Episode 156: Perspective Shifts

Interview with Ash Hobbs

Sponsored by Raycon, Oregon State University, and Peak Scents

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Recharging in nature helps Ash Hobbs stay energized in their 9-5 work in the criminal justice system. It also gives Ash the space to think creatively and to shift their perspective when they’re feeling stuck. In this week’s episode, Ash helps us examine some of the constraints we place on ourselves and others — even when we don’t realize it.

We learn about the insidious ways implicit bias creeps into our indoor & outdoor lives, the motivation behind their photography project Discovering Gender, and more.

Full transcript available after the photos and resources.

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Featured in this episode: Ash Hobbs

Hosted by Gale Straub

Ad music in this episode is by  Josh Woodward, Swelling & Lee Rosevere using a Creative Commons attribution license.

Music is also by Eric Kinny via MusicBed.

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Ash Hobbs

Ash’s favorite photo of themself 🙂
Ash talks in the episode about how special time on the water is.

 

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TRANSCRIPT

Ash Hobbs:

I was looking for a synonym for the word softness and literally in the list of synonyms on Google. One of the words was womanishness.

Gale Straub:

Oh, wow. I shouldn’t laugh, but it’s like, I thought maybe it would say feminine, not like womanishness.

Ash Hobbs:

No, literally like one of them. So there’s a list. Synonyms, unmanliness is the first one on Google.

Gale Straub:

Wow.

Ash Hobbs:

Yeah. And then, you know, and it does have words like a effiminineness, um, but sissiness is also one of them womanishness. These are the words, these are the synonyms that we have for softness. Yeah. Super interesting. And that’s just a basic Google search, but you know, that kind of gets into the, the language of bias, which I think is super important to talk about.

Gale Straub – Narration:

You might bristle at the idea of softness being equated with being a woman. For me, I think about mountains I’ve climbed by myself, my legs growing stronger over time. I think of the hardscrabble trees in the alpine zone, the way they soften in the fog, blending into the view, a beautiful blanket of hills. I know I am sometimes soft, sometimes tough, often all at once. It’s not so much the word that I might bristle at, but the limits it imposes – not just for me as a woman, but for everyone else on the gender spectrum. We talk a lot on this show about striving to make the outdoors a welcoming, inclusive place for all – regardless of gender, race, size, or ability level. But we get in our own way sometimes. On today’s episode, Ash Hobbs helps us examine some of the constraints we place on ourselves and others — even when we don’t realize it. Let’s get to know Ash.

Ash Hobbs:

Well, something I’ve realized is that you have to be very proactive in your self care. You can’t be lackadaisical about it. So for me, one thing that I do just in the course of my regular day as I’m going about my job, I get an hour for lunch and I go outside, even if it’s just, and I try to spend almost that entire hour outside if I can. Um, sometimes I’ll just walk around the city, but there’s a small park right behind where I work. It’s like an, a small urban park. And sometimes I’ll go back there and just walk know, sometimes I’ll walk around the city or whatever, but I make it a point to get outside every day.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Does this sound familiar at all? It does for me, especially when I worked finance, I’d eat my lunch quickly at my desk and I’d take the rest of the time in motion in the sunshine. Sometimes walking over the Charles River and back just to gain a little perspective. Ash’s job is different though. Ash works in the criminal justice system.

Ash Hobbs:

In terms of what I currently do. I am a deputy court clerk, specifically a court reporter. And so what that means in practice is that I go into courtrooms with the judges and record the hearings that are happening. I work in circuit court, which is a court of record. And for people that are not familiar circuit courts here, felony cases. So they have judicial jurisdiction over felony cases. Um, but then they also hear appeals from lower courts, like general district courts and things like that. My average day on any given day, I could be in a murder trial, or I could be in a plea agreement hearing for possession of methamphetamine or possession of any other drug. Specifically, what I do other than recording things is let’s say we have a jury trial or a murder hearing. I would be the one that logs and marks all the evidence as admitted to the court.

