Written Tuesday, December 31, 2019

I've had a semi-formal tradition, for many years now, of sitting down at the end of a year to reflect on what has happened, and try and set a bit of a tone for the year to come.


It's a good thing I have practice at doing this, because there's just... far too much to comprehend, packed into the preceding 365 days.


My memory - refreshed by estrogen therapy and a remarkably effective set of additional vitamins - is scarily accurate these days, but there are still patches that are dark. I don't know what I was doing exactly a year ago, but it was probably because I was recovering from a massive tooth infection and a messy holiday season spent avoiding my biological family.


I had just begun to dimly realize that I was not, in fact, a straight cis man. The world seemed weird but somehow had some alluring potential, and maybe things would be new and exciting.




January had barely begun when things went off the rails. My rescue Malamute was caught outside in a nasty winter storm and - despite knowing full well that he could simply come in through the gigantic dog door I'd had custom-installed in the side of the kitchen wall, he simply... didn't. The next morning, he was shivering, soaking wet, and terrified on the back deck, looking out at the completely demolished fence around the yard.

I'd invested hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours of grueling labor getting that fence reinforced, because - as with many Malamutes - my dog was an escape artist. Given some privacy and a little bit of boredom (or just the incentive of something smelly on the other side of the fence) he never passed up a chance to try and explore the wide world.

And that night, he just sat on the deck, and went nowhere.

I spent a couple weeks struggling to keep him comforted and help him recover, but he deteriorated quickly. Night after night, we walked around in the snow and freezing rain, hours on end. I'd bring him back home, shattered and exhausted, and hope he would sleep for even just a few hours. Eventually, between the threat of impending pneumonia and the obvious psychological strain of my own, it was clear that he needed other care.

I surrendered him back to the rescue agency and tried to settle in to face the first year I'd spent without him since 2014. I thought it was a nasty way to begin a year, but hey, a few miserable weeks in January couldn't ruin all of 2019, right?


My personal life was a bit of a mess, but I threw myself into my job, as I tended to do in those days - looking to stay occupied, keep busy, just regain center.


Part way through February, our company went through a truly brutal set of layoffs and restructuring. As tends to happen, people continued to leave voluntarily over the next few months, seeing a lack of hope and a chance to try something new elsewhere.


I struggled to hold together some kind of effectiveness on the job, even while secretly fighting back a panic that I wasn't even able to handle myself.



By the end of the first quarter of 2019, the very year itself was a four-letter-word in almost all of my social circles. People seemed to have unprecedented pain, loss, unforeseen or maybe just unavoidable. It was a quiet but passionate curse.




I saw relationships (including my own) shatter and vanish. I felt like I'd lost almost everything. Too much time to just sit around in my now-empty (and deathly quiet) house, trying to figure out what the hell was going on.



Spring started and - as the metaphor goes - things started to bloom again. I found my first name on the 8th, while sitting in traffic. I drove around mindlessly a lot that month, using the car as a sort of mobile isolation chamber to just try and let my mind roam while I struggled to make sense of it all.


By the end of the month, I'd latched onto something, but wasn't yet entirely sure what it was. The 28th saw the inaugural entry in a journal that eventually became this web site.


May. June. July.

Looking back, those three months were defined by a single theme: I knew, at least one some vague level, who I was supposed to be; it was a matter of charting a course and figuring out how to get her to replace whatever mess was roaming around the physical world in charge of my body.


A dear colleague left the company during that time. I was nowhere near out, yet, but when they told me in person that they had resigned, they quietly asked if I was also looking for work.


At first I was taken aback; I'd been fighting - hard, and with good success - to salvage my team and job, and leaving was the last thing on my mind. They must have seen my confusion, because they noted that I had "been clean-shaven and dressing nicely a lot" and also taking odd hours off - and maybe that correlated with interviewing.


It was all I could do to suppress the line that immediately sprang to mind:


Yeah, I'm actually training my replacement already. I think you'd like her.

On July 2nd, I had a private meeting with a representative from HR, who I knew and trusted. And for the first time on any "official" level, I declared my intent to live my truth.

On the 4th I was dealing with some nasty wounds left over from growing up overseas; the outright colonialist, nationalistic zeal was overwhelmingly sickening, and I wrote some impassioned words trying to make sense of it all.

