1.) Non-financial barriers existed that I needed to address to unlock my leadership potential.
As I began my fellowship, I started to take a deeper look at what it meant to take care of myself while actively fighting for equity daily. I quickly faced the truth that how and where I was showing up were simply not sustainable. Initially, I turned to tried and true coping mechanisms. A mix of healthy and not so healthy--- I have relied heavily on consumption and distraction for much of my life. These will always play a role in my coping. However, overtime I have increased my awareness and intentionality around my use of these.
Through this fellowship I have benefited from the coaching and mentorship I have received. My main leadership coach, and the wealth of information she has shared with me over the past two years has helped open my idea of leadership. I now focus on leading from where I am in each moment rather than striving to achieve a specific title or outcome. I am proud of the person I am and the work to which I am committed.
2.) My progress is not linear.
This continues to be true. I am not where I thought I would be 2 years into this fellowship. Yet, looking back at what I set out to do with this time I have accomplished most goals. What I did not realize when I started is that I had a self-imposed order of tasks and accomplishments. This held me back. The fellowship has afforded me the confidence and resources to make space in my life. Without it I would not have felt comfortable making the leap from my stable job in healthcare to a small consulting firm. Ironically, I also would not have had to confidence to walk away from that consulting job when I could tell it was not going to work out. Walking away and taking risks requires bravery and privilege. I am so grateful for this experience and what I have learned about myself through the process.
3.) My sustainability as a leader is tied to the leaders that came before me.
In my initial application I wrote that I crave mentorship. I have had the opportunity to surround myself with pretty amazing coaches and mentors. The importance of building and maintaining intergenerational relationships, collegial and friendships, is even more clear to me now. It will forever be a critical part of my learning, leadership, sustainability, and broader social progress. I was fortunate to receive coaching from a trans elder, legal scholar, and longtime activist. Receiving this fellowship created the opportunity to connect with him. Furthermore, this connection led to an opportunity to get involved with the World Professional Association on Transgender Health (WPATH). This is the way I can sustainably engage in systems change work in service to transgender health equity with specific national impact. I always hoped to engage more meaningfully with WPATH but always felt out of place as a non-clinician and outside of academia. All it took was a few key conversations with the right people to share my experience in public health and health insurance equity. I already had everything I needed to make this engagement happen, I just did not realize it.
4.) Intentionally reconnecting with family was extremely rewarding.
Upon the award announcement in 2020 I became aware of family members working to improve access to healthcare for trans and non-binary folks in New Zealand. Being able to visit them, get to know them, and spend time in their community space and clinic was invaluable. It was so much more than just the learning that travel, site visits, and interviews would typically produce. It was the healing I could feel taking place from being able to connect with family members around transgender health equity. It really helped me realize how guarded I have been with my extended family. I had to get vulnerable, and it challenges my instincts to isolate and take care of myself without help.