Ash Hobbs:

I would also be the one that swears in the witnesses and the one that arranges the defendant and arraignment is the formal process by which you are asked or the charge against you is read to you. And then you are asked how you plead to that charge. And so that is what I do professionally. How I got there is I’m sort of had, you know, pretty much just an inherent interest in the criminal justice system. And so I have three degrees in it. I have an associate’s a bachelor’s and a master’s in administration of justice or criminal justice with, um, certified crime analysis certification.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Ash worked as a 9-11 dispatcher before working in the court system. Inherently, there’s a lot of stress wrapped up these positions.

Ash Hobbs:

I’ve sat in court where verdicts and murder trials were we’re red and you cannot really, unless you’ve ever sat in a room or like personally had that experience, you cannot really understand like the emotional tension that exists in those experiences. And so it can be very heavy. It can be a lot to take on. Absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, I think that’s part of it. I think that’s why you have some of the burnout rates that you do in the case of nine 11. Nobody ever calls nine one one because they’re having a good day. Okay. That’s not why people call they call, but probably because something bad has happened. And you do, you do take, you know, some minor calls in that field, but for the most part, people are calling nine one one because it’s an emergency, it’s a critical situation. And you know, in my court we’ll just start court. People are there because they’re facing serious felony that I don’t know if you understand all the collateral damage that having a felony on your record does, but it has huge impacts for your entire life. And so there’s a lot of, um, I guess, heaviness in fields like this and fields like social work and things like that.

Gale Straub – Narration:

So Ash steps outside whenever possible, where they live in Southern Virginia.

Ash Hobbs:

I don’t think that human beings are meant to spend all day in fluorescent lighting, but especially, you know, in a situation where, you know, maybe I’m on a break from a 10 hour murder trial or something like that. It’s even more important for me to kind of get outside and find these little pockets of peace. And I think when people think of self care, a lot of times they think of like large things like, Oh, I’m going to take a vacation or I’m going to go get a massage, but self care can really be like, just taking five minutes out of your day to find a quiet spot and just sitting and just being quiet and being with your thoughts and checking in with yourself. And I think also asking yourself what you need. So, you know, for me, if I’ve seen something that bothered me during the day, or I’m feeling kind of heavy or emotional about something, it’s really like creating that time for like, sit with that and then ask myself, what do I need?

Ash Hobbs:

What’s going to make this better. For me, that answer is usually going to be going outside, doing something outside. Um, and that could be as simple as what I’m doing right now, talking to you, which is, you know, just sitting outside on my correct light blanket or, you know, throwing up my hammock, my wife and I do this a lot. We’ll just throw up hammocks behind the house and read. It could be kayaking personally. I love to kayak. That’s like my version of church. I love it. I love to be outside. I love to be on the water. So it could be something like that. It could be fishing, but that’s usually where I’m going to find relief.

Gale Straub :

What is it that you particularly love about kayaking?

Ash Hobbs:

I have no idea. It just the first time, that’s the first time I ever did it. I wish I could give you an eloquent answer to that question. I really do. But the first time I ever did it, I was just like, I love this is amazing. I love it. But with that being said, I love all things, water, swimming, kayaking. I’ve tried paddle-boarding but I’m not very good at it. Um, but if I can be on the water or on a body of water, I will.

Gale Straub :

Yeah. I think for me, it’s like, what I like about swimming or being on water is the perspective shift. The difference between being even on the edge of the water, to being in the water. It just, there’s something about like the bigness that I can feel like within a body of water looking out, or like the perspective that I can get that I wouldn’t always get from, from shore. If, if that makes sense.

