Taylor Ashbrook’s first-ever writing assignment covering an Ohio State game was the College Football Playoff semifinal game against Clemson in January of 2017. It was a big step towards getting to the thing she loved ever since she was a child watching college football with her dad—a dream come true, she said.
While this was on large step in her life, less than a year later she took another one: publicly coming out as a transgender woman.
“On one hand I was happy I was going to be embracing who I knew I always was inside,” Ashbrook said. “At the same time, I was very well aware that this could kill my career.”
Taylor Ashbrook, a sports journalist, is a transgender woman covering Ohio State sports in a field typically dominated by cis males. Especially in our sports driven community, this is one of the largest and most competitive beats to write about in the country.
Ashbrook now runs her own web-based sports publication, Buckeye Beat Report, covering Ohio State sports. This trailblazer decided to start her own publication after leaving another one, because she didn’t like the direction the publication was taking.
“I want to share stories both on and off the field,” Ashbrook said. “There’s so many great stories off the field that don’t get written about.”
Ashbrook is hoping that these more off-the-field type stories can separate her publication from the rest of the competition. She is currently looking for writers, to have a more diverse staff, and to give some creative freedom within the stories they are writing about. As of right now, she is the only writer in her publication, making it a little harder to get out and write those off-the-field features as she keeps up with the day-to-day news of Ohio State athletics.
Ashbrook had felt like she was a woman around the age of five, and she grew up in a small town. She wasn’t necessarily a great athlete, but she loved sports. That love shared with her father, who coached high school football, baseball and basketball.
“It was a really big passion of mine, and it was a really good escape for me from the outside world,” Ashbrook said. “It was just enjoyable for me.”
It was at Capital when she first started to work in sports journalism, by doing play-by-play for her school’s sports radio network. But, Ashbrook had different plans as she then left Capital to go to Ohio Media School.
“I was tired of paying all of this money”–Capitol tuition–“to start up my own program at this school.”
At Ohio Media school, she was first introduced to writing about the Buckeyes. From there on she became a freelancer, and went to the College Football Playoff semifinal as a writer for the EBsportsnetwork, another Ohio State Athletic publication. Less than a year later she would come out into the industry as one of the first transgender people to be a sports writer on a large market team.
Although places like ESPN and Fox are getting more diverse in their workforce, the local Columbus market in sports writing, photography and radio are still full of cis white men. Ashbrook, however, has no animosity towards this fact.
“Everyone has earned their spot to be in that room,” Ashbrook believes.
And there was no animosity towards her from other reporters covering the same events as the up-and-coming journalist. The community in general may have space to grow, but their team mentality seems to be pretty in-tact.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to everyone for being so open, and accepting of who I was.” Ashbrook said.
That being said, she does believe that she wouldn’t have been given the same opportunity had she came out before working. The first game she covered after coming out was the Ohio State v. Oklahoma game in Columbus. One of the factors that pushed Ashbrook to come out was the feeling that it was time to break stereotypes about trans-people, and that it was her time to be one of the firsts in sports journalism.
Ashbrook has never wanted to feel different than her colleagues, or be treated differently. She just wanted to become the person she always felt like she was.
“We just want to be accepted as normal people in this society, and be treated as any normal woman would.”
Photo courtesy of aceshot1 from Shutterstock.