Hello. My name is Ashley. Or at least, I want it to be. Every transgender story I read about starts the same: signs in childhood, experimenting with clothes and such in high school, stuff like that. Transgenders always seem to have a sense of themselves even from childhood. But I never did. I really can’t remember much of my life, which I blame on my terrible memory. I’m 21, and I can barely recall things before high school. One thing I know though, is that I never really wanted to be a girl until I was almost 20.
I’ve always had trouble fitting in with guys. I was never on the same page as them. It was like talking to a different species. They’d go off on tangents about footy and cars and how ‘hot’ certain girls were, but I could never relate to any of that. I was much much better at talking to girls, admiring their jewellery, or how cool their new clothes were. Looking back, I remember it was extremely easy to talk to them about pretty much anything. I could fit in with a group of girls and feel completely at ease. If I was surrounded by guys, I was on edge, like something was off. But I never thought about changing. I just figured I was effeminate or something.
When I finally knew I wanted to be a girl, it was at the age of 19. Always feeling different, and being bullied every year of primary and high school because of it, left me with a really low self-esteem. I became suicidal. Not so much in a pro-active sense… more in a sense that I viewed the concept of death as a relief, a way out. I still feel that way sometimes.
When I was 19, I bought a game for my XBox 360 called Left 4 Dead. It was the first ‘scary’ game I’d ever wanted to play, and I was determined to try and become tougher. Boys aren’t meant to be scared of zombies, right? After starting up it was time to pick a character to play as, and on some odd instinct I instantly chose the only girl in the game, Zoey. It’s funny. I actually remember always playing as the girl in games, though I’d never wondered why. Escape, maybe? Some sub-conscious desire to not be myself for a while? So we start the game, and I’m playing as Zoey, with my friend as one of the guy characters. Together, we finished the entire game in one night, which was great fun. What stuck with me though… was how much I could relate to Zoey. An insecure nerd full of useless trivia. She was me with boobs, basically. And that got me thinking…
I had so many feminine traits. What boy wishes he could wear colourful jewellery? Or ever wondered what dresses must feel like? And I had always hated looking at myself in the mirror for some reason. My own reflection actually scared and angered me, like it was someone else. That was something I’d always dismissed as a result of my low confidence and depression. But it was more than that. I had never really ‘fit’ into myself, I had always known I was different. I just never really knew how. But seeing this ‘female me,’ even if it was just a fictional girl in a video game, made me start to realise things about myself. Things I needed to test.
I managed to buy a long brown wig and a red jacket, similar to Zoey’s. It was a man’s jacket, but I had to make do. I also had some socks I’d rolled into balls to see what it’d be like to have a bust.
So I put on the wig, put on the jacket, and stuffed the socks roughly where my ‘chest’ would be. Then I looked in the mirror…
I just stared at myself for what felt like hours. I could barely break eye-contact with my reflection. Because it was MY reflection. I wasn’t staring at this boy I’d been trying to be for the last 19 years in order to fit in anymore. I was looking at me.
I was looking at the REAL me.
Within the next few days I began cross-dressing for a few hours a week whenever I was alone. I wasn’t doing it for self-gratification or to rebel, I was just doing it because I needed to experience what it felt like to be in the right body. I bought a better wig, I bought nicer clothes, and I picked a name out for myself: Ashley. I wasn’t some bizarre alternate ‘female me,’ I wasn’t putting on some act by becoming her whenever I could. Being Ashley WAS the real me, the me I’d wanted to be for so long without even realising it.
My male self was the act! How could it have taken me so long to understand that? I was never happy being a boy! How could I have put myself through that, just to please the people around me, who all expected me to be the boy they were used to? Why am I doing it now!?
My mother blames herself and views what I’m doing as a cry for help or something, and I have so many little doubts in my head, like whether or not I’m being selfish or if I really am transgendered. I was reading this webcomic by a transwoman called Venus Envy and couldn’t believe how many parallels my life had with the girl in the story, but there’s still something I can’t figure out.
Why did it take me so long to realise I wanted to be a girl?