Ash Hobbs:

It does. It does. It absolutely makes sense. So I get it. I like, I feel that way. So my wife and I spent our honeymoon, we spent a month living at the inroad dandy North Carolina on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and really large parts of that are undeveloped. Um, and it’s just this like really fast coastal land. And sometimes like, you’re just sitting there, it’s this endless, vast ocean. And you’re like, I don’t know. You, you realize you’re insignificance in the overall scheme of things. I was thinking when I’m in that space, when I’m in outdoor spaces, natural spaces, what is really happening for me mentally is that I am developing an awareness and an appreciation, a gratitude for the world around me that I don’t have otherwise when I’m disconnected from that, I don’t feel that same gratitude when I’m sitting in my office at the gate. I’m not as aware of my environment in that way, you know, but if I come out in nature and I’m photographing something, or I’m looking at a scene and you know, you’re surrounded, I don’t know. But if you’ve been in some natural landscapes, I’ve been in places that just everywhere you look as beautiful, it’s like overwhelmingly beautiful. And it’s all natural. It’s not created by man or anything like that. And so when I’m in those spaces and I’m in that mindset, I’m looking at those things in a different way. Like I’m not just seeing it. It’s not just something that’s in front of me or something that’s around me. It’s something that I’m actively experiencing and engaging with.

Gale Straub – Narration:

The shift of perspective that Ash gains from immersing in nature is key to preventing burnout — and it helps nurture active and creative thinking. Ash did their graduate thesis work on the racial and gender disparities in criminal sentencing. One of Ash’s areas of interest is to concept of implicit bias.

Ash Hobbs:

My views on implicit bias have been really heavily informed by reading the work of other people. And I’m not sure if you’re familiar, but doctor Jennifer Eberhardt, um, shared a book called Biased. She’s a Stanford professor and researcher. And, um, I think her definition of this is probably the best and she defines it as the beliefs and feelings we have about social groups. Um, and I’m gonna put a parentheses here that could be LGBTQ people, people of color. That could be something as simple as men, women hikers. It doesn’t matter any social group of people, those beliefs and feelings we have about these social groups can influence our decision making and actions, even when we are not aware of it. And that’s the important part. That is the implicit part of it is the lack of awareness.

Gale Straub :

So for, I guess, for example, when, you know, hearing you say hikers, I feel like one of the conversations that’s been had for a while within the outdoor community is the fact that like a lot of times people, if they think of a hiker, they think of like, as this white male, you know, or they think about us, this white woman, and that is really harmful to other people who also identify as hikers.

Ash Hobbs:

Yeah, it absolutely is. And that’s a, that’s a great example of implicit bias. So a good example of this, I was reading recently and I can’t remember where I saw it, but I was reading recently about an African American man that does a hiker and things that people, other hikers had said to him that he had encountered on the trail. And one of them was, Oh, I, you know, I didn’t know that African American people or black people hiked or, you know, things like that. That’s an example of implicit bias because you just think that’s not the way that you conceptualize hiker when you think of the word.

Gale Straub :

Hmm. And it can be really hard to break down your implicit biases partially because people don’t want to believe that they have them.

Ash Hobbs:

Well. Okay. So this is the way that I think that it functions. So I think it’s a function of self concept and belief systems. So for example, I can be an LGBTQ person. I am an LGBTQ person and I can absolutely believe in LGBTQ equality, but I can still hold biases against LGBTQ people. And so I think a lot of times when we think, well, like when you hear the word bias, you think we’ll know, like I can’t be biased. I I’m actively anti-racist or, um, you know, actively pro LGBTQ, I’m an ally, that kind of thing. So how could I be biased? I’m not biased. And so you automatically reject the idea that you can. But the interesting thing about implicit bias is that it’s not mutually exclusive. You can absolutely be like pro LGBTQ or a member of the LGBTQ community and still hold biases against other members of the LGBTQ community. A lot of times those function as stereotypes.

Gale Straub :

So just like, um, you can be a woman and have internalized misogyny.

Ash Hobbs:

Correct. Or like you can be a man and think, you know, I’m all for equality in the workplace and things like that. But then if you’re making a higher hiring decision, you’re more likely to hire a man for a leadership position, things like that.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Let’s go back to the hiker metaphor. Based on what we’ve internalized about what it means to be a hiker from media and our upbringing and other influences – we might behave differently around a person if that person doesn’t dress like, look like, or behave like what we think of when we think of being a hiker. And we might not do this intentionally. We’ve talked on this show about what it means to be a solo woman on the trail. We’ve talked about listening to our guts when it comes to safety. But what are our guts saying? And why?

