always thought it was so wrong! (Probably from of my parents and pastor beating it into my head all the time!).
Monika: For most of 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?
Ashley: I had kept to myself most of those years and I felt pressured not to transition or act on my feelings but I always in secret, tried ways of transitioning like eating things with a lot of natural estrogen and even trying to take menopause pills for woman to try to do something! But it never really did anything and I wouldn’t advise it to anyone.
Monika: Are there any transgender role models that you follow?
Ashley: Grishno from YouTube is an awesome Trans role model! She has such a great attitude about everything and I wish more trans women would be like her.
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ashley: The fear and uncertainty, I thought I was going to turn into a monster. I remember being so frightened! But now looking back, I am so glad that I followed my heart.
Monika: What is your general view on the present situation of transgender women in your country?
Ashley: I think things are getting slowly better here in the USA but I really dislike the healthcare system for trans people, we have to spend tons of money on therapists and doctors to tell us what we already know and then wait for an answer sometimes taking up to a year of precious time and sometimes they DENY you your medicine, I think this is so wrong! They need to have a better healthcare system for trans people and stop treating us like second class citizens.

Closer and closer.

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 witness the same trend?
Ashley: Yes, and I get very happy every time I see this happen, it is about time! We should all be able to shine in the spotlight no matter our gender or sexual orientation.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Ashley: I have only started my transition a year ago and about to start college so I am very busy at the moment, but I try to help the cause in any way possible, answering trans related questions, making YouTube videos about trans issues and things like that. Transgender women ARE women so I don’t see why they can’t impact politics just like any other women.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colours or trends?
Ashley: I love fashion! I have a bit of an eclectic wardrobe; I like a lot of black with spurts of colors like rainbows and things like that. I couldn’t really pinpoint my fashion, sometimes I’ll dress very girly, sometimes not so much. Just depends on my mood, and that is always changing!
I love Forever 21 and Hot Topic, Pacsun and Zumiez also American Eagle and Hollister (I know weird mix right??).
Monika: A little :). What do you think about transgender beauty pageants?
Ashley: I think they are awesome! Woman have pageants all the time so why can’t trans woman? I think it helps the community a lot by showing that you can be beautiful even if you are trans.

Ashley before and after her transition.

Monika: Are you involved in the life of your local LGBT community?
Ashley: I try to think more globally, I live around the Seattle area and there is already so much help here, I think it was rated the #1 best LGBT friendly area a couple months ago.
I do sometimes help trans people around the area when I can but like I said I try to reach out to everyone instead of just a small pocket of the world.
Monika: What would you recommend to transgender women that are afraid of early transition, discrimination and hatred?
Ashley: Trust in your heart! Do not listen to other people’s rude remarks, they are only showing you how bad of a person they can be, do not even give them a reply! Just keep walking with your head held high. If you are afraid, seek a local gender therapist, they can really help you feel better about the whole thing and show you that it is okay to have these feelings.
Monika: What is your next step in the present time and where do you see yourself within the next 5-7 years?
Ashley: I want to go back to school and maybe study psychology and become a gender therapist, I think trans people would listen to a therapist that has went through the experience personally than someone that has read about it in books and is just TRYING to understand it.
I have heard stories from many of my friends telling me they have been denied HRT because they choose not to have SRS. I think this is very wrong, some people just don’t want to take such drastic measures for many, many reasons including; fear of surgery, hoping for a better surgery in the future and financial issues. 
Monika: Could you say that you are a happy woman now?
Ashley: Definitely! I am more happy than I have ever been! I have stopped abusing drugs and alcohol, started exercising regularly and also started helping many people around the world with their issues. I truly feel I have made a great decision that will make me happy thought my whole life.
Monika: Ashley, it was a pleasure to interview you. Thanks a lot!
Ashley: No problem! I had a great time!

Links to Ashley's Pages:

All the photos: courtesy of Ashley Jones.
© 2014 - Monika Kowalska

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