During my studies, I had the opportunity to follow the journey of a transgender friend. When we started the studies, it was him we learned to know and appreciate. It was with her that our studies ended.
We had the honor to be involved in her journey and learn from her courage. It was a challenging journey for her and one she remains proud of. It includes all the moments of doubts and moving forward. Being still in contact, we continue to learn from the challenges she encounters today.
It worked for her.
However, it can be challenging.
It is a shift of identity that leads to leaving a sense of being behind that cannot be regained. It requires learning to deal with a new identity and at least one that will never be complete. She will never know what it would have been to born as a girl and she will never know what it would have been to continue life with her previous identity. It is more than herself that changed. It is how she is perceived by her environment as well as how she believes to be perceived.
It is staying in the same country and yet having to learn to fit into a new culture. It is being seen through a new lens by others, it is learning to deal with different stereotypes and reactions to her behavior.
While we both have very different experiences, some of hers resonate with me. Giving up my nationality of origin and taking up a different one, meant to leave something behind. The extent of it taking time to materialize.
Impermanence is a constant.
It doesn’t prevent change to feel like leaving something behind and stepping into an unknown. We start with a lot of courage, that’s almost the easiest moment in transition. The hard work starts when change isn’t complete and whatever has been left behind starts to be missed. It continues with the change expected to be done and yet it still is very much of a learning journey, a sense of not yet being there.
While change can’t go back, habits can still percolate. Change is loss and discovery at the same time.
It’s worth remembering when leading teams into a change process and transforming culture. Even more so as it is coupling individual and group change.