July 12th, 2017
Remember back in 2015 when Ashley put in a two-years-out down payment for bottom surgery with Dr. Bowers? Well, that two years later is now now, and Ashley has just gone through gender-confirmation surgery with Dr. Bowers, and she and Jay talk through its ups and downs.
Ashley thinks back to her facial-feminization surgery in 2014, and she recalls letting her parents know about that upcoming surgery and their reaction at the time of near indifference. In contrast, a few months ago when Ashley let her parents know about her gender-confirmation surgery, they seemed much more receptive — although they weren’t quite fully enthusiastic either. But in a moment that surprised Ashley, her mom offered that she’d be open to coming with Ashley for surgery if she didn’t already have someone to go with her.
Fortunately, Ashley did have someone to go with her. Dinah, one of Ashley’s longtime friends, generously offered that Ashley could stay at her apartment in San Francisco during her recovery, and Ashley quite happily took her up on it. Ashley knew that she’d be stuck in the hospital for a few days after her surgery, and she was super grateful to be able to stay spend her post-hospital time hanging out with Dinah and her boyfriend Joe in their comfy apartment rather than being cooped up in a hotel room.
Jay and Ashley talk through the surgery itself along with the pre-surgery gantlet of the bowel-prep that Ashley had to go through. In the process of chatting about the gallon of liquid that Ashley had to guzzle, Jay and Ashley get to thinking that barium might have been one of its ingredients, but having checked on that later, it would seem that magnesium citrate might be the more likely active ingredient.
As for the surgery itself, Ashley made it through swimmingly. Ashley was on bedrest for the first two days after her surgery, but having brought along her iPhone, her iPad, and a few comic books to the hospital, Ashley didn’t struggle to stave off boredom. She wasn’t in too much pain during her stay at the hospital, though her regular doses of Percocet probably helped with that. On top of that, a number of Ashley’s friends from the Bay Area — including Carla, Jeff, Matt, and Julie — visited her in the hospital, which did wonders to lift her spirits.
Three days after her surgery, Ashley was cleared to leave the hospital. At that point, she was still tethered to a catheter bag, which she had to drag around with her until her follow-up appointment, which was a few days later. And at that point, her vagina was full of post-surgery packing as well. So while Ashley relished being able to hang out at Dinah’s cozy apartment, the first few days of her post-hospital recovery still had some tough moments.
At the post-surgery checkup at Dr. Bowers’ office, they took out the packing from Ashley’s vagina, which felt to her a bit like the magician’s trick where they pull a seemingly endless stream of handkerchiefs out of their fist. And then after that, they taught Ashley how to dilate, which is a process of inserting medical-grade dildos into one’s new vagina to prevent it from healing shut. Ashley grouses to Jay about the tedium of dilating, but she also concedes that she’d much rather go through the monotony of dilating her new vagina than to not have one at all. Still, Ashley is looking forward to the coming months when she’ll be able to pare down her dilating schedule from three times a day to two times a day (and eventually being able to pare it down even more).
From there, Ashley shares some keen makeup jobbies that she has come across. First up is Urban Decay’s Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid, which makes use of the principles of the color wheel to cancel out skin tones that one might be looking to minimize. Ashley also goes over her recent find of a new concealer, MAC’s Matchmaster Concealer. She finds its lipstick-like consistency rather convenient because it hardly requires much blending after it’s applied — unlike many liquid concealers that she’s tried.
Ashley feels like she’s over the hump in her recovery, and she’s able to get through most of her day-to-day activities without too much trouble. Her life isn’t quite back to normal just yet, but she finds that each day is a little bit better than the day before. And while it may have taken close to forty years, Ashley finally feels comfortable with what she sees in the mirror.
(Ashley’s polish in this episode is D’Lilac. We aren’t being paid to say this — just thought maybe you’d like to know.)
January 31st, 2016
After Ashley’s wobbly visit with her parents over Independence Day weekend in which her parents carelessly outed Ashley to her brother’s parents-in-law, Ashley came to realize that her parents weren’t using her pronouns when she wasn’t around. So she decided to write a third letter to her parents.
Ashley sent her letter in early November with the hope that maaaybe her parents might give some thought to practicing her name and pronouns before she came to visit for Thanksgiving — especially since a bunch of Ashley’s sister-in-law’s family were coming to visit for Thanksgiving, and Ashley dreaded the thought of her parents nonchalantly outing her to them one by one as her parents chatted to them throughout the day.
Oddly enough, Ashley’s parents didn’t seem all that interested in talking through her letter before she arrived, so she didn’t quite know what to expect going into her visit. But to her pleasant surprise, Ashley’s parents seemed to make an earnest effort with her name and pronouns — maybe they actually did a little practicing after all? However her parents made their progress, Ashley just hopes that their efforts aren’t another flash in the pan.
