Saturday 21 January 2023

Interview with Ashley Adamson

Monika: Today I have a special guest for you. Ashley Adamson is an American speaker and writer on transgender personal growth and advocacy, YouTube vlogger, and transactivist. She is the founder of the Trans Resiliency project and Trans Club - a community dedicated to supporting the transgender community. She has spoken at conferences and for NGOs, including UNICEF, universities, and corporations, and appeared in major media outlets such as MTV, USA Today, and DW. Ashley is the author of Trans Kung Fu: Awakening of Self Acceptance (2021). Hello Ashley!
Ashley: Hello Monika!
Monika: You seem to be a woman of many talents. Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ashley: Thank youuuuu! I'm glad you see that. I actually have no talents haha! I am just good at teaching myself whatever I need to do and that makes me appear like I have many talents but honestly, I'm just decent at a lot of things. Uhm, I dunno I guess the most important thing in my life's mission is to help thousands of people questioning and/or trans figure out who they are and then follow their path or life's purpose.
Monika: In your work, you focus on the psychological aspects of transition. This is something that we tend to overlook when we are so preoccupied with our actions to look feminine, to be real selves. I must say I made the same mistake. I thought that if get HRT, FFS, and GRS, my mental and emotional mindset will follow automatically.
Ashley: Hah! Yes!!! Wouldn't it be great if it were that simple? Honestly, that's where I think we all start because it actually pulls out of us the innate feminine self that we hold and that feels good. But once you normalize putting on a dress or wearing makeup that euphoria and feminine self may need a little more pushing and opening up. I tend to look at it from a neurological perspective first - how is your brain wired and conditioned? Mind second, what is your self-talk? How voices are you programming yourself with and how can you change your programming? and then finally and more importantly, a spiritual perspective - which by the way I don't want to impose on anyone but tbh but yeah there's a self that is beyond your mind and body and I believe if you acknowledge it as a part of who you are you can really thrive into cultivating an authentic self that just flows through you.

"I guess the most important thing in my life's mission is to help thousands of people questioning
and/or trans figure out who they are and then follow their path or life's purpose."

