I met Alexa a couple of years ago while I was living in Dallas, TX. I don't think she remembers the exact moment, but, in all honesty, neither do I. I needed to rent some photography equipment and the place she works just has all the best gear, and it was always my first call.
A year or two went by and we were now living in Portland, OR. I had to travel back to Dallas for a photoshoot, and as usual, I needed to rent some lights. While searching for the rental company in my email inbox, I finally got a hold of my contact, so I emailed him with my list of needs.
A few minutes later I received a message back, "They are always so efficient", I thought, as I read..
Just a heads up I’m going by Alexa (she/her) now! Please use my new email address that I sent this over with.
Yea that should not be a problem, I’ve attached the quote below."
It took me a moment. I was in a situation I had simply never faced before. I found myself forgetting about what I needed to rent and instead turning all my attention to discovering who this brave and courageous human being was... fascinated by the simplicity of that message, yet intrigued by the complexity of such a decision.
I sent her my congratulations - not knowing if that was even the correct response, but it felt right - and we have been friends ever since.
I am grateful for Alexa, for sharing her story, for opening up to me and trusting me, for letting me photograph her and accepting me and all my silly questions.
I am grateful for wonderful people like her, who are committed to being true to themselves and patient with others just like myself. This is my humble way to honor and highlight the brave & strong people like Alexa..
Now, let's get to know her more. This is Alexa Ford.
"My experience with transitioning has been an exhilarating and scary process at times. One of the most important things I've learned is to take life as it comes to me. Before transitioning I was incapable of doing so because I was stuck inside this box. This box was formed from my experiences and upbringing in East Texas, where people are looked down upon for being different. I was so entrenched in my way of thinking I never saw the point of honestly expressing myself. I joined theatre and choir in high school then college as an escape to be anyone but myself. Then as I got older I started to abuse alcohol and pot to numb myself, because I had no way of escaping those feelings that were not allowed in my box. It took me a little over 28 years to finally confront that feeling I've had since I was a young child. To truly recognize my gender identity and not be ashamed of it. So at the end of 2017, I finally decided that I no longer needed this box. I became free for the first time in my whole life, and it felt liberating! Now that's not to say that the good comes without the bad. In those first few months, I lost my grandfather, my girlfriend of over 5 years left, and I drove a sibling to rehab. It has been one of the hardest yet rewarding things I have ever done in my life! One of my friends said it best, "I feel like I’ve been drowning my whole life and now I can finally breathe!"
• If you could fit your experience in phases what would they be?
"The first phase- Accepting myself and becoming ok with the fact I'm transgender was really hard and was one of the most important things for me to do.
The second phase- Coming out to my partner, family, friends and publicly. It's the fear of the unknown that holds so much of us back, myself included.
The Third Phase- Socially transition, living full time as Alexa. Starting hormone replacement therapy to being physically and mentally transitioning."
• How does it feel to be able to decide your own name and why did you pick the name Alexa?
"It felt like a rebirth, getting to pick a name that I identify with. I wanted it to represent me genuinely. I'm a filmmaker and have always had a passion for cameras. There's one camera by Arrri, called the Arri Alexa. In my opinion, this digital cinema camera has the closest look to actual film stock. It is also a very durable and reliable system overall. I have only been able to shoot with it once and fell in love immediately, with the camera and the name!"
• Tell us about a person that unexpectedly gave you support in your journey and how has that felt.
"It's so hard to pick just one, but if I had to it would be my cousin Trevor. We used to see each other often as kids and then for almost 10 years I didn't see him. Whenever I came out he messaged me and told me how proud he was of me and he wanted to reconnect. It's really nice to have a supportive family member in the Dallas area."
• What are the 3 most difficult practical adjustments you had to make with your gender transition?
1. Losing friends and family members is by far one of the hardest things I've dealt with so far.2. NOT getting upset whenever someone misgenders me. In the beginning, it was so easy to take offense every time and I was an emotional trainwreck.3. Comparing myself to other trans women at the beginning of my transition, the only person you should compare yourself to is you from yesterday.
• What do you tell a 5-year old that might be curious about your look?
"I give them a big smile! And if they say something to me, I tell them I'm a woman born inside the wrong body. Kids are very understanding!"
• Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
"In 10 years I hope to be creating meaningful films that help educate and put a spotlight on the transgender community."
• If there is anything you could change about the past what would it be?
"To realize who I am earlier in life and started transitioning sooner."
• What would be your advice to any young people who are going through this?
"I'd tell them to not be afraid of being different from their peers and try not to worry what they might think. What's most important is being honest with yourself! Not trying to please everyone and change yourself to fit their ideas and values. Trust me I tried that and it doesn't work out for anyone. Do not feel rushed to come out, everyone has their own preferred way of doing things. Do it when it feels right! Build up a network of caring people to support you if your family doesn't. And remember you are not alone!"