Ash Hobbs:

Part of the way that you figure out what your implicit bias is, is by asking yourself questions is like really examining these associations that you have. Um, so many of us don’t actually take the time to do that. And that’s, our brains are hardwired to help us navigate life and to be on autopilot and to operate unconsciously. One of the best examples of this, I think I’ve ever seen is a Dr. Nicoe LaPera, the holistic psychologist on Instagram. She always uses the example of, have you ever been driving and you’re driving your car, maybe you’re leaving work and you’re coming home and you get home and you have no idea how you got there yet. Like, you’ve been totally on autopilot the whole way. We live a lot of our lives in this head space. And that’s great. It helps us function, right? Because your brain’s ability to do that got you home safely when you were driving that car, but we’re also always doing like threat assessments or just general assessments of our environment in this same way, on an unconscious level, we navigate work on an unconscious level. We navigate our personal relationships on an unconscious level. And this is where you really see implicit bias come in in that split second decision making

Gale Straub – Narration:

Ash wanted to clarify that it’s not implicit bias that keeps us safe, rather unconscious cognitive processing that helps to protect us, but in doing so, it also opens up the door for implicit bias to creep into our split second decision making. So when we’re on autopilot, these quick judgments can be harmful. This plays out daily, whether you’re on the trail or walking through your neighborhood, we’ll learn more from Ash, after this.

AD BREAK

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back. Before the break, we talked about quick judgements. Ash explains that the words we use to identify people play a big role in these quick judgments. They’re like shortcuts.

Ash Hobbs:

You know, we impute layers of meaning into words, value, judgments into words. And so a lot of times you’ll have words like criminal or thug, and automatically you have an emotional reaction to that. You have a value judgment to just that word. And I think part of really examining your own internalized biases is really sitting with what those reactions are without judging yourself. It’s just, okay, like, so maybe I hear the word criminal and I’m like, Oh, like, you know, that’s a scary word to me. And, and I, I, you know, ask myself a little bit deeper. Well, what do I perceive of a criminal? Like, what does criminal look like to me? Um, and I did do this one of my classes and almost always in terms of gender or a criminal as a man, almost always, um, people very rarely conceptualize women as criminal, but you know, then some other things that are really important to examine and I wanted to be sure to touch on them in this conversation is intersectionality. That’s very important. So it’s not always just a function of gender or race. It can also be a function of class. You can have a bias of social class. So like for example, and the best example of this is when you think of like white collar crime, right? Like there are tons of white collar criminals that have done horrible egregious things, environmentally, but also in terms of like loss of human life were injuries to people, but we don’t perceive of people. Like if you are, are you familiar with any of the Enron scandal?

Gale Straub :

Yeah, I am. I used to be an accountant. So we learned about it. Yeah. I learned about it in grad school.

Ash Hobbs:

Yeah. The Enron scandal is notorious in many circles for many reasons, but, you know, from a criminal standpoint, a lot of what these CEOs and things were doing very illegal, uh, insider trading, things like that, super illegal, but we don’t tend to perceive people like that as criminal. And it can be, it can be something as simple as the way someone is dressed. Like for example, if you see someone, um, and this happens to me a lot, so I am heavily tattooed. I have a full sleeve and a half sleeve, several visible tattoos, but when I’m at work during the day, I’m very dressed up, you know, long sleeves and typically wearing a tie. Um, and so nobody sees those things. And it’s funny because I can notice these like difference the difference in reaction to me, like when, you know, I’m just kind of casually out and about and a tee shirt versus when I’m dressed up for work.

Ash Hobbs:

And there’s, there’s not a, I wouldn’t say that it’s like a significant difference, but it’s definitely like a subtle difference in the way that people treat me or approach me just based on those two things in the past, when I’ve asked students and other people socially to kind of give me a, a description of a criminal. One of the things that people tend to associate with criminality, like visually is tattoos, the presence of tattoos, but it can also be, you know, other indications of outward indications of things like poverty. What we perceive someone that is quote unquote, poor or impoverished, what we perceive they would look like. Um, intersectionality there is, is very important.