Ashley also chats with Jay about a few makeup finds. MAC’s Select Moisturecover Concealer has been holding its own as Ashley’s long-time concealer, but she also recently came across Kat Von D’s Lock-It Concealer. She discovered that each concealer has its own uses, so Ashley ends up hanging on to both of them.
After reading The Sweet Home’s mascara comparison, Ashley decided to give Buxom’s Lash Waterproof Mascara a shot. Ashley was a little worried about the “waterproof” part — because sometimes waterproof mascaras can be a bit of a bear to remove. But Ashley’s impressed with the extent that Buxom’s mascara manages to avoid flaking without being impervious to makeup remover at the end of the day.
(Ashley’s polish in this episode is Tartan Punk from CND’s gel line. We aren’t being paid to say this — just thought maybe you’d like to know.)
December 21st, 2012
Even though Ashley’s name change has gone through, she’s wasn’t sure whether it would make any difference when she visited her parents over Thanksgiving. It turns out, Ashley’s cousins, aunts, and uncles seem to have become all the more supportive, while her parents still lag behind.
Ashley goes over a conversation with her parents in which she tried to gently ask them again if they could please use her pronouns. She was expecting that it might be a five-minute conversation — mostly just putting out the request and then awaiting the invariable milquetoast response — but Ashley recalls that the conversation nosedived right from the start. Although Ashley had hoped to focus on her pronouns rather than her name (which seemed to be more of a sticking point), her parents soon derailed the discussion to harp on about her name.
Although Ashley’s parents have moved on to using a childhood nickname for her — well, most of the time — Ashley laments that this would-be interim name seems to have taken up permanent residence. Ashley and Jay ponder how she could try to convey to her parents how important it is to her that they use her name. They mull over a few ideas and Jay half-jokingly tosses out the idea that Ashley could have photocopies of her driver’s license at the ready to pass out to any doubting bystanders.
Ashley recalls her dad telling an anecdote about her college years and, after Ashley discovered that he was using the wrong pronouns, she chimed in with a brief correction, only to have her dad offer the rationalization, “but you were a ‘he’ at the time.” Realizing that the I Would Prefer These Pronouns When Referring to My Past discussion wasn’t something she could squeeze in as an aside over dinner with guests, Ashley contemplates whether she should send her parents an email to talk through some of that.
Back in our second episode, Ashley sung the praises of using primer as part of one’s makeup routine, including recommendations for L’Oreal Paris’ Magic Perfecting Base and Smashbox’ Photo Finish. After recently noticing a reformulation of L’Oreal’s primer, however, Ashley revisits whether it’s still a comparable product against Smashbox’ Photo Finish. Ashley also follows up on some earlier thoughts about cleaning one’s makeup brushes and she shares some tips to help prevent one’s brushes from losing their bristles.
(Ashley’s polish in this episode is German-icure from OPI. We aren’t being paid to say this — just thought maybe you’d like to know.)
June 22nd, 2012
Ashley has waited for months for her parents to start using the name Ashley instead of her birth name, but they won’t, so she tries to explain her request again in a carefully worded letter. Unfortunately, the letter doesn’t go over well and her parents tell Ashley that she’s hurting them by not considering their point of view.
Ashley’s parents are visiting in a few weeks and she’d love to try a new restaurant with them, but she worries that her parents would out her as soon as they started making small talk with the restaurant staff.
Despite this, Ashley has started the process of legally changing her name, and she tells Jay about all the paperwork, filing fees, and her eventual appearance before a judge, who could potentially decide not to grant her request.
Jay also learns how to get the most out of Too Faced Shadow Insurance eyeshadow primer and a tip on cleaning the lint from one’s dryer screen without scuffing one’s nails.
(Ashley’s polish in this episode is Aruba Blue from Essie. We aren’t being paid to say this — just thought maybe you’d like to know.)
April 1st, 2012
Ashley answers 7 Questions for the we happy trans project, such as who’s been most supportive of her transition, changes she’d like to see in the world, and how she’s helping to make those changes.
Jay asks how Ashley’s new coworkers are accepting of her gender identity, given that some knew her since before her transition while others have only ever known her as Ashley.
Ashley receives a postcard from her vacationing parents, but they addressed it to her birth name and Ashley can’t bring herself to read it. She wants to talk with them again about calling her Ashley, but worries that her parents could become fatigued on the subject if she were to bring it up too frequently. She and Jay also discuss the unusual evidence her mother cites to try to refute Ashley’s gender identity.
Jay learns that Too Faced Shadow Insurance (an eyeshadow primer) benefits from a little shakey-shake before use, as one would do with a squeeze bottle of ketchup (or with natural peanut butter if you’re fancy). Ashley also discerns that her technique for repainting some nails (but not others) with a zip-top bag requires a new baggie about every six months.
