Transitioning is kind of a pain. I mean, besides the cost, the time, the meds, the doctor’s visits and lab tests, getting your face blasted with a laser, buying a whole new wardrobe (which is fun, but also kind of scary and expensive), having to deal with “coming out” to people, possibly losing friends and family, exposing yourself to all kinds of new discrimination, and about a thousand other things, it simply just complicates life. For trans people, transition provides hope for a better and happier life. But transition doesn’t happen in a bubble, it affects your marriage (if you have one), your relationships with family, your job, and just about everything else you may do. Nothing is safe from added complication. Major life decisions go from being major to being astronomically monumental.
Right now, I’m stuck with a pretty major decision to make. On its own, this would be a major life change, but add in transition and it becomes a brutal situation to be in.
I just got back from an awesome trip to California. My wife and I spent a few days in Disneyland and then made our way up to San Francisco for another few days. It was, without a doubt, one of the best trips we’ve ever taken. It also so happens that I have a friend who moved out to San Francisco for a job a couple years ago. She’s since left that company, but she absolutely loves her new one. We’ve exchanged some casual conversation about it before and I explained why I’m extremely hesitant to make any employment-related changes in my life. However, while I was out there, she offered to show me around and introduce me to some of her coworkers. They’re hiring and she’s been encouraging me to apply.
I’ve been with my company for five and a half years now and I generally like it there. Not every day is a good day, but I’m mostly happy where I’m at. My company took a chance hiring someone (me) without any formal software development education or experience. I got lucky and pretty much got pulled kicking and screaming into both this career and this job, but I’m _extremely_ grateful for that–I think about it every day. This job gave me some sort of direction that I was lacking before and, thanks to this job, I’ve been able to grow beyond what I can describe with words and actually learn software development in the real world. I’ve progressed my skills from pretty much nothing to somewhat impressive. I’m trusted with big projects and am one of the key engineers at my company. I also met my wife at work which is pretty rad.
Bringing it back to being transition, I’m not yet out at work. A few people know and support me, but I’m not going to be completely out for about another month and a half still. I’m planning on going “full time” sometime around November 1st and, after that, I’ll be showing up at work as “me.” This is both scary and exciting, but the thing about my job is that I’m in a position where I feel safe and secure for this. Not only do I live in one of the few states where my employment is protected, but my company’s HR department has made it very clear I will be supported and allowed to transition on my own timeline and go about handling it at work the way _I_ want. I also have a bit of seniority at my company—I was the 16th employee hired before we were acquired last year—and no one else knows the area of our system that I work on. They have made it clear, through a retention package when we were acquired, pay increases, and taking me aside to tell me so, that I’m an important part of our engineering team. My job feels very safe. Not only that, but there are very few coworkers I’m worried about for when I come out at the office. I truly feel like most of them will be very supportive. I don’t foresee any serious issues and I think I could have a long career ahead of my at my company as a woman and as Amelia.
As you may have guessed, I wasn’t exactly looking for a new job. However, it’s hard for me to simply ignore a new opportunity. When I was offered my current job, I was in the same situation, minus the transition part. I wasn’t looking and I was practically forced by my friend to send him my resumé. I also had planned to decline the offer…until I saw the money. I decided to risk leaving a safe job to pursue a risky career change that I fully expected to not work out. Given how the decision did work out, I know I have to be open to this opportunity.
I don’t know if I would even get an interview, let alone be offered the job, but I feel as though I need to go into it assuming I would get hired if I apply. Because a friend is involved, it would be wrong for me to simply apply “just to see.” I need to be 100% serious and ready to accept if offered a job. I can’t apply until I’ve thought this through and am ready to take the job if offered.
Leaving a job you’re relatively happy with for a new one is risky enough as it is, but taking this job would also mean moving to the other side of the country, from New Jersey all the way over to San Francisco. I would be leaving my friends, family, and everyone and everything I know behind. I would have to assume the company would not offer to pay for any of the relocation costs so it could also be costly.