Gale Straub – Narration:

These judgments have downstream implications, Ash and I talked about how we tend to distance ourselves from identifying with criminal behavior. Even say, if you smoked pot in college, in a state like New Hampshire, you’ve engaged in a criminal activity, but you might not necessarily want to call yourself a criminal. That distancing reminded me of my own reaction to the racist incident between a white woman, Amy Cooper, and a black birder named Christian Cooper in Central Park.

Gale Straub:

I know my gut reaction when I first saw that video was to want to distance myself from that woman. But I then realized it was like more valuable for me to think about what I had in common with her, so that I could like, you know, just kind of sit with that and think about it and think about how I could change my behavior going forward, or just not have immediate distancing, because I don’t know if that doesn’t change anything. It just keeps you in your bubble and then other people in their bubbles.

Ash Hobbs:

It keeps you in your, your echo chamber. But you know, I’m glad that you brought that up because one of the things that I wanted to really talk about too, was that we talk about the criminal justice system. And we think about the criminal justice system and racial disparities and things like that. You know, we often think or only think of police or prosecutors or judges, but a lot of the initiation into the criminal justice system is calls for service. And what I mean by calls for service is, and now you see this all the time when you worked in dispatch is there’s a suspicious person in my neighborhood. And when you question further, okay, well, can you tell me what they’re doing that suspicious? I don’t know. Just something about them is not right. And you would get calls like that. And you’re like, well, you know, and as a dispatcher, you’re trying to assess the safety of the situation.

Ash Hobbs:

You know, if this person is suspicious, what are they doing that suspicious? Um, you know, what do they, what do they look like? Where are they wearing it? And these are not, these questions are designed to literally just be for safety and identification. But a lot of times when you ask people these questions, they can’t give you really a direct answer. I don’t know. It just, I’ve never seen him here before. And he just, he just looks funny or, and it was always men, I think only to one suspicious person call about a woman. And that was an exceptional circumstance, but, you know, it would just be like people through the neighborhood. And that would actually even sometimes be people that were working legitimately for companies in the neighborhood, like companies like AP. And they would be like, I feel like they’re very suspicious. I mean, he’s, he’s in an AP truck, but I just, I don’t know that he’s with AAP, you know, things.

Ash Hobbs:

Yeah. Like things like that. And so I think one of the things, and this is really, really important. So if you come across a situation like this central park situation, um, and something about it seems off to you before you just immediately think I need to call the police, because this seems off to me, maybe the better question, if the situation is not immediately dangerous is to ask yourself, what about this seems off to you? And if you can’t clearly articulate a reason, then maybe you need to think about it a little more in depth.

Gale Straub – Narration:

I’ve learned from Ash that the really insidious thing about implicit bias is that it’s ingrained. It takes a lifetime to unlearn, but it’s always worth questioning the associations we have about groups of people, whether it’s due to their race, class, gender, or hobbies, like birdwatching,

Ash Hobbs:

It’s changed the way that I see the world completely like a few weeks ago, this is a good example. So right now I’m shooting a, what I am calling the Southern summer series or the Southern farm series. I’m debating on what’s to name it. But I was like just looking at the textures around me, which is not something I would, I would normally be doing. If I wasn’t photographing things. I was looking at the textures of all these things around me, the grasses, the texture of the wood fencing, you know, texture of tree trumps, things like that. And I was like thinking about how to convey the beauty of those things simply because they’re very simple things. And I was thinking about how to translate, how was seeing those in person to an image. And I shot a series of really, really beautiful images that day. But that’s what I mean by cultivating and developing appreciation. So when I’m photographing something, I’m literally looking for the beauty in it.

Gale Straub – Narration:

At the start of the episode, we heard about how Ash recharges by spending time outside photography is another way that Ash feeds their creative side. Ash, doesn’t just shoot landscapes, but finds beauty in the everyday things we sometimes overlook.

