Location, Location, Location

My field has very few job openings each year, which means that if I hope to get a faculty position there is a high likelihood that it’s going to involve moving. This is hard enough for any academic, but being a queer person I have a number of extra considerations to take into account before accepting a position.

1) Will my spouse and I be safe?

I’ve mentioned previously some of the attacks that happen to LGBT people. Especially working in a field where positions open up internationally, there’s a whole set of safety concerns I need to take into account. If I move to Russia, I would likely be arrested for “gay propaganda.” If I move to Greece, I’d be a target of the government’s recent attacks on trans women.

The first post doctoral position I was offered was for a fantastic and well-paying position directly related to my Ph.D. work, but I turned it down in no small part because when I did a Google search of the city alongside “LGBT” what came up was a list of murders and shootings. Wherever I hope to pursue tenure, it first and foremost needs to be somewhere that is safe for me and my family.

2) Could the institution fire me or my spouse for being trans and queer?

In the US, there are only 21 states that ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and only 18 on the basis of gender identity/expression. Luckily, many universities have more progressive policies than their localities, and I do live in a time when protections exist in some places (with the exception of DC, most of these protections came about in the 90s and 2000s). Every position opening that’s not in one of these states means I have to search for their non-discrimination policy. But if my spouse moves with me (and I very much hope they do), what would the career landscape look like for them?

Map of nondiscrimination laws in the US, courtesy of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

Map of nondiscrimination laws in the US, courtesy of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

If a position opens up in a different country, this concern gets added on top of visa and immigration issues. Luckily, we live in the information age, which gives easier access to understanding the local political situation across the globe. The Guardian has an excellent resource on the current state of LGBT rights across the world. When positions open up internationally, this is one of the first things I look at.

The Guardian's Interactive resource on LGBT rights across the world

The Guardian’s Interactive resource on LGBT rights across the world

3) Will the institution provide the health care I need?

Although the number of institutions that offer trans-related health care is growing, they are still by far in the minority with only 28 out of the 4,599 degree-granting institutions in the US offering trans-related health care to its employees. Over the years I’ve only had a grad student and post doc salary, and while that puts me in the well-off percentage of trans people, it means that my medical costs take up a sizable portion of my income, especially when it isn’t covered by my insurance. I crave the day when all of my medical expenditures are covered, and am keeping a close eye on the growing number of institutions that provide adequate medical coverage.

4) Will my relationship be recognized?

The gender marker on my identification differs depending on what piece of information you look at, and the legal status of it changes from state-to-state. This means, depending on state laws, my relationship is in flux of being seen as a same-sex or different-sex relationship. As such, making sure that my relationship is legally recognized is very important for issues such as insurance, tax purposes, hospital visits, and just the dignity of having it recognized. The situation in the US is rapidly changing, but it remains a concern that affects what states I want to work in.

Current state of same-sex marriage laws across the US, from Freedom to Marry

Current state of same-sex marriage laws across the US, from Freedom to Marry

5) Will I be able to raise children? 

I can’t carry a child, and I’m not alone in that. Even so, some day I would like to raise children. The state of LGBT adoption laws also varies from place to place, and anywhere I find a tenure-track position I very much want that to be an option. Even if other options arise, it’s still not uncommon for children to be taken away from transgender parents. If and when I have kids, I want that to never be something that I have to worry about.

Tying all of these together, it is extremely important for me to find a position in a location where the concerns I have for myself and my family are minimized. But with so few positions opening up each year, it’s a very major worry that I won’t be able to find position at all, let alone in a place that’s friendly towards people like me.


16 thoughts on “Location, Location, Location

  1. As a cisgender woman academic married to a transgender man, searching for a job In a place that would be safe for our family played a huge role in my job search, and we were very lucky to land in one of the “good” states. Even better, my postdoc was at one of those 28 universities that covers medical and surgical care for trans people, for which we felt incredibly lucky. Taking advantage of that coverage almost felt like a political act–like the university hadn’t just gotten this coverage for an abstract cause, but was actually making their employees’ lives better by standing up for their health and rights. Thanks for highlighting these issues.

    • That’s fantastic! I hope that one day I can be as lucky, or that such policies become the norm.

      Taking part in policies like these definitely puts some meaning behind them — they’re not just in place because it’s abstractly good, but because they actively improve the quality of life for people.

  2. Thank you for writing this! These are real concerns. I have reflected on this on my own blog (conditionallyaccepted.com) — being advised simply to “go where the job is” ignores that I’m in an interracial same-sex relationship. Frankly, that rules out a lot of locations, regardless of the department/university’s reputation. I’ll already be stressed about earning tenure; I don’t want to add to that living in fear of violence, discrimination, and prejudice. Unfortunately, we have to be a bit open because of the demand for jobs, but I agree that your survival is more important than just having any job. Good luck to you on your search.

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