I knew I needed a legacy - a heritage, to replace the family I'd finally shut out completely and left behind. I needed a full name to use when I finally announced to the company who I really am. And I needed to feel ownership of the growing well of fierce love and protection I felt towards... people.

On July 6th, the last piece of that puzzle clicked into place, and for the first time in my entire life, I signed my real, full name.


The email from HR went out on August 7th. I had taken the day off work, just for simplicity. A couple of weeks before, I'd visited a women's clinic in the area and been put on the path to obtain hormone replacement therapy - what proved to be a vital breakthrough for me. My first set of prescriptions was filled a week later, at a pharmacy I've used since moving to the area over eight years before.


On the night of August 16th, a Friday, I had what I can only describe in hindsight as a profound panic attack. I was still, on some level, uncertain of whether or not I was doing the right thing. I hadn't actually picked up my prescriptions. That night, huddled in bed and feeling strangely out of sorts, I resolved that - one more time - nothing could possibly stop me. I was going to get the pills, and start taking them Saturday. It was all safe, easily reversible for a while, and I had every assurance that if it didn't work for me, I'd just try some other way to live.


I hadn't even gotten back to the house with the pills - let alone actually taken any of them - when the incredible, inescapable gender euphoria came flooding in. And for the next week, I shed layer after excruciating layer of baggage, pain, and what I quickly realized was just debris accumulated from years of not knowing who I was.


Amelia was free.


September. October. November.

The year had begun with pain and loss. The summer had ended and I found myself with an unbelievable amount of momentum. Anything that felt like it might have been holding me back was examined carefully, and either healed, or set free. On October 18th, I wrote something of a ritual saying, that I used frequently in the following weeks:


To the Disconnected.

May we never meet again as the people we once were.

Should two strangers encounter each other by chance someday, perhaps we can marvel at who we have become in the time between.

And then it was time for Thanksgiving, and family came calling again.

(I should note that I'd been in contact with exactly one relative throughout the year, for various reasons, but suddenly others were concerned about why I'd been invisible for over ten months.)

By the end of November, I had finished thinking it over, and knew I had to do something. I wound up writing several pages of heart-rending truth to my parents, and stuffed it all into an envelope and left it in the mailbox one morning in early December.


Nothing could have prepared me for the complete about-face in my life. In December of 2018, I'd begun systematically blocking contact methods from my relatives, sealing myself off from a life I was prepared to never think about again.


Instead, I spent hours over the Christmas week on the phone with my parents, my sisters, and other friends. I used to hate phones. Somehow, during 2019, I became something of a power user of my Pixel 2 XL Android phone, and we're now inseparable.


My house no longer feels empty or lonely. At any given moment, I have ongoing conversations with someone - slow, thoughtful email exchanges, or rapid-fire chats, or texts back and forth. My kitchen is spotless and there's a nice promising nook in the window where I want to grow some succulents next year.


The yard is a mess, but as a sign of promise to myself and my future plans, I keep a hummingbird feeder stocked at all times in the back - a place where once a huge, fuzzy dog roamed free. It amazed me to learn, years ago, that hummingbirds frequent this area even in winter; and while I've yet to see any this winter, I look forward to the spring, when I know they'll be around in force.


I've begun sorting through the mountains of memorabilia and random "stuff" I've accumulated in three decades of floating around Earth. At one time, I never really though I would ever really understand the idea of "home." And yet, here I am - five and a half years in this house, the longest I have ever spent in any one residence in my entire life, by a factor of two beyond the next runner-up.


I understand the idea of roots, of community, of belonging, of purpose.


Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes speaks of winter with a kind of powerful, wise reverence - of a time when growth turns inwards, to strengthen a core and build towards new life when the warmth returns.



Fuck it. We did it. We're here, we made it, and it's all but over. Just under 5 hours from now, there will be no more of this year left. For a long time, I literally couldn't imagine what the year could have lying in wait. Ten months ago I was terrified of what might yet be coming.


And now, at the end of this cycle, all I can think is that this is the best damn year of my entire life. But it isn't in a sad, wistful way - I haven't "peaked."


I'm just getting started.


Let's see where this Starship goes.