Ash Hobbs:

And that could be a vast landscape, which sometimes it is. But oftentimes there’s really small beauty around you every day, all around you. It could be, you know, there’s a park that I walk in sometimes at work, there’s a tree that has these like gorgeous blooms on it. And you can, it’s so easy to just walk by. Those are in an urban environment and lose them. But if I’m photographing something, I’m looking at that and I’m noticing the beauty of it. And I’m noticing the way that like the colors and the vibrance and things like that. And so for me, when I’m photographing things, it’s when I’m the most in touch with my humanity and with the natural world around me.

 

AD BREAK

Gale Straub – Narration:

We’re back

Gale Straub – Narration:

Working in the criminal justice system. A big part of ashes work is attention to detail. It’s coupled with a deep appreciation for the uniqueness of people and their inherent value. This comes across and ashes, portrait photography, too.

Ash Hobbs:

People will always say, Oh, I’m not photogenic like that is everybody’s go to. And I think what that really means, what that really translates to is I am uncomfortable with how the way I look will be perceived by others. I think that’s what I am not photogenic really means. And so I think one of the best gifts that you can give people because everybody is beautiful, everybody is photogenic. And I think one of the best gifts that you can give people through photography is the ability to see themselves in a way that they can’t when they look in a mirror or in a way that maybe they otherwise wouldn’t. And I think, you know, when you have a camera, you and you and you’re photographing people or you’re photographing anything, really what you’re doing is bringing out the beauty in it. You’re bringing to life an image of what that person looks like to you and how you see that person or how you see that landscape or how you see that flower. So that’s basically how I feel about photography.

Gale Straub :

Well, I’m glad that you brought up the, the people side of it too, because I’m looking through your portrait photography, especially through discovering gender project. I really do see that and I see how comfortable the people look, you know, and it’s partially because they’re engaging in interacting with you. I would assume.

Ash Hobbs:

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know how much I have to do with that, but I do know that there’s sort of like a progression that I’ve noticed in people when you initially start to photograph them. Um, you know, people tend to be uncomfortable in front of the camera, but I think if you let people, I don’t give much direction when I photograph people. One of the things that I tell people is to just be in their body, how they would naturally be in their body. I’m not going to ask you to do anything uncomfortable. If your normal stance is to stand with your arms crossed. If it’s the same of your hands, your back pockets, whatever’s natural to you. However you naturally exist in the world. That’s what I really want to bring out. That’s what I really want people to see. You know, it’s not, it’s not a, a fashion image and not going to do anything crazy, like what I’m trying to, especially when I’m photographing people for discovering gender. And that is very important. What I’m really trying to highlight is their underlying humanity.

Gale Straub – Narration:

Hearing Ash describe their portrait philosophy. I can’t help but think that one way to break down our implicit biases is to search for the beauty in people, especially if those people are different from ourselves. Discovering gender is a nonprofit, visual storytelling project that Ash and their wife just started, which highlights and advocates for trans and gender nonconforming individuals through photography and unedited written interviews.

Ash Hobbs:

And that, you know, that’s one of the reasons my wife and I started this project is because, especially for the people that are non binary or gender nonconforming, or that don’t fit the traditional man woman narrative, they don’t like people that look like me, which I don’t know. I mean, you’ve been to my Instagram page and there aren’t very many pictures of me, but I do not fit a normal, I’m very androgynous in appearance, name one character that looks like me on TV or, and, and, you know, you’re seeing more trans representation on like Netflix and things like that. But like, what about on your mainstream channels? Can you, as a person, remember your first conceptualization or your first contact with the word transgender, most people, even if they’ve interacted with a trans person or non-binary person or whatever it may be, don’t realize that they have, or don’t know, there’s just no representation out there.

