Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Interview with Ashley Ackley

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Ashley Ackley, a transgender activist from the USA, and Iraq War veteran. Hello Ashley!
Ashley: Hello Monika!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ashley: Howdy! As of this writing, I am 26. I have been transitioning for over 3 years now. I work in the tech industry and am a run-of-the-mill geek.
Monika: Your story made headlines in 2012 when you asked the army to be re-enlisted after your transition, and they refused to do so …
Ashley: True. The mindset of the army is that there is no place for people with needs. I have met people who were rejected for having been on A.D.D medication. The logistics of just the social protections are so troublesome that the gay/lesbian population is still barely tolerated.
1 year into transition. Still
experimenting with clothes.
The shirt says it all.
Monika: Did you win in the end?
Ashley: In the initial goal? No. And I am thankful for that. I understand that accepting someone in the middle of transition would not be in the greater interest.
Monika: The army is a special place to transition. Were you satisfied with the way you were treated during your transition?
Ashley: I was treated well. I was already disliked among the unit and that didn't change. I even got my name changed and they processed the paperwork without question. It was fortunate that my enlistment was 6 months from being up.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Ashley: None at all. I knew nothing about the transgender community or its people. 
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ashley: The first step was the hardest. I had known for years that I wanted to be a girl, but actually doing something was a whole other issue. I tend to be pretty straightforward, so telling my family and friends wasn't much of an issue. The worst part was figuring out what to do.
Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in American society?
Ashley: The struggle is not unlike many minority groups. There is a constant fight to be taken seriously. I feel it comes down to that first.
Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in films, newspapers, or books so far?
Ashley: I compare it to the LGB representation in the 1980s. Most people know that transgenderism is a thing, but it's still seen as not OK to talk about. We need our version of Will and Grace to bring this into the light and work through the harder questions.
Monika: Have you recently read or watched any attention-grabbing book or event/film about transgenderism?
Ashley: Nope. I try not to get too involved outside of my personal life anymore. It takes a lot of energy and I am glad we have people doing it, but I can't.

There will never be a part of me that loves punk
and rock.

Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Ashley: While we do share some things, they are very broad. Most of the trans struggles seem to be specific to T and tend to leave the LGB part behind.
Monika: Is there anyone in the US transgender society whose actions could be compared to what Harvey Milk was doing in the 60s and 70s for gay activism?
Ashley: I have no idea. I don't follow closely.
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 don't engage in politics. I know we can make a difference as a checkbox for campaign hopefuls, but aside from vote grabbing we just aren't taken seriously yet.
Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Ashley: I am the world's worst trans woman in that regard. I am a geek and therefore wear typical geek stuff. My outfit as of writing this is a cowgirl hat, a lion king tee shirt, and sweatpants with a pair of heeled shoes. I would say my wardrobe is on the butch side. I never felt pretty in a sundress. I think it has to do with my doubt of passing, so I androgynize myself.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ashley: If you asked me 3 years ago, I would have told you it means nothing. I have been dating the love of my life for two and a half years now and I cannot think of anything more gender-confirming and good for my mental state than his love.

Again, early on in transition experimenting with clothing
and swimwear. My legs were so thin back then!

Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Ashley: I think my book would piss off too many people. I also think I have an incredibly common story.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Ashley: Not really. I have a Nintendo that I am turning into a retro machine, but that probably not what you meant!
Monika: What would you advise to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Ashley: This is where I get a little alienated from the community. I will be dead honest here. Look in the mirror. Find people who have transitioned that have your body type and your nationality. How did they turn out? Take a good look at your situation. How much do you have to lose?
Think long and hard because chances are that you will lose it all. If you do decide to take that leap, go slowly. Transition is a verb, it is action through time, not a noun. You will be amazed how much you change every 6 months. 3 years is a good number to get into your head. I'm still changing and growing both physically and mentally. It's a lifelong process.
Monika: Ashley, thank you for the interview!

All the photos: courtesy of Ashley Ackley.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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