Tampa – Anyone affiliated with the LGBT community who hasn’t met Ashley Brundage has surely seen her at events. The 34-year-old relationship banker with PNC Bank is the vice president of the Tampa Bay Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, part of the advisory board for the Ybor Youth Clinic and a volunteer with Equality Florida in several capacities. She’s also a board member of the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.
But what makes Brundage truly remarkable is that she burst onto the LGBT scene almost immediately after transitioning and has been a figurehead in the transgender community—especially in 2014.
|”I really found the transgender community was underrepresented,” Brundage says. “I realized there just weren’t enough people involved in the community so I made it my own personal mission to be as involved as I possibly can. My goal was to make it easier for other transgender people to have easier involvement.”
As a Tampa native, Brundage was familiar with the region of Tampa Bay, but she didn’t know anything about the LGBT community until 2012, shortly after she transitioned. Today, she’s a staple at every event.
“The gay and lesbian community has been phenomenal,” Brundage says when asked how her migration into the community felt. “I market what I do for PNC and I market to the LGBT community as a whole. I would say they are the most loyal customer base I’ve ever worked with. They refer me to their friends and family and I feel so welcome at any event held at any place and on any committee or board. It feels wonderful to be equally celebrated as much as I celebrate them.”
While achieving acceptance went extremely well for Brundage, she says she had more difficulty reaching out to fellow transgender people, many of whom prefer to live in “stealth” after transitioning. But things are getting easier.
“Reaching out to other transgender people was more challenging than I anticipated,” she admits. “When I decided I was going to do all of this, I didn’t know what I was really getting myself into. My goal is to change the stigma and the moniker that comes with being transgender. I’ve been successful in recruiting some people who are transgender but who no longer who identify as such, to come in under the umbrella.”
When Brundage isn’t working for PNC or volunteering on the board of an LGBT organization, she’s enjoying her role as a parent. Together with her wife of 12 years, she’s raising two boys, 9 and 7. That’s a role she wouldn’t have if she had transitioned earlier in life, which she considered when she was in high school.
“I was talked out [of transitioning] by my parents and brother when I was 17,” Brundage recalls. “That was good and bad. We’ve come so far in 15 years or so. I know I would not have the family I have now if I had transitioned then, so I’m fortunate. Having my two boys has been my proudest moment.”
So how does Brundage juggle home life, business life and her activism life?
“I put together a great schedule,” she laughs. “I like to plan things in advance. Fortunately I get a lot of support through PNC and its initiatives and diversity inclusion.”
Brundage says that 40 hours of her annual schedule is devoted to volunteerism. And, since she was hired as a transgender employee, she has never had to worry about being who she is while at work or while representing the bank.
“I don’t let myself get overextended,” she says. “I try to take mini-vacations throughout the year so I have time for family and time to decompress. It’s important to keep that balance.”
Her goals for 2015 are ambitious. She wants to continue growing the transgender community by getting fellow trans people involved in LGBT organizations. She also has aspirations to advance in her career at PNC.
For those who want to become as active as she is, Brundage has one piece of advice.
“Take baby steps,” she says. “Get involved on a small, local level and plug into something that is important to you. Once you get involved and see a passion, organizations will use you and you will grow from that.”