Ash Hobbs:

And so like when we started this project, it was really important to us to show like, these are people that are vibrant parts of your communities every day, and they are worthy of representation. They are worthy of being seen. They’re worthy of having their stories told, and they’re worthy of very beautiful. Um, so everybody that we photograph through that project, I give them the photos. I give them all the photos that we use in the blog, um, and they can use them, you know, whatever using this Christmas cards, I don’t care. Um, but it’s really just about that. Like, you know, having a space to be seen as, as a human being, anything. So, so often, like we get so caught up in our labels, you know, like we get so caught up in labeling people. And like you said, we want to put people in boxes and we forget to see that we all share the same underlying humanity, or at least I believe we do if we all share the exact same underlying humanity. And I think labels can be great for forming a sense of identity and finding your communities. But I think that labels can also be very divisive in how they’re used. And so the thing that I really wanted to highlight through the project is this is not a transgender person. This is a person.

Ash Hobbs:

They also happen to be transgender. They also happen to be non binary, but this is also a person that can introduce you to community. Um, and another part of it too, was really like showcasing non binary, trans gender nonconforming people, uh, living successful lives because I wish I could tell you how many people will have like parents or transgender kids that have written us or transgender kids that have written us. I had, I remember one, I got a message on Instagram from a kid that was like, I wish that this had existed when I was in high school, because I probably would’ve felt a lot safer or people that were, you know, people that are coming to terms with their own end. You know, maybe it’s a teenager. Maybe it’s somebody much older, they’re coming to terms with their own sexuality or gender identity. And they can see people like them. They can read stories of people who have been through similar things and, and, and they can see people like them in their own words in their own way. We don’t change those interviews at all. People fill out, fill out those questionnaires and then we put it on the blog. So it’s their, their own voice. And it’s not like watered down or changed or modified to fit any particular narrative. It’s just their lived experience. So we wanted to create that space for people.

Gale Straub :

That’s cool. There’s not a lot of places in life that there’s that kind of openness or ability to kind of share what you want to share.

Ash Hobbs:

Well, and I think like one of the last questions that we ask people in the interview is, is there anything else that you want to share with us that we haven’t covered here? And that’s just like a free space. Like you can say anything that you want to there. And with any of the questions, like, you know, we never asked, like, why didn’t you answer this or anything? There’s, there’s no pressure. Um, and I think that’s especially important for non binary and transgender people, or just anyone that really falls out of Lake, but, you know, traditional man woman narrative, um, there are very few spaces where you actually get to express yourself openly that they’ll say this is especially true. Um, in certain conservative areas of like the whole South or, you know, other places in the world that are more conservative, there are very few spaces, publicly available spaces that transgender people or gender nonconforming people can just actually be who they are and express themselves in a way that feels most true to them. Um, and so when we were conceiving of the project, we wanted to try to be one of those.

Gale Straub :

So, um, what have, what have you learned about yourself through working on this project?

Ash Hobbs:

Always that I have more to learn, always, always, um, you know, their conceptualizations of, of gender that I had never conceived of previously, there are an infinite number of ways to be human. And I think that, you know, if you will, all the people that we’ve met and whatever, um, one of the things that I’ve learned is really, I dunno, like I said, it’s was just, I have more, I have more to learn. There’s, there’s always more to learn, but it’s really expanded my awareness of people and the things that they go through and the situations in any know, I kinda knew I had my own story. I was bullied really heavily all through high school and middle school and things like that because I’m always the way that I’ve always felt most at home in my own body, in my own skin is with an androgynous appearance, but an androgynous name, et cetera. And so people don’t respond well to that. Like, you know, I’ve seen doctors and things and they’ve been like, have you always been so androgynous also learn how resilient, not only I am, but so many LGBTQ people are especially LGBTQ people of color or LGBTQ people, but occupy multiple areas of intersectionality. Um, you have to be very resilient to be yourself in this world, um, openly and in certain places. And, um, I think that’s, that’s one of the most beautiful things about it is like the resilience that all of these people have

Gale Straub :

And something that I should have asked you, Ash, that I didn’t ask you is what your, and I just assume because of what’s written on the website, but what your pronouns are.

