Searching for a college is a daunting task for Ashley. A poor GPA and an upcoming gender transition narrow her choices dramatically.
College night at her high school is a bleak experience until she meets an unlikely possibility.
Ashley Plans For Her Transition
Megan pulled her Prius into a spot in the school’s lot.
“College night, Ashley. Seniors rule.” She killed the engine.
“Let’s wait a minute.”
“Yeah? What’s up?”
“No worries, Ashley.”
“Easy for you to say. You got your pick of almost any college in the US, with your GPA. Me, I could double my GPA and not come close.”
“Remember what our counselor said. There’s a school for everyone.”
Ashley shrugged. “I have to limit my search to schools in fifteen states, the fifteen that are LGBTQ-accommodating.”
Megan punched Ashley on the arm, slid out of the car. “Come on. Let’s find our schools.”
Inside Ashley followed Megan to the Duke table. Out of her league. Ashley left Megan there and walked the aisles. She found herself getting discouraged quickly. A number of the smaller colleges were in states Ashley would avoid.
Ashley wandered to the rear of the room. Her classmates crowded the UC system table. At the end of the row, Ashley spied a table with a banner that read: Vancouver. Discover Canada. The rep behind the table was reading what looked like a well-worn paperback copy of Kerouac’s On the Road. She looked up as Ashley approached the table.
“Hi. Can I help you?”
The rep had black curly hair to her shoulders. She wore a simple black dress, a necklace with a turtle hanging down.
“If you take students with a 2.6 GPA.” Ashley managed a weak smile.
The rep wobbled her head for a moment. “That might be doable. Talk to me. What are you interested in?”
The rep nodded. “My name is Jennifer. You are?”
“Ashley. Hi. Glad to meet you.”
“I represent three different colleges in Vancouver.”
“I didn’t know we had Canadian options.”
“We welcome international students…and yes, America is considered international for us.”
Ashley fingered her list.
“I see you prepared for tonight. Mind if I see your list?”
Ashley handed Jennifer the list.
Jennifer glanced at the items on the list. She nodded.
“I know this list. States favorable to LGBTQ, right?”
Ashley felt her face redden. She nodded.
“You can add Vancouver to your list.”
Jennifer glanced around. “You know what, I think it’s snack time. Will you watch my table for a moment while I get coffee?”
“What can I get you?”
“Coffee…black. Maybe a brownie bite?”
“Done. Be right back.”
Ashley looked around the room. There was a soundtrack of dozens of voices, all animated, excited. A big moment for many of the seniors. Searching for their leap into the future.
Jennifer returned, juggling two drinks and a plate of snacks. She grabbed an empty chair and set it beside her. “Come. Sit with me. I think we have a lot to talk about.”
Ashley slid behind the table, grabbed a snack.
Jennifer sipped her drink. “Let me start by saying the colleges I represent tonight do not offer much, if anything, in wildlife conservation. Can I ask what appeals to you about that career?”
Ashley shrugged. “I’ve always liked animals. I don’t have the grades to go for a veterinarian degree.”
Jennifer peered at Ashley. “What really appeals to you about wildlife conservation?”
Ashley sipped her coffee. She looked directly at Jennifer. “It looks like a quiet way to make a living.”
Ashley took a breath. “Away from a lot of harassment.”
Ashley found herself spilling to someone she just met.
“I’m trans. My parents are giving me a breast reduction surgery as a graduation gift. Once I get out of here I’ll change my name to Asher. And I need a school in an LGBTQ-accommodating state.”
Jennifer smiled. “I’m trans too. Made my transition five years ago.”
Ashley stared open-mouthed. “Wow. you fooled me.”
“Yeah, the docs did a good job.”
Ashley brought the conversation back to its purpose. “Your schools don’t have a wildlife conservation program.”
“We don’t. The bigger schools in Vancouver do, but honestly, I don’t think they would look at you with your GPA.”
“Let me ask you this. Would you consider a different major if it suited your lifestyle?”
“Film and television, for example.”
Ashley frowned. “Never thought of it, but the work involves lots of people, right?”
“If you mean, a lot of people collaborating on projects, yes.”
“I don’t know…”
“One of the schools I represent is Columbia College. It has a strong media program. Film, television. Good internships. Are you aware they are calling Vancouver Hollywood North?”
Ashley shook her head.
“Tons of film and television production going on. Plenty of jobs and internships.”
“I don’t know…”
“You certainly don’t have to decide tonight.”
Ashley picked up her list from the table.
“Before you go… have you considered a gap year?”
Ashley squinted. “How would I do that?”
“If I am getting too personal here, stop me. You said you’ll have surgery as soon as you graduate.”
Just then two classmates stopped at the table. One said, “Ashley, are you already a college admissions rep?”
“I’m repping for our high schools. You two morons want to repeat senior year? Lots of perks.”
The two laughed and moved on.
Jennifer continued, “With a gap year you can manage your transition more effectively. Take the summer to recover, and start your transition. Columbia College will admit you as a delayed admission. You may have access to student housing. I would have to look into that. I should add, Vancouver is an expensive city to live in. Rent and housing are among the highest in Canada.”
She sipped her coffee. “With your admission and initial leave of absence, you can get an entry level job in film right away. I told you, Vancouver is quite LGBTQ-friendly. You can explore the city, find groups that will support your transition. And with the job you will have insurance. That may pay for at least some of your hormone therapy.”
“This is too amazing to be true.”
“All true. After a year you can decide if you want to continue with Columbia. You will be admitted as a full-time international student.”
Ashley said, “That’s a lot to think about.”
Jennifer handed Ashley a business card. “My phone is here. Call or text anytime.”
Back out in the parking lot Ashley met up with Megan. “Duke, here I come,” Megan said. I can get early admission if I want.”
“How did you do?”
Ashley pulled her list from her pocket, ripped it in shreds.
“Fuck the US. I can go to Canada. Take a gap year and work in film and television while I manage my transition, then attend Columbia College. As an international student.”
Megan stared at Ashley for a moment. Broke into a grin. Hugged Ashley hard.
Ashley’s phone chirped. A message from Jennifer. So happy to meet you tonight. Call if you need more info or just want to talk.
Ashley texted back. Thanks! I’ll be in touch soon. I already feel safe about my future.
Jennifer replied. Safer, yes. But safety will remain elusive. We are always vulnerable.