From man to woman

Edward Kearns

Edward Kearns

One minute after another ticked off the clock as the students waited for the class to start. Even though it was already ten minutes past the start time, no one suggested leaving.

This particular class was special. Instead of another day of taking notes, two guests, Jonna and Ashley, were coming to talk about their lives.

Jonna and Ashley came to the class to talk about their transformation from men into women.

Both had been born transgender. No matter how hard they tried to be the men they were born as, it just never felt right.

Jonna began by asking the class what they wanted to know. She seemed nervous but the class responded by asking plenty of questions.

Both told what lead to their decision to become female; the struggles they faced growing up knowing something was wrong.

“I remember going home as a little kid,” Ashley says. “I remember going to bed at night and praying to God, ‘Please make this go away. Make me like everybody else,’ and crying myself to sleep.”

According to a video the class had watched during an earlier class, more than 1,000 children in the United States are transgender.

Both Jonna and Ashley were married and had kids before their transitions. They told emotional tales of raising their children and explained that keeping the fact that they used to be men a secret is important for their children’s well being.

Jonna said that she is her children’s primary care-giver. They go to school while they live with her so it is important that she keep her secret so her sons are not harassed.

Both Ashley and Jonna enjoy sharing their stories in a safe environment, and would like to speak in more classrooms.

“I guess why I do it is to help the next generation of people. I hope they see that we’re not the [people on] Jerry Springer,” Ashley says.

Amber Thomas, 20, a human development junior, was one of the students listening to the lecture.

“It was a good experience,” says Thomas. “It gives us an opportunity to see it instead of just reading about it.”

Thomas also says she learned that transgender people are just as normal as anyone else.

“I was so thrilled,”says class instructor Sally Gillman later. “When I was walking over here I was thinking, first of all we’re a little late. I thought it was going to be the opportunity for everyone to say, ‘I don’t want to be there anyway.’

I felt my eyes get tears in them because I was so proud of everyone for showing up today.”

#1.885622:3435508515.jpg:transgender2.jpg:The Development of Human Sexuality class listens intently as Ashley and Jonna tell their stories.:Jerry Smith