An Interview With Ashlee Marie Preston — The First Transgender Editor-In-Chief of a Major Publication

Although our society has become much more accepting of the LGBT+ community, transgender people today are still seen as burdens. Because of society’s perception of transgender people, they do not have as many opportunities to succeed as they should.  In a time where transgender people are being silenced and having their rights taken away, it is important to stand up for trans rights and acknowledge the hard work that many transgender people put into social justice activism.

Ashlee Marie Preston is a transgender woman and activist for transgender rights who recently created history by being the first transgender person to become the Editor-In-Chief of a major publication. Preston is the new Editor-In-Chief of Wear Your Voice magazine, an intersectional feminist publication. I had the pleasure of asking Preston a few questions about the magazine and her activism. Here is what she had to say:

First off, can you tell me a bit about Wear Your Voice magazine? What is it about and what kind of stories or issues do you cover?

WYV is a publication that examines the latest news and trends from around the world through the eyes of intersectional feminists. The experiences of intersectional feminists are disproportionate to traditional white feminists in that race and sexual orientation are additional factors that are often excluded from the topline feminist experience. We’re redefining feminism one voice at a time, and challenging stigmas associated with feminism.

As editor-in-chief, what are your main responsibilities for the magazine?

My main responsibility is to oversee the sustainability of the publication. That means operating from a budget, scouting for powerful writers/contributors, making pitches and reviewing pitches, creating decks, generating revenue for the publication, establishing syndication with other publications, overseeing our social media team, attending social engagements, and the list goes on and infinitude.

Why do you think it’s important for a magazine like Wear Your Voice to exist in today’s society, especially in the Trump era?

WYV is crucial amidst political tensions in America; as we keep our audience informed, inspired, and in search of ways they can take back their power. Traditional media has a tendency to tap-dance around the devastating impact the current administration has on our country. Many journalists and reporters operate from a code of ethics that prevents them from taking strong stances on social issues. WYV is transforming the traditional media landscape by refusing to tone-police our writers. We are committed to accurately representing marginalized women without erasure of their experiences. For many, WYV is the only safe space they have during this presidency.

Can you tell me a little bit about your journey to figure out your identity as a transgender woman, and how that has shaped you into becoming the passionate activist you are today?

I am who I am and I always have been. The world struggles with my identity more than I do. When I transitioned at 19 years old I faced on the job discrimination, which lead to termination, the inability to pay for housing, homelessness, and survival sex work as a last resort. While on the streets I knew friends who were murdered, some who ended up in prison, and some who had completely abandoned the idea of ever having a better life. It was then that I realized we didn’t need people to save us, we simply needed the resources so that we could save ourselves. There’s something indescribable about the moment one experiences the will to fight. That feeling doesn’t just get you through your circumstances; it pushes you beyond anything you ever could have imagined for yourself. Today I’m afforded the opportunity to help other people discover their fight as well. My activism is centered around helping them tap into their inner warrior.

What kind of activities or events do you partake in as part of your activism?

This is going to sound bizarre, but I’m on nine local and national boards that promote social change and advancement for marginalized communities. Many people around the world recently saw videos of myself, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, and my friend Blossom, calling out Charlamagne Tha God at Politicon for encouraging transphobic conversation on his radio show. I’m not opposed to popping up and demonstrating the good old fashion way. Change doesn’t always readily greet you at the door. Sometimes you have to access through the backdoor, basement, side windows, or the chimney.

What would you like to say to all those out there who are struggling with their identity or struggling with facing discrimination because of their identity?

The anxiety of living authentically and owning your truth is normal. With a flip of a letter, you can go from feeling scared to sacred. You are one of a kind and there will never be anyone else exactly like you. You deserve to be happy being exactly who you are. In the words of Dr. Suess, “The people who mind don’t matter, and the people who matter don’t mind.” The most important thing about living out loud is that you quickly find your tribe.

And finally, how do you plan on pushing Wear Your Voice magazine forward now that you are the EIC?

I look forward to developing digital video content and launching “The Editors Edge” which will profile women of color who are using their platforms to positively impact the lives of others. We’re organizing some jam packed annual events that will not only give us the opportunity to collaborate with community partners but it will also help us take WYV culture from the keyboard and into the community. One of my FAVORITE things I’m looking forward to is developing a skills hub that allows our audience to access courses that help them advance economically. I’m not telling you the rest…you’ll just have to subscribe to our emails and follow us on social media to get the scoop!

Preston has worked tirelessly to help transgender people receive the rights, respect, and freedoms that they deserve. It is inspiring to see someone thriving and succeeding even when most of society is working against them. Please check out Wear Your Voice magazine and help support a great publication.

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