Ash Hobbs:

Oh, I don’t care. I’m totally part on it. Yeah. Um, so, so to me, so there are things that I just personally don’t label my gender and sexuality, or are those, um, they fall in that I don’t, I don’t define it in any way at all, because I personally don’t feel a need to, um, you know, if pressed to label my gender, I would say age, gender fits me the best, because I don’t necessarily feel a strong association with masculinity or with femininity or anything that we currently conceive of, uh, in a gender binary. Um, I just pretty much feel like Ash, that’s pretty much it. And Ash, Ash is pretty neutral. And so I think a lot of times like labels exist for how, for other people to wrap their mind around what I am. So the pronouns that you use have much more to do with your perception of me than my perception of myself.

Ash Hobbs:

Like nothing offends me. I don’t care. Most people in that I was assigned female at birth and most people in my life like that I work with, even in my family call me, she heard, and I am not in the slightest upset or offended by that, but I’ve noticed, and this is actually kind of a cool thing to see in public spaces. New days, I’m getting more and more. They like people are referring to me more frequently as they, which I think is awesome because that means we’re cultivating awareness of pronouns, um, in society. So I think that’s great. I love that. Um, but also, and I’ve actually had a couple of people that I work with, which is great. Cause I live in a pretty conservative area. I have had a couple of people I work with, asked me like what my pronouns are. And I love that. I love that when that happens, but I’ve also seen a lot more of the use of the sealer day and that’s fantastic, but also some people call me he and I don’t correct any of it. Cause none of it bothers me,

Gale Straub :

You know, I’m sure you’re someone who’s going to continue reflecting and evolving, you know, as you grow older too. So it’ll be interesting to ask yourself that question and you know, 20 years.

Ash Hobbs:

Yeah. It really will. Uh, it’s, it’s interesting. It’s, it’s so funny. Like, I don’t know if you feel this, how old are you if you don’t mind me asking I’m 34. Okay. Yeah. So not that much. I mean, you’re like four years already. And um, so you’re in the vicinity, but it’s, you know, sometimes I feel like I’ve lived like four different lives already just in terms of the way that I think in my life experience and things like that, just in terms of my own personal evolution. Um, you know, I think at the core I’ve always just been different versions of essentially the same person. But I think one of the beautiful things about getting older that I’m finding is that I’ve come into myself. Holy, like, you know, when I was in my late teens, like 18 early twenties, like whatever, um, it’s very like outward focus, like how the world perceive me and, and, and things like that.

Ash Hobbs:

And, and seeking approval and, you know, there’s insecurity in those ages. Um, or at least it worked for me. And then as I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of shed all those layers of conditioning. And you know, some of it is like during some of the work that we talked about today, like sitting with my own homophobia, my own internalized biases, won’t internalize conceptualization of gender and things like that, and really kind of untangling those. But at this point in my life, I feel like I’m more wholly myself than I have been at any point higher. That’s awesome. Yeah. Yeah. No, it is. It’s a, it’s a cool place to be. No, but there’s some, there’s some reveling and reckoning one must do to get to that place. Some work involved

Gale Straub – Narration:

Ash wants to make sure that as you dig into learn more about implicit bias in the criminal justice system, that it’s super important to learn from people of color. Ash recommends bias by dr. Jennifer Everhart, just mercy by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the equal justice initiative and the new Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Ash also wants you to know that you can also reach out to them directly, either Instagram @AppalachianExplorer or also through their Instagram @DiscoveringGender.

Ash Hobbs:

You need more open conversation. And I think the more that we shut ourselves down and we wall ourselves off from each other, and the more that we get set in this debate mindset, you know, it’s like, it’s that human aversion to being uncomfortable. It’s like, Oh, this conversation that’s uncomfortable when you, my stop, no, this conversation is uncomfortable. This is how we grow. This is how we learn, but you have to be open to that process. And they, you know, I’m always open to hear an opinion that’s different from mine respectfully stated. I’m always open to learn more about the world and, and, and the human beings around me. And so I feel like if I have knowledge that I can share, and I’m absolutely happy to do that.

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