Ash Rose’s wide-ranging work — from promoting equitable development to helping to launch They Beach, a queer beach group — has at least one thing in common: putting Detroit and queer community first.
Over in the close-knit Detroit neighborhood known as Core City, where they have lived for several years, Rose has been keeping development “in the best interest of our neighbors and long-term residents.”
The home they initially moved into was in great disrepair, with no electricity or running water. While fixing up the house, Rose discovered not only a purpose as a new homeowner but also met another homeowner with a shared interested in historic city preservation, their neighbor Vanessa Butterworth. The two launched a group called Core City Strong.
“It’s a visioning project of what everyone in the neighborhood wants,” they say. “Everyone here wants a grocery store, a school, stuff like that. That’s what we’re working toward.”
The four-mile square community is situated to the northwest of the Corktown and Woodbridge neighborhoods, where rents and home prices have skyrocketed in recent years. Core City seems slowly headed in the same direction, which has concerned Rose.
“Core City is a very interesting place,” says Rose. “It was one of the harder hit areas in the history of Detroit, since [the riots of] 1967.”
Rose’s neighborhood is located in an urban farming area, but the threat of development has loomed large in recent years.
“What I don’t really want is a ton of luxury housing going up over here like what happened in Corktown,” Rose says. “A lot of white people who aren’t from here kind of taking it over and making it into another Corktown-type thing. I like it how it is. I know it can’t stay as it is forever. But we can try to develop it correctly.”
Rose and other residents have stood strongly against a concrete-crushing plant that Bloomfield Hills-based Can-Am International Trade Crossing sought to develop on 4.7 acres of vacant land. Rose knew nothing about the proposed concrete crushing facility until they happened to see a notice that was posted on a sign in an empty field the concrete plant was planning to build on. The City denied Can-Am a permit. Currently, Core City Strong meet monthly to talk community engagement and brainstorm their vision for the place they call home.
When Rose isn’t involved with Core City Strong, they’re community-building at the beach. They Beach, a social group specifically for trans and non-binary persons and their allies, gets together at the Belle Isle beach for outings during the summer and, in the fall, host bonfires.
“It’s definitely a thing that trans people don’t often feel safe at the beach,” says Rose, who became one of the co-leaders of the three-year old group last year. “Me, I can pass for a cisgender person. Some people might even think I’m straight. But for others, just the sexual harassment that can sometimes come along with being a member of the trans community is horrible.”
Collectively, They Beach members stake their flag in the sand at the beach and, in such a large group, said Rose, they feel safe. They have a buddy system for trips to the bathroom. For Anthony Dunkley, being in a community space with LGBTQ+ people, specifically trans people, “definitely makes me feel a lot more comfortable.”
“After having my top surgery, going to a They Beach event was my first time being shirtless in public. It felt so liberating,” Dunkley says.
Rose finds They Beach to be a gratifying experience. There, their "heart just overflows with warm, fuzzy feelings."
“I feel a lot of pride. A lot of times, people will say ‘thank you for making this happen.’ It’s just so beautiful,'" they say.
When Rose is on the clock, they’re working as a full-time dog trainer, specializing in aggressive and hard-to-train dogs. It’s work they fell into at 18, when they were visiting some friends in Philadelphia and came across a dog, Clark, tied to a fence in a park.
“This guy who was living in the park, he told me she’d been there for three days,” recalls Rose. “So, I took her home with the intent to foster her and find a home for her.”
Rose quickly found out that would be easier said than done. “She turned out to be pretty aggressive. I worked with a number of different trainers, and a bunch of them told me to euthanize her. But I didn’t want to."
After working with and doing an apprenticeship with a few different trainers, most of whom used cruel methods such as shock-collar and choke-collar training, Rose knew they had to go out on their own. They started studying up-to-date behavior modification techniques and created My Sidekick Dog Training. They help their neighbors take better care of their dogs, including aiding them in finding free or low-cost vet services. At the moment, Rose has four dogs — two of their own and two fosters.
“[Clark] basically got me started on a path of wanting to save dogs like her and help dogs like her,” Rose continues. “My journey with her took me to a lot of places.”