The thing is, if I weren’t transitioning, this would actually be a rather easy decision. My wife and I have talked about moving to “a city” for a while and she wants to do it. I do too. I may not want to live in a city forever, but I think I want to for at least a few years. It’d still be risky to leave a good job and move across the country and I’d still be leaving everything and everyone behind, but I think I’m okay with those things on their own.
However, the reality is that I _am_ transitioning. Things are complicated because of that. As I very briefly mentioned up above, transitioning affects your marriage. I don’t go into details about my wife and my marriage here (or anywhere, really), but suffice to say, nothing is guaranteed in this situation. I hope for my wife to stick with me through all of this, but it’s reasonable to think that she may not be able to or want to at some point. After I go full time, it’s very possible she won’t be able to handle it anymore. It’s her life too and I don’t want her to feel as though she’s stuck and has to stay. I want for her to be happy and I hope being with me makes her happy, but the reality is I’m not able to give her the life she expected to have with me when we said our vows. By taking a job across the country, I’m putting her in a position where she needs to decide if that’s something she wants to do given our current situation. She’d also have her life upended and wouldn’t know anyone out there for a while until she made some friends. What happens if things don’t work out? Where does she go? Does she move back home? Does she stay there? I’m asking a lot from her. Not to mention the fact that we’d be moving across the country and changing so much of our lives at the same time that I’m going full time. That’s a lot of change at once.
It’s also risky for me. If the job doesn’t work out, what then? Finding a new job when you’re trans isn’t easy, even in states where employment discrimination based on gender identity is illegal. The statistics don’t lie, trans people have much, much higher rates of unemployment and lower average pays…even when all other things are equal. Ignoring everything else, this is a big a deal, whether moving across the country is involved or not. My current job is safe and not something I need to worry about. I’d be walking away from that.
However, there are also a lot of positives with taking a job on the other side of the country. It’d be an amazing experience and something new. As my wife and the friend who works at the company I would be applying to have both pointed out, I could have a fresh start in a new city as “me.” I’d be able to leave my old, outdated life behind. I wouldn’t have to transition at work and deal with the handful of people who wouldn’t be supportive. No one would be misgendering me or calling me by my dead name. They wouldn’t even _know_ my dead name. I wouldn’t _have_ to explain being transgender and why I’m transitioning to people. Of course, the flip side is that I’d also be leaving my friends and family, who are my support network, behind. In NJ, I don’t need to worry about making new friends as a trans woman. I already have wonderful friends who are amazingly supportive. Life could be pretty lonely in San Francisco for an obviously trans woman who is new to the city, even if it is a very LGBT-friendly city.
Going full time, starting a new job, moving 3,000 miles away, getting to know a new city, and having to make all new friends all at the same time may be going a bit overboard in the name of “starting fresh.” This is a lot of change all at once.
Realistically, if I decide to apply and I were to get the job, I wouldn’t be starting until December 1st or later. With that in mind, I would have to put off going full time until then. There is no way I would go through all the hassle of coming out at my current job for just a month. I would have to wait. It also means I’d likely be interviewing for this job as my old self, using my
birth dead name, but I’d be starting from day one as Amelia. That may be an awkward situation for the people involved in the hiring process and for myself. It may be possible to go through the interview process as “me,” but I don’t know how one goes about applying for a job using a name that isn’t their legal name. I’m not sure you can even pull that off.
I think the bottom line is that this could be a really amazing opportunity. My wife and I are both interested in moving to a city (and San Francisco has been mentioned in these conversations before) and I could have a nice fresh start. It’s all a very exciting idea, but it may be more scary and risky than exciting. If not for transition, this would be easy. We’d say “screw it, let’s give this a shot” and there wouldn’t be a lot of ways for this to go wrong. While transition adds items on both sides of the argument, it mostly just complicates the decision infinitely.
At this point, I’m leaning towards going for it, but I’m curious what other people would do. Are there other angles I’m missing? Have you attempted to changes jobs while transitioning?