THE INTIMATE INSIDER
ASHLEY BOTTOMS: THE BOTTOM LINE
Article 02: Tis the season to just be yourself
Being a transgendered person, I am often asked a lot of questions about who I am and what a day in my life is like. In these articles I will do my best to answer them:
TIS THE SEASON TO JUST BE YOURSELF:
Well here it is, Christmas will soon be upon us, and if you are like me, then you have your fair share of missions to accomplish before Christmas Day.
A lot of people who know me know that I take on a lot of monumental tasks for the holidays. Being a Moderator for a transgendered social group, I like to raise awareness in the transgendered community that it is not only okay to be who you are, but to embrace it as well. For me, that means really going all out for the holidays and having a great time while doing it.
Mission 01: Safety first
Even though I am an avid Christmas shopper and I love being out as Ashley when I shop, I never lose focus on the safety of shopping. Just as if I were a non-transgendered person, I still need to feel safe. One reason why I love to shop at malls is the fact that the mall is a public location which makes it safe first and foremost. Also realize that every mall has some sort of help desk and/or location security so that if something ever goes wrong that help is close by.
When you are arriving to the mall, be sure to park where you will remember where your vehicle is at, because nothing is worse than being out in the cold and forgetting where you parked. If you are shopping at night you will also want to make an effort to park in a well lit area. I say this because when I am out as Ashley I have to think as a woman and most women who travel alone will take these precautions to avoid an unsafe circumstance from occurring, plus it also makes finding your vehicle a lot easier too.
If you have friends or family who will shop with you, why not take them along? When I go out, I usually have a few of my friends with me and what that will do is turn a shopping trip into an event to be shared and remembered. When it comes to me and shopping, the more the merrier, and I can never have too many friends with me. You may have to go to more stores, but the memories you will make and share with your friends and/or family will be priceless and will make the holidays that much more fun.
Mission 02: Christmas Shopping
Now I don’t know about you, but I love to shop for Christmas. I set my spending limit and my goals and I just go for it. Being transgendered, some might be shy about expressing themselves, but I choose to embrace it, and in some cases I will even flaunt it.
I love to go out to a few of the local malls, usually dressed in festive colors and styles. I love wearing lots of reds and gold and looking my best is always put to the test. I always remember that this is the time of giving and that I am out to make that happen.
Now a lot of transgendered people who are going out for the first time might cringe at the thought of going out, especially to a packed public mall where everyone is pushing and shoving and out for blood to get their Christmas shopping completed, but I relish in it because being out in the public eye is something that I really enjoy as it not only establishes a rapport with the public and puts notions of transgendered people being freaks and deviants to rest, but it also cements my confidence in myself as a person.
A crowded mall might seem intimidating and scary at first, but like a cold swimming pool, if you take things slow and one step at a time, you will find that you adjust to the situation and that most people really do not take a deep interest in your presence. Some get the notion that the entire mall will come to a standstill and that everyone will point and scream in unison “Oh my God, there is a tranny in the mall”, but I assure you that in the 6 years that I have been out I have yet to see that happen.
Now, I am not saying that you will not be “made” and pointed out, especially in a public setting such as a mall where there are children present, but kids are just innocently honest and if you are taking on the task of being out in public, then you definitely need to practice having a thick skin when it comes to comments from those who are unwilling to understand because even though there will be the occasional snicker and finger pointing, the majority of the public will be just fine with you being around them.
Be sure to have a list of everything that you need to shop for and don’t be shy about approaching the sales help at every store as they are there to help you, and don’t be surprised if they actually approach you as well because that is what they are trained to do and if they do it actually takes a lot of the burden and anxiety of approaching them off of your shoulders, so just go with it and remember to have fun this whole experience.
Mission 03: Photos with Santa
Now some of you may or may not be on my side with this one, but I personally love having my photo taken with the mall Santa Claus. Not only does this allow me to socialize with those who are waiting in line, but it is such a fun reminder of when I was younger and relished seeing Santa and getting the chance to sit on his lap and tell him what I wanted for Christmas.
I always dress nice for the occasion and I have found out from my socializing in the waiting lines that many others do as well, so put those thoughts of standing out like a sore thumb out of your mind. I usually wear festive colors like a red top and black skirt, nothing too over the top, but something that I know will look great in the photo. The waiting period to see Santa also gives you some time to relax and take in your surroundings and to just soak in that you are actually out and being a productive consumer.
Also take notice at just how people are not really paying attention so much that you are in line waiting to see Santa, but are just going about and getting their much needed Christmas shopping done. This is further proof of the acceptance of the transgendered community and should boost your confidence as well.
Once I get to the podium I usually sit on Santa’s lap and tell him that I have been good and that I really appreciate him letting me take my photo with him. I have run into a couple of Santa’s who are uncomfortable with the thought of a full grown transgendered person on their lap, but most do understand and all comply. My advice is to just be nice and to just be yourself. Try not to dwell on the negatives but rather the positives and to just have fun in the moment, and when it is over to just move along because Santa has other people to see.
Mission 04: Paying for your purchases
I feel that I need to touch base on this subject because I know a lot of will be going out for the first time or are somewhat secretive about your identities might feel the need to pay for everything you decide to purchase with cash. Please let me encourage you not to do this. Paying by cash leaves no paper trail, which might give you a sense of some security, but it is also going to make you a target to thieves.
I would highly encourage the use of debit and/or credit cards because of this, and I can tell you from experience that paying by credit card is not going to set off any alarms or bring any unwanted attention towards you. Like I stated before, most sales help is trained to deal with customers and as long as you have proper identification you will be just fine. I can also tell you that most sales clerks love chatting up a conversation and making friends with me when I am out shopping, so they are always more than happy to help me out with whatever I need, and if discretion is a must, they will and usually do accommodate you if needed.
Mission 05: Live in the moment
Remember, this is not only a shopping trip but an experience. I usually bring along a camera and take pictures to savor the moment, but you will most likely have the sore feet and empty purse to remind you of your shopping excursion. Have fun with it and really get into the spirit of it all.
If you are like me then splurge a bit and have a manicure done at the mall and chat it up with the ladies next to you because “girl talk” is always fun when you are waiting for your nails to dry. Get your photo taken with Santa Claus and don’t forget to wish him a Merry Christmas too. Flirt a bit with the sales help because they love it when you notice them and it makes their long day a lot more exciting, and that makes them want to make your shopping experience one to remember. Live in the moment, make new friends, build up some self-confidence, and just have fun!
Oh, and don’t forget to smile because when you are smiling and having a great time others will pick up on that and have a great time as well. Smiling is infectious so be sure to smile often and don’t forget to hold your head up high and be proud of who you are.
Then when you are home and have finished wrapping all of your purchases, don’t forget to drop me a line and let me know how it all went.
Until next time…
Ashley Amber Bottoms
The Bottom Line