Ashe did not grow up in an accepting household as a questioning youth, they recalled.
“I thought I was just a tomboy but recall throwing tantrums when I was forced to wear a dress for church,” they explained. “My younger step sister vividly recalls my discomfort about being forced to dress like a girl. My lack of being accepted and feeling a sense of belonging as a child created lifelong consequences.”
While they were going through puberty, Ashe remembers being “angry at God,” or whatever idea of God they had at the time. They grew up in a Catholic, blended household as the oldest of six in the lower middle class. Fond memories of theirs were oftentimes set outdoors.
And in about second grade, Ashe had a crush on their teacher of the same sex.
“I thought I was just a tomboy that was attracted to girls,” they said.
As puberty raged onward, they became frustrated at the thought of having to wear clothing different from their brothers. So much so, they began acting out.
“I was so angry at my body because I couldn’t be myself anymore, so I started hiding and suppressing [myself],” Ashe said. “I did very well academically in school in an effort to find acceptance, but self-soothed with alcohol, starting around middle or high school.”
With an exception of their brief stint at Apple, they have not been open about their identity at their places of employment after nine years of active duty in the military.
“Ironically, the place where most of us spend most of our time, we hide and suppress our gifts and our uniqueness, because we do not feel empowered or safe enough to express them.”
However, a young child they became friends with a few years ago helped open Ashe’s door to discovery and self-acceptance.
“I have been friends with this amazingly brave young human since they were 6 years old – now almost 10,” they explained. “The more time we spent together, the more I saw myself. Through their experience of a supportive parent (who is also a very close friend), I found so much healing. It was because of them both, I found the courage to live my most authentic life.”
When Ashe began to come out, this time as queer, nonbinary, and trans, their conversation started with not “Will you accept me or approve of me?” but “It would be really great if you would support me.”
The first time Ashe came out was as a lesbian.
“My best friend, who is cis male and gay, is probably be the first person I could be myself with completely,” they explained. “He has been through everything with me and is the reason I am alive today. It takes an enormous amount of energy to pretend. Like nesting dolls, I couldn’t keep track of who I told my chosen or deadname to.”
They account coming out to their best friend as an “organic” process. However, when Ashe came out a second time — they said the first person they came out to was themself, describing it as a self-reveal or discovery.
“When I told others, they said, ‘We’ve been waiting for you to realize that,’ or they knew all along. It wasn’t a big event,” Ashe explained. “It was more of a self-realization and proclamation.”
Ashe remembers hurting their best friend from high school for coming out to her last.
“She was the one I was afraid to lose the most; it deeply hurt her,” they said.
However, they note the reactions and feelings of others is not their responsibility.
“If I am being authentic — living my truth — I will not apologize for that. But I will be kind and compassionate to others,” Ashe explained. “I will give them an opportunity to show up for me. If they cannot accept me, that is their choice. And now that I love myself, I can be OK with that.
“Sometimes people just need time to process. If they want to be in your life, they will come back into it. And sometimes they may not. By being my whole self, I find people like me.”
And beyond finding others like themself, Ashe credits a safe support system from recovery and their partner as assets to their discovery and self-compassion.
“It is no one else’s job to fix me, so to speak,” they said. “No one signed up for that. It is no one’s responsibility but my own.
“My significant other is my biggest ally and supporter,” Ashe continued. “At the beginning of this relationship was my clear expectation that I needed someone to be strong, to walk by me, and that I was not a secret to be kept. When [my support group] stands by me, stands up for me, they are creating a better place for all of us. It’s amazing what people will do if you take the risk and ask.”
Currently, Ashe is in the process of transitioning into the nonprofit sector. They will be creating an inclusive volunteer program along with using regenerative systems for others to find healing and thrive from the inside.
“My big dream is to co-create a nonprofit with my partner, an equine sanctuary for gender-expansive children and their allies to learn and grow together,” Ashe explained, “where nature is the container and both four- and two-legged creatures heal alongside one another.
“I have dreamed to serve the city and LGBTQi2+ community that I have always longed to return to, it took me over 20 years of therapy, recovery, military service, traveling the world and returning to Texas to realize I was looking for belonging the whole time,” they continued.
Amid seven and a half years of sobriety and moving back to Texas five years ago, Ashe now realizes the fundamental truth:
“Who would I be without my story?”
“I was so used to suffering, or self-victimizing — which took several years of recovery to accept — but I get to start a new chapter,” they explained. “Chapter 1 in the next book in the series: ‘My name is Ashe, my pronouns are they/them. It’s a pleasure to meet you. What are your pronouns?’
“From this point on, people know me as Ashe — not my dead name. Not who I was before. Once I got over the fear of impostor syndrome, I felt like a superhero. I created a world that began with a name I chose. A reclaiming. That’s so powerful and healing.”
“We get to be the authors of our lives.”
And for those who aren’t comfortable, safe or ready to come out, Ashe wants folks to know that they understand.
“I share my story in such detail so maybe people can see themselves. Find even one person you can be safe with,” they noted. “You are not alone. Create a safe group at school for people like you; be an advocate for yourself first.
“I cannot give what I do not possess. For me, it started with self-love and self-trust. Having a support system in place: a friend, a kid’s best friend, a lover, a horse, a recovery circle, a therapist, and nature. Anywhere you can be yourself, find it like your life depends on it, because it does.
And furthermore, “you are an amazing gift to this world with unique powers.”
“The world needs you,” they continued. “Start small. Do the next right thing. Be kind to others because they are suffering too. Kindness opens doors.
“We decided as humans what that looked like, what the criteria was and what the rules were. Rules are guidelines — they are made to be challenged and broken,” Ashe said. “We limit ourselves so much with things we do not understand. We need to label or categorize so we can know where we fit in to survive and feel safe in a tribe, maybe it was necessary at one point in our evolution, but that time has passed long ago.
“Coming out is a lifelong journey; it is not a one-time event. Have patience with yourself, give others the benefit of the doubt and practice compassion. But above all, hold hope knowing the world needs your bravery and your uniqueness. Never give up. Just by being yourself, you are creating a world for others to do the same.”