Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Someone transitions, and within a year they’ve changed jobs.
Why is this the case? Why do so many people switch jobs after transition? As I’ve been struggling in my own career recently, considering my own situation put many of those that transitioned before me and their job changes into perspective.
Having been in and around the transgender community for a over twenty years, changing jobs post-transition used to be unremarkable because it was recommended. The thinking was to go where no one knew your history in order to avoid discrimination. They also used to recommend moving and starting over in another town where no one knew you. It was all rooted in the stealth philosophy of gender transition as pushed by cis gatekeepers, but that’s a different story.
Today, while I see more and more people transition and stay where they’re at, I still see what appears to be a higher percentage of people than I would expect switch jobs and even careers. I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that my viewpoint is coming from the privileges of race (I’m white,) age (I’m old,) and income (I’ve worked in high-tech for twenty-five years and have done well,) so my observations are mostly confined to that demographic, excepting for what I read on other people’s blogs and Twitter feeds.
“Transition solves for gender dysphoria, and that’s it. All the other stuff is still here, and if anything, those other things have assumed a truer shape now that the weight of dysphoria is no longer crushing them almost out of sight.”
In my case, post-transition, I feel the discomforts of my career more than ever. I used work to distract me from the overwhelming gender feelings I had. Now I see how my over two-hour long commute, the long hours, and the huge responsibilities, (I product manage an app that has cumulative downloads over 50 million each in both the Google Play and iOS app stores,) helped to crowd out my feelings.
With most of my dysphoria gone, I realize how much energy those things around work are taking out of me. What I’ve also discovered is that while I know I can do my job, my appetite for it has waned, if it was ever there in the first place.
Technology was something I stumbled into and found I had a natural aptitude for. Add in being in the right place at the right time, working with some really smart people and mentors, and a series of gigs that peaked with me founding and running my own twenty-five person startup in the dot-com era, I didn’t think too much about what I did.
When I left my own company, I was also going through a divorce and had walked up to the edge of hormones and transition and turned away. I ended up unemployed and for the first time in my life I considered my career choice.
I didn’t like it.
The long hours, the pages in the middle of the night, being indoors and sitting for long hours were the surface things I didn’t like. All the promise I saw when I was younger around the democratization of publication, access, and communication were consumed by the profit motive.
People online were quickly turned into commodities to be maximized for profit instead of people to build new things with together. The technology wheel turned faster, making the work ever more repetitive on a treadmill that never stopped.
I took a brief detour into communications as a temp, writing a weekly operations newsletter for a nationwide retail chain, but a full time job never opened up. I fell in love again, got married, and started a family. I held my nose and went back into tech to support my family because the temp job didn’t have very good benefits and I could earn more. You can read the rest of my blog for the intervening years up to today.
With gender dysphoria now no longer consuming me, the genuine magnitude of my burnout and unhappiness with tech is manifest. Where I used to actively cultivate a Zen Buddhist attitude of not trying to care too much about outcomes in order to free myself from expectations of success or failure, now I just don’t care.
My small thoughts of switching careers have swollen in size, and I think more and more about what comes next. If I had the means, I’d quit and spend some time to figure it out. As it is, my divorce settlement ate my emergency cushion and I’m stuck for the time being.
So here I am, like so many others on the other side of transition, contemplating what to do with the rest of my life and one large piece of that is my work.
I get it now.