Ashley, age 10
Spring, Texas (2000)
I remember secretly watching Showtime on a school night. I don't remember what was said, but I remember exactly how I felt when "Alice" winked at the girl across from her on "The L Word." I totally died from that small interaction. Died.
I was always a tomboy and I loathed any attempt to try to mask that fact with dresses and frills.
Awkward would be the one word to sum it up. And I have many women in my family who have perpetuated that awkwardness.
When I took this picture, I was comfortable and unaware. Before the realization that manly was what I looked like sometimes, when I was comfortable.
Then the realization did come, and the second I laid eyes on it, my stomach fell. I knew what I saw and didn't like it.
But a cute girl in my class did like it, which made me feel a bit better. My mom did too, which eased that feeling even more. My grandmother, however, tossed those positive reinforcements out the window, cocked her head to the side and said: "You look like one of those ‘What’s Up’ girls."
"What!?" I said, even though I totally knew. "Gay" she said. And now my stomach had left the building. I went to my room and stared off in silence, with that wrenching feeling like she insulted my entire being.
I was never ashamed of being gay on the inside, just afraid that it had the power to show on the outside. I was aware that it was taboo. And I was aware that I didn’t want to be taboo in anyone’s eyes.
Every picture of me after that until high school was an awkward rollercoaster. How should I sit? Oh God, did I do that smirk? Is my Adam's apple the ONLY thing you can see?
I sometimes carry that particular self-consciousness today. Partly because I also operate very femme, things have changed, and I'm not as rough as I used to be.
But looking back on things now, I would tell today's youth not to disconnect from any of it, but to embrace it all - and just smile for your picture.
"We need your voice. Your voice is important. Without your voice, part of me gets lost. Because each person we lose, is a loss for everyone." – In The Life, TV
Ashley's first, famous-person same sex crushes:
Tatyana M. Ali (in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air")Leisha Hailey (in "The L Word")
Also check out "My First Gay Crush Blog"