Ashlynn shares her side of online bathroom debate
Ashlynn Cameron Ingram, 15, has inadvertently become the catalyst for a heated debate online about the trans-community’s legal right to use whichever bathroom best represents their gender identity.
Ashlynn, who is now a freshman at Pilgrim, shared her gender identity with family and friends in August of last year before she started her first year of high school. Although she only announced last year, Ashlynn said she was aware of her gender identity at the young age of 5.
“I had always known something was different,” she said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “I was always more feminine and always wanted to play dress-up. When I was 5 I knew I was supposed to be a girl.”
Last summer, when Ashlynn began telling family and friends she said there was a lot of support for her and her decision. Although some people were a little confused, for the most part Ashlynn felt supported.
“People seemed happy for me and they wanted to be there for me,” she said. “Even the first couple of weeks at Pilgrim, when I was coming as myself, no one even seemed to notice.”
When she began telling her teachers and classmates, Ashlynn found that there were a few snide remarks, but for the most part her friends were always still there for her.
Initially, Ashlynn had been using the nurse’s office to change for gym class, but then a friend told her she was legally allowed to use whichever facility she most identified with and was most comfortable in.
“I don’t bother anyone,” Ashlynn said. “I do my business like everyone else and get out. It’s the bathroom. I try and fly under the radar.”
During her gym class no one ever complained or said anything to Ashlynn, and that is why she was so surprised when she found out the Warwick Watch Facebook page, operated by Stacia Huyler, had begun a debate about her legal right to use the female changing room when a friend sent her an image of the thread.
“At first I was overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to say. I saw all these bad things being said about me,” Ashlynn said. “I couldn’t really believe this whole thing started. I haven’t really had any trouble before this. It was super unexpected, especially here in Rhode Island. I never thought it would be an issue.”
To defend herself, Ashlynn commented on the thread, questioning why people were so “against her” and her right to use whichever changing room and bathroom she identified with, especially since none of them went to her school or knew her personally. According to Ashlynn, the only student she knew who commented negatively on the page was a girl she doesn’t even share gym class with, who would never be in the changing room with her anyway. She isn’t aware of who would have initially complained to the page.
Ashlynn said, “I’m the only transgender girl at the school, so the page had already outed me. I decided I might as well stick up for myself to show my side, and I am glad I did. People were trying to tell me I was disgusting, that I have a mental disorder, but I was born this way and anything other than that is just preposterous. I wanted to prove I’m not a freak, that there is nothing wrong with me, that I’m a person like anyone else.”
Ashlynn believes it was a “little immature” to mention the school she went to when the page could have privately looked into the matter or even held their debate without bringing her and her school community into it.
Because many of the posts showing support for Ashlynn were deleted from the thread, the 15-year-old girl initially only saw the negative posts about her. Quickly, the #IStandWithAshlynn hashtag became popular on Facebook and others started reaching out to Ashlynn personally to express their support for her. On Monday, Ashlynn did go to school despite the debacle; individuals were supposedly even calling the school to show they stood with Ashlynn as well. Teachers and students, some of which she didn’t even know, were coming up to Ashlynn in the hallway to tell her how brave she was and they were going to stand by her side.
“I think it was a bit childish to delete posts supporting me. There were people that took the time to write comments in support of me and those were just taken away,” she said. “It made me so happy to see how many people were really supporting me. It felt so good.”
When Ashlynn began to realize that more people were standing behind her than against her, she said she “let the whole thing go” to do the “mature thing.”
Now Ashlynn will continue being a high school girl, doing homework, hanging with friends, volunteering at a senior center, and hopefully joining a cheerleading squad (she “loves” cheerleading).
Moving forward, Ashlynn plans to continue with her transition, hopefully starting hormone therapy soon, legally changing her name and eventually undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
“I think the whole thing was uncalled for. I am a person no matter what, and this shouldn’t matter,” Ashlynn said. “It’s just ignorance, people who can’t understand. Luckily, I’ve seen that most people aren’t like that.”