Monika: I like your statement that we don't become someone else when we transition, as we become more of who we already are. Again so difficult to realize when we want to bury and forget our past in male bodies.
Ashley: Totally! Well, we want to bury our past and male bodies because we've realized it is not who we are. So it depends on where you see the foundation of your self. Is your foundation a male body and a male person? Or is your foundation actually a female, and feminine self? From personal experience, it doesn't feel like I invented a new person. Innovation takes a lot of energy. To say "I invented Ashley" doesn't feel authentic to me. (Though at times it can feel like you are "inventing" because you are trying new things.) 
What I believe is this - as far as it pertains to identity, there is a "you" and there is an "actual you." The calling to transition is really to heed the calling of the "actual you." This is the part of you that wants to live in harmony within your own being. That's what I tell the people I coach. They want to transition because they realize they have traveled too far off-center. It becomes exhausting keeping up with the charade and it no longer feels good.
With this framing, the "transition" is a tipping point in one's own cognitive dissonance. You discovered within you that you've been "pretending" to be okay with this charade and the pain is now too great to keep playing along. It's time to be the "actual you".
Monika: Isn’t it confusing?
Ashley: Yes, here's where it gets confusing and I understand why so many people make this mistake… When you realize you need to transition you aren't in the state of the "actual you." This is the scary bit. If you were the "actual you" and knew who that was, you wouldn't put up with this charade. So then you need to examine which parts of you are "pretending" and which parts are not.
The pretending version of "you" is the version of you with all the cognitive baggage that balances out all the dissonance you've hidden from yourself. For a lot of people, this is called denial and the discovery of it can be earth-shattering - it was for me. And so the transition is this epic story of a call to action from the "actual you" and the path of transformation and victory of the hero - who ironically was there all along. It kinda reminds me of the story of Siddartha and how he goes out there to find the truth only to realize that truth is nothing more than his attachment to it.
Available via Ashley's website.
Concerning your self, what are you attached to? What have you been led to believe? And who is actually there behind your eyes? This diverges from the topic a little but I have gone pretty deep into self-inquiry and I have found no end to the layers of the self. Suffice to say there be dragons!!! Of course, nothing to worry about that, all of it serves to empower you on your journey and uncoil the mysteries of "reality." OKAY ASHLEY BACK ON TOPIC!!!
Monika: It feels like removing our own image…
Ashley: Yeah! So the transition is a process of shaving, discarding, and burning down the effigy of you. You have a superimposed image of self - the "pretending you," and you need to get rid of this image because it doesn't feel good. Since we exist in society (in mind and body) it can also mean you need to change your body to align you with your "actual you" which slowly emerges as you reconstruct yourself in your new realization. 
And this is painful. You fell in love with this effigy of you and others fell in love with it too. I've heard this over and over again from others in my life and people that I coach - it feels like death. Like you are burning the person you once knew. But this is good news because the phoenix arises from the Ashes and you get rid of the baggage that got in the way. I know we got really abstract there but if someone wants to take away some practical this is what I'm saying: Listen to yourself. See what feels right. Use that as your compass and you'll become who you really are. This goes with the saying "follow your heart."
Monika: We all pay the highest price for the fulfillment of our dreams to be ourselves. As a result, we lose our families, friends, jobs, and social positions. Did you pay such a high price as well? What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ashley: I transitioned at 32, with a career as a product designer in tech I am self-sufficient and was ready for the plug to be pulled from anyone close to me. But I think as a Californian, you're pretty well exposed to these ideas and so my family while it struggled for years on some level it was never a "we're excommunicating you" moment. As far as job security, I work in tech and they don't care about your gender so much as what you can do, and I do fine. I did almost lose my job though because transitioning can take so much mental space that you let things slip.
I feel like the price was my ego, my dreams, and who I was attached to. The cost of looking fear and the unknown in the face and walking into it. Admitting I've been wrong all my life and that I need to go into the void to find out what is there already within me. Things were hard at first for my family and friends to adjust, some best friends disappeared but new ones sprang up.
Monika: Was your family surprised by your transition?
Ashley: Yes, my mom said "I never knew" as if she would know when I didn't? Lol. My dad, he said it was like his "son is dying" which I get, but he is involved in AA and had social support to work through that. The oddest one was my stepdad, we have never spoken about it. It just seems like he plays along and my little sister stood up and really supported me to help the family adapt. Some time ago I actually interviewed her on my YouTube for this whole process.

"Don't worry or be sad about shit you cannot change. That's wasted energy that
takes you into shitty places."

Monika: Are you satisfied with the effects of the hormone treatment?
Ashley: An odd way of asking it as if I were a customer expecting results! lol It did what it could but I understand the body has a lot to do with it. I did my best to do it right with injections but I started at 32, so there are things that just don't change for me like my hips. I really wish I had a shot at it expanding when I was sub-25. My sister doesn't have much though nor does my family so maybe nothing there. I have paid through the nose for FFS though. I made a video on my $60K face and financial regret :D
Monika: We are said to be prisoners of passing or non-passing syndrome. Although cosmetic surgeries help to overcome it, we will always be judged accordingly. How can we cope with this?
Ashley: Good question. I believe anyone can accept where they are if they put in the energy to do it. Should they do that though? I don't know depends on what it's worth and how much energy/time it takes. I don't want to spend my whole life trying to accept my face that has been changed with testosterone. So I paid to have FFS solve that, I can afford to do it because I taught myself how to design and made myself into tech.
To me coping with problems of passing or not passing comes down to limitations of your locus of control. Don't worry or be sad about shit you cannot change. That's wasted energy that takes you into shitty places. Not worth it. I can not and will not get hip augmentation, it's something I really want but I don't think I can do it successfully given my body type. I can't have ribs removed to get my larger ribcage smaller, I already talked to a surgeon about this - it will not work. So I MUST come to terms with the fact that I can't change what I cannot change. There's no other choice except face the feeling of despair for something I cannot control. So when it comes to coping you just have to ask yourself: "can you control this? Can you change this?" If the answer is no then move on. If the answer is yes, then turn that into a burning desire and fire to move you forward and make the change happen. I saved up, figured out financial strategies and investment made it happen for my FFS surgeries.


All photos: courtesy of Ashley Adamson.
© 2023 - Monika Kowalska

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