“There’s no liberation for some of us without liberation for all of us,” says LadyAshley Gregory.
Kentucky-born and St. Louis raised, Gregory carries the torch of activism and community everywhere she goes on her “simply human” journey. She’s got a family lineage of speaking truth to power — the late civil rights activist and writer Dick Gregory was her great-uncle.
It is the acknowledgment of her own humanity, Gregory says, that has helped her on her journey of learning about the practice of speaking up for those who don’t yet — or may not ever — have the voice to stand against various oppressions.
With a gentle push from the universe, Gregory began to grow conscious of our ever-changing world, focusing on queer youth in the streets and their lack of safe spaces to dance, dine, lounge and just be. She saw it especially for queer trans people of color (QTPOC).
So, in 2016, she became the first cisgender member of the board of the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (MTUG), where she serves as the leader of QTPOC:STL. As she prepares to step into a new role as director of community partnerships within her occupation, Gregory will facilitate and foster partnerships through honest and earnest conversations about various conflicts and concerns that affect our community.
When she’s not working to dismantle systems of oppression and speaking truth to power, Gregory enjoys the comforts of the outdoors, dancing her heart away, loving on her pets and amazing naps.
She has come to realize that her voice carries power, and she isn’t afraid to wield it. After watching and listening to her great-uncle stand for what he believed was right, it wasn’t too difficult to imagine LadyAshley Gregory following close behind in the footsteps that preceded her.
For Gregory, intersectionality informs her activism and is ever-present in our community.
“It’s OK to have a focus,” she says. “Realize that other oppressions play off of one another.”
Her words couldn’t be truer — every single day, new identities and sexualities are being identified and many exist outside of the binary. Mix in the need for racial and socioeconomic equity, and you have a melting pot of family that, more often than not, shares many of the same inequities that cast them out in the first place.
“We can learn from our chosen families,” Gregory says of the varying intersections we all bring to the table. And speaking of intersectionality, Gregory is preparing to conduct a keynote address on intersectional feminism (the name of the organization is private) and its impact in today’s predominantly patriarchal, white and heteronormative world, and how it especially pertains to QTPOC.
Being that feminism tends to try to wipe away the legitimate struggles of trans women, it is amazing that Gregory has the honor of exercising her influence; it is imperative that we destroy the narrative that trans women — especially trans women of color — have no place in feminism.
With more of our queer youth discovering and rediscovering themselves and finding a place to simply belong, Gregory believes in creating safer spaces for our youth to flourish and blossom.
One example of how she works to build a safer space for QTPOC is by standing as co-facilitator for the support group QTPOC:STL, which came about after the murder of Michael Brown and the ensuing Ferguson uprising. The group is for those who identify as QTPOC and are looking for solace, community and support.
Other ways that Gregory makes an impact is by continuously bringing awareness to various intersectional groups and how they play off of one another, working with MTUG and continuing to break down barriers and forge connections.
Gregory says that we humans are “always waking up and continuing on the path of enlightenment.”
Unlearning certain behaviors, biases and hurtful notions in a particularly patriarchal, heteronormative and Eurocentric society are of the utmost importance if we are to ever truly understand ourselves, understand others and understand ourselves IN others, she says.
Much of our community is queer youth exploring themselves and the world around them, and so they look up to the older generation for guidance and understanding.
Given that, I asked LadyAshley Gregory for a piece of advice she would have given her younger self.
“Trust your guts,” she says. “Your feelings are valid, but determine how you feel and why.”
Trust yourself and know that there is no one right path to take on the journey of self-discovery. Know that your heart and being is special because it is all YOURS; it is there to guide you. And, she says, “you were made to be here.”