February 15th, 2012
Ashley’s father seems to view her gender therapist as a sort of puppet-master (puppet-mistress?) pulling Ashley’s strings, even though Ashley switched from individual counseling to group support. Ashley’s parents say that they accept what she’s doing, but they make a point of telling her they don’t condone it. Jay thinks it means they now understand it’s not a phase, but Ashley infers it’s more likely that they think she’s crossdressing.
Ashley wonders how to get through to her parents and is nearly ready to give up, especially after her dad says that he doesn’t entirely accept publications like the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual) as truth. Ashley also continues to long for any recognition of her femininity from her mom.
Jay and Ashley discuss some fun things as well: her new pierced ears, the ideal diameter for hoop earrings (1.68 inches), using a flatiron, and matching polish precisely by bringing specific clothes to the store. Ashley finishes by describing some nail polish shortcuts and their inherent tradeoffs.
January 31st, 2012
Ashley visits with family and friends during the yuletide season and her parents obstinately use the wrong name and pronouns for her, creating confusion among some guests. For Ashley, it’s like insisting on using a woman’s married name even after she split with an abusive husband.
During her visit, Ashley’s dad conspicuously mentions that it’s okay if she doesn’t attend mass with the family on Christmas, which makes Ashley wonder if her dad is telegraphing some embarrassment to be seen with her at church. While making sandwiches, her mom lobs Ashley a verbal punch in the gut, seemingly unaware of the weight behind her words.
Ashley tries to remain optimistic her parents will eventually come around but it’s hard to imagine what will lead them toward full support. Ashley’s already feeling anxious about her parents’ upcoming visit in the fall. However, they are surprisingly understanding when Ashley talks to them about her recent layoff.
Jay learns that concealer can be a stand-in for eyeshadow primer in a pinch, and Ashley shows off a nail protein base coat by Nailtiques. Jay also learns what Ashley means when she describes herself as being “thirteen in girl years”.
January 23rd, 2012
Ashley gets laid off, inferring through the business-speak that it was a means for the company to cut costs. She and Jay discuss searching for a new job now that Ashley is presenting as female full-time, but Ashley expresses doubts about whether she can pass during the entirety of an interviewing process—especially during phone interviews—and she forms a plan to deflate the elephant in the room.
Jay asks Ashley to elaborate on her blooming albeit sporadic attraction to men, or more specifically, Ashley’s newfound ability to determine which men are attractive. (No surprise here, but Rob Lowe and Ryan Gosling are on the list.)
They also discuss how Ashley maintains her eyebrows (she was having them waxed even before she came out to herself), whether Ashley ever does her make-up in the car on the way to work, and if she’s considered trying out a totally trashy or promiscuous make-up look, just for fun.
Ashley teaches Jay a trick for bending a mascara brush to make it easier to apply and how one can smudge eyeliner with a cotton swab if one is without a dedicated eyeliner brush. They do not talk about nail polish.
January 16th, 2012
Over Thanksgiving, Ashley’s parents reveal that they still misunderstand her transgender status, claiming that she’s cross-dressing and that she’s making her coworkers uncomfortable. Her parents also wonder if Ashley’s gender therapist is putting ideas in her head, and worry that keeping and finding employment will get harder for Ashley.
Ashley attempts to talk with her dad about some recent MRI studies indicating that transgender status is likely rooted in biology—that transgender people are born that way—but the information is quickly swatted aside by her dad’s cognitive dissonance.
Ashley explains that her favorite top coat, Seche Vite, works best when immediately applied on top of the second coat (before the second coat even starts to dry) and she passes along a technique that you can use to selectively remove nail polish from only a few nails without affecting the rest of your manicure.
(Ashley’s polish in this episode is Wicked from Essie. We aren’t being paid to say this — just thought maybe you’d like to know.)
December 31st, 2011
Jay figures it’s time to ask Ashley about sex and romance as a trans woman, asking her about underwear preferences, whether she ever finds panties arousing, and the added complexities of a trans woman dating lesbians. For instance, would Ashley tell someone she’s dating about her trans status before they have sex?
Jay wonders whether testosterone blockers affect erections and if that has any negative effect on sexual intercourse. Ashley doesn’t rule out being attracted to trans women and cisgender women alike, and for the first time, starts seeing herself as a bisexual-leaning lesbian.
Jay asks Ashley how she approaches modesty regarding her breasts, such as while wearing her new swimsuit for the first time or in the changing room with friends, and whether she feels self-conscious around other areas of her body.
Ashley has some elevator chitchat with her manager but later realizes he may have been unaware of the subtext she was trying to convey. She also rethinks which clothes she might bring while visiting her family over Thanksgiving and describes her occasional but conspicuous chocolate cravings.
Ashley shows off her pearlescent white and pink nail polishes from Essie (Oui Madame and Pink Diamond) and asks Jay and the audience for ideas on how she can avoid banging her nails into objects.