“They knew I was different,” Avery Ashby, a freshman at Colorado Mesa University, said. Ashby joined the CMU family this fall and has never felt more open or like herself. She decided in July that she was ready and wanting to transition from male to female.
“I think I was in kindergarten or first grade when I tried on my mom’s heels and took my cousin’s dress and tried it on,” Ashby said. “I was clunking around my mom’s room. I think that was the first time I ever did anything like that.”
Ashby was born in Nevada where she lived mostly with her mother. She enjoyed playing dress up and makeup with her cousin.
“My greatest childhood memory would be at my grandmother’s house. I stayed the night and my cousin and I were just sitting watching movies and doing makeovers,” Ashby said.
She always knew something was different.
“I didn’t know if I was just a gay male or what, but then I figured it out,” Ashby said.
She began growing out her hair in high school and began putting on makeup. She still would wipe the makeup off before she got home, but continued to explore this person inside her.
“I got looks, but it wasn’t bad,” Ashby said.
She first told her mom about who she was on the inside after a shopping experience.
“One day I went shopping at Forever 21 and I tried on a dress and I just knew. I went shopping another day and when I came home I just flat out told my mom that I wanted to be a girl,” Ashby said.
She explained how her mom was supportive and said she always knew that her son was different.
“She said okay,” Ashby said.
Her father has been supportive, but is taking longer to understand.
“He still calls me by my legal name, Dylan, and his son,” Ashby said.
She told her father over the phone before she moved to Colorado to live with him.
“I called him and told him I had something to tell him and I was quiet for a solid two minutes and then I told him and he said okay and hung up. And then he didn’t talk to me for a little bit but then he texted me and said that he is fine with it but will take a long time to get used to it, and told me to focus on my school work. I think it will take him a really long time to get used to it,” Ashby said.
She left Nevada in the middle of her freshman year of high school. She was living with her mother, but there was tension and she didn’t want to ruin that relationship.
“My mom and I butt heads a lot. I had two younger siblings at home too and I wanted to go to Colorado at the end of freshmen year. My mom and I had a fight and I needed to leave before things got unrepairable with her,” Ashby said.
She moved in with her father in Crawford, Colo., a small town that is not too far from CMU.
“I regret it because I left a lot of friends, I missed my nieces and nephews being born, so there are some things I have missed. But in the grand scheme of things I don’t regret it because it was better for me.” Ashby said.
Since Crawford was a fairly small town, a lot of people knew Ashby, especially since she was the bagger at City Market.
“I was their first and last interaction,” Ashby said.
She chose CMU because it was not too far, but far enough, from home. It’s easier for her to be herself on campus then it is back home.
“When I go home I just wear jeans and a shirt with probably little to no makeup,” Ashby said. It is harder back home since everyone knew her as Dylan.
“I don’t feel secure there, I don’t think anything would happen, but it’s how I feel there,” Ashby said.
Some of her friends and people back home have a hard time understanding it. It is the same for some on campus, but generally, people have treated Ashby like any other female.
This first semester did not come without challenges for Ashby. At first, she was registered in a male dorm because when she registered for classes and housing she had not decided to be her true female self.
“They moved me up to the 5th floor of Bunting and I explained everything to my roommate and she seemed cool with it,” Ashby said. “But then she called her mom and was not okay with it, so the mom called the school and I was moved out. I didn’t have a place to stay and ended up putting all my belongings in the Bunting first floor office and sleeping on my best friend’s floor. It only took them a day to get me over and into a room at Garfield Hall.”
In Garfield, Ashby has had better days. Her roommate was nice and understanding, as is is the whole floor. Ashby also joined Gamma Phi Beta sorority.
“There is so much love and support there,” Ashby said. “I’ve made friends for life.”
One of the biggest challenges for Ashby is the fact that she needs insurance and money to begin the hormones and other aspects of transitioning.
“I don’t have the body that I want,” Ashby said. “It’s hard to look in the mirror and see something I’m not.”
She said mentally it’s hard because she does get down and depressed. She said that it’s also mentally challenging is knowing that she can never have her own kids.
“I’m a huge family person, it’s a really big thing that I have to deal with,” Ashby said.
She is hoping that by the end of next year she can move forward on her transition process. Right now, it’s about being addressed as a female, dressing how she feels comfortable and what represents herself on the inside.
“My biggest fear is that it’s going to impact my relationships [I’m] going to have in the future. A lot of things are going to go on, like hormones when you start that therapy you can get thrown out of whack, there’s hormones and surgeries and it’s this whole big thing. Impacting relationships now and relationships in the future,” Ashby said.
Since she fully began dressing and being addressed as a female, some of her family has not even seen her.
“I think it will be a change,” Ashby said.
She is getting her name legally changed to Avery. The CMU faculty supported this by calling her by Avery.
“I emailed my professors before classes began and explained everything, and I got nothing but positive responses,” Ashby said.
Ashby has no issues with the CMU campus as a whole. She hasn’t had any troubles with feeling uncomfortable.
“I got over my fear of using public bathrooms. When I go back home, not many people I know actually understand, so usually I would just wait to go my house,” Ashby said.
At CMU, Ashby is studying social work and will add psychology as a minor.
“I want to be in social work and be a social worker because I had a social worker as a kid and she was the person I could go to and confide in her and I want to be that person to kids,” Ashby said.
Ashby knows who she is, but has to wait to fully transition. This brings along its own challenges while trying to be involved and social at college.
“I am nervous to go swimming because I don’t have the body parts I want and can’t wear certain things,” Ashby said. “I’m nervous to be kind of social because when I talk I don’t necessarily sound like a girl so my voice lets people know I’m different. So I’m nervous to be social and talk to people. That’s why I do stay in my dorm a lot.”
Ashby has met two other transgender individuals this year.
“I’ve been able to talk and discuss things. It’s more comfortable knowing that we are in the same boat,” Ashby said.
CMU has given her a chance to be the person she wants to be.
“People don’t really treat me differently, however, some people I am close to don’t really know how to approach me,” Ashby said. “I feel so much better living and being the person I want to be.”