Retrospective on 2015

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The past year has been exhausting. I’ve never felt so much like a hamster on a wheel.

This year will mark 8 years into my transition, 5 years into my social transition, 3 years since my last gender affirming surgeries.

I’m very much at peace with my body now. The change came so slowly, I could hardly tell as it happened, but looking back at myself 10 years ago? I was a mess. Gender dysphoria had me over its knee, I was constantly distracted by it, it consumed me. It was a constant buzz at the back of my skull, pulling all my thoughts in towards it.

I did some pretty awful things to myself, the worst of which was letting an herbal supplement regime mushroom out to un-supervised self-medicated HRT. I was buried in shame. I lied to everyone, including myself about it.

Today, if it weren’t for the advocacy work that I do, I wouldn’t really be thinking about my gender at all. It’s no longer a concern. It’s even a bit awkward right now to write about it, because I have to dig up how I feel. Is this what cis privilege feels like?

Being comfortable in my felt-gender role (as opposed to my physical being) is a bit further off, but I push against the bounds of this one. Maybe it’s the feminist in me. I think that this is a struggle I have in common with many women.

I find myself drawn to communities where the struggle is ongoing, launching the Durham Region chapter of Ladies Learning Code (LLC) was a hallmark event for me here.

Earlier in the year I found my “tribe” at the Agile Coach Camp Canada conference in Cornwall. This set the stage for my courage to start the LLC chapter. It was an amazing event and I learned a lot about myself that weekend. I’d been unable to express why I enjoyed my team coaching engagements until I spent the weekend with so many wonderful coaches who shared that enjoyment.

I feel accepted by the LLC community, by the agile coaching community, and that seems to drop a hand-grenade into my lifetime of internalized transphobia. How this makes me feel is impossible to express in words. Suffice to say, I feel good.

Regular life of course is still a struggle. It’s a common struggle though, and I feel better equipped to bear it.

This year marked the launch of my first software service (primr.io) in 12 years. I’m excited for it, but I have the same fears as many entrepreneurs – will it be successful, will it survive, will people care about it. 2016 will tell me that.

What I find most interesting though, is that for years I’ve strived to figure out a product that I could build, and after the turmoil of 2014 what arose seems a merging of my social justice advocacy and my software skills, two worlds I didn’t see colliding, yet in hindsight it seems so obvious.

I fear for the social entrepreneurship bubble, it feels a bit like the popular kid in the fickle startup community. Like it was created to capture people with my core values and draw us in to the startup community and its constant search for the new megastar, constantly taunting us with promises of venture capital and government assistance. I have no interest in that endless chase.

Honestly, the reason I have what these folks call a social venture has nothing to do with their bubble and everything to do with my core values.

In the meanwhile though, it’s nice at a business level to be in the same room with others that hold these values, more than superficially. Startup practices like honing your pitch and cash management skills are universal and important, so for now it doesn’t feel too far wrong to be here. I do anticipate a falling out with the crowd though. That capitalist startup smell is present, and oh so unappealing.

At least nobody has suggested to me so far to offshore my development work. That ought to be an entertaining “conversation” for onlookers.

I still have far too much on my plate. In addition to my business demanding more of my time than it has in 10 years, launching Gender Journeys Durham, joining the CMHA Gender Journeys team in Peterborough, and launching the LLC Durham chapter, I feel like over the past few years I’ve filled far beyond the extra capacity I’ve gained with my gender congruence. I need to let go a thing or three, but focusing on the things that bring me the greatest joy will also bring me financial ruin, so I continue to sit on the fence. My latest two  joys at least cover their own costs (CMHA and Ladies Learning Code).

Thus is the lure of a social venture, work that is good for the soul AND pays well. It does still feel like I’m refusing to make this decision doesn’t it?

On the family side there’s not much change in 2015. I did attend a family picnic hosted by a cousin, none of my immediate family came (that would have been “interesting” – still estranged from my family of origin). Our oldest daughter is slowly re-engaging with us after a year of isolation. Our youngest still struggling to complete high school though she’s aging on. Our middle is past the middle of her University undergrad.

My spouse and I continue our journey, still reconciling our relationship, now with my physical changes. That’s a rough road, and not one I’m ready to share.

I don’t get to see many friends, or grow many acquaintances into friendships, but that’s OK. I have a couple friendships that blossomed in 2015 and help keep me energized, and I’ve always been a quality over quantity person when it came to friendships.

I don’t know what 2016 will bring me, but change is not only inevitable but required. My cash position needs to improve, and continuing on my current path isn’t going to do it. That’s OK though, I think it’s going to be fun!

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