Altadonna Speaks of Life Through Film
-by Mike Haen
Oct. 13, 2009
***Before my talk at Marquette University, I was interviewed for a possible article in the Marquette Tribune. The article was not printed, but its author was kind enough to share it with me. Here it is.
The suit Ashley Altadonna wears is one tailored by years of confusion, denial, and a desire to cast away the truth. Today, this suit, tailored by such dark aspects, is worn with pride and confidence.
Ashley Altadonna chronicled her journey on Thursday, October 8 when she spoke at Cudahy hall. Altadonna, a prominent transgender filmmaker in the Milwaukee area, shared two of her films about gender transitioning and gender roles in society. The two films presented by Altadonna were “Whatever Suits You” and “Playing with Gender.” The first film showcases the making of a suit and it’s relation to her transition from a man to woman.
“Playing with Gender,” displays Altadonna’s unique sense of humor and desire to provide detailed educational background about the misconceptions of gender. The film utilizes a black and white platform and a 1950s educational film style to illustrate these points.
Born Kyle Altadonna in Houston, Texas in 1979, Ashley Altadonna grew up as a typical boy in the eyes of his family and friends. However, at the age of 13, Altadonna began to engage in activity that is seen as taboo by a majority of society. In secrecy, Kyle began to cross-dress by trying on his mother’s clothing and also putting on make-up.
“Over the next 5 years, I continued to dress-up in private,” explained Altadonna. “It was thrilling for me, but at the same time it was a source of great anxiety.” Throughout this 5 year period, Altadonna attempted to distance herself from the reality of her activities. At the age of 18, Kyle Altadonna finally expressed his secret to his girlfriend.
“She (girlfriend) supported me despite my actions,” said Altadonna.
In 2001, Kyle concluded that his desires to dress up as a woman were more than a hobby, and instead, were indications that he desired to be a female.
“When I talked to my parents, they accepted my feelings for the most part,” said Altadonna. “It was a little tougher for my Dad.”
After explaining his intentions to his family, Kyle decided to start therapy at the Pathways Counseling Center in Brookfield, Wisconsin. The therapy ceased after one session due to financial issues.
In 2004, Altadonna finally decided to begin his transition through taking hormones.
“It was now or never,” explained Altadonna.
That same year, she met her current girlfriend, Maria, and a year later, legally changed her name to Ashley.
“The happiest thing I’ve received from my transitioning is becoming the person I’ve wanted to be and assisting others,” she said. Like many transgender individuals, Altadonna has faced some instances of discrimination. For example, while employed as a bank teller, she was forced to switch to a different branch of the bank due to reasons stemming from her transition.
“Overall, I’ve been lucky,” said Altadonna in regards to discrimination.
Currently, Ashley Altadonna is working on a documentary entitled, “Making the Cut,” which chronicles her fundraising efforts for gender reassignment surgery. The film will also focus on forms of adversity facing transgender individuals such as acquiring health insurance after gender reassignment surgery.
In the future, Ashley Altadonna hopes to continue making films that yield the same support and positive response.