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Ashley 2.0

If you are reading this, it is February 24th, which means that I, Ashley Craig, am three days into recovery post top-surgery.

And I am happy.

I have been journaling about how I think I will feel in the minutes, hours, days and weeks post-surgery for about two years now. But as I am staring down the barrel of the upcoming procedure, I won’t lie, that with less than three weeks to go, I am nervous. But I am also euphoric.

Since “coming-out” and announcing to my closest friends, family, and well, the world on HBO, that I was going to be starting hormone replacement therapy and undergoing top surgery, I have waited with bated breath for this day.

It took me a couple months to take any steps in my journey. It wasn’t until early Spring of 2022 that I started to Google search healthcare facilities that offer gender affirming care. It wasn’t until June that I got my first binder. And it wasn’t until November that I started hormone replacement therapy in the form of injectable testosterone. I remember visiting EDGE NJ in Denville after work and being in tears when the nurse and doctor answered my question of: “How long do you think it will take for me to get the HRT prescription?” with “You will walk out of here with it tonight.”

My Mama, Jenny, came with me to my first injection training, holding my hand as I intently listened to the nurse’s instructions. My Dad, Kevin, gave me my second at home shot, with an unphased swing of the arm and a smile.

Three months on HRT and I look in the mirror and see my body differently. My hips don’t bother me as much. I feel like I look thinner. My arms and legs are more toned. I feel stronger and most importantly, don’t feel the urge to crawl out of my skin, consistently.

What no one tells you is that there is no manual for this. No step-by-step IKEA type directional sheet that tells you what the next step is or how it should feel or what it should look like.

I remember one time, in particular, I had gotten up one Saturday morning and started the shower. The steam was dense and heavy. It filled the room like smoke. I closed my eyes and in that moment, I was walking down the beach with my electric rainbow rooster board shorts on and a baby blue Hawaiian shirt that was unbuttoned in the front. I was carrying one of those little YETI coolers and the sun reflected off of my pale white skin. I laid out my large pride towel and –

There was a knock at the door.

“Hey, Ash, you okay? You’ve been in there awhile.” A little voice echoed.

“Yep. I’m good, I will be right out.”

Today, when I close my eyes, even in the chill of the February air, I can imagine that day three post-surgery, I will feel the sun on my face with the same intensity of that day-dream on the beach. I can imagine that I will feel as carefree as I was walking down that beach with a cooler in one hand and my beautiful girl’s hand in the other. On February 24th, I will feel the relief of laying out a large pride towel on the beach, removing that baby blue Hawaiian shirt, exposing my bare, flat, chest, and giggling with friends and a cold beer. I imagine I will feel like dancing in the kitchen with no music playing and singing my favorite Fletcher songs, completely out of tune, in my car until my (much deeper) voice is non-existent.

I will be happy.

I will be euphoric.

I will be me.

Ashley 2.0.

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