Postcards from the Gender War: Job Hunting as a Trans Early-Career Librarian

By Ezekiel Amari McGee (Follow us on LinkedIn)

For the past year, watching the news often feels like watching a Hitchcock film—you know something awful’s coming, it’s just a matter of when. While we all can certainly take our pick of the various horrors plaguing our world, as a genderqueer person I tend to be most consistently worried by the increasing amount of anti-trans legislation and bigotry. As an early-career librarian however, this trend added an additional stressor to an already fraught job search.

I began my job search in the fall of last year during my last quarter of graduate school. As someone that’s Black and disabled, I already needed to be selective about where I lived. Some states simply are more welcoming than others to people with those identities. Working as an academic librarian frequently means being willing to relocate for a position. While I was prepared to do so, I hadn’t anticipated the ways in which our current political situation would make this process so complex and frightening.

Photo by Elena Ferrer on Unsplash

As the months wore on, it seemed like there was a new anti-trans bill everyday. Consequently, the institutions I felt safe applying to started to dwindle. Combined with the normal sense of impostor syndrome that accompanies any job hunt, I frequently felt frustrated and hopeless. It’s important to point out that many of the libraries in question are not at fault here, and are trying to do their best with circumstances beyond their control. This can be particularly galling for university libraries that have diversity residencies — their governments are actively working against attempts to make academic libraries more reflective of the communities they exist in.

I eventually accepted a position at University of California, Davis. While it’s reassuring to know that it’s unlikely that I will have to worry about anti-trans bills in this state, I wonder what opportunities myself and others are missing out on when we have to decide between our work and our safety. There are certainly missed chances to work with queer communities in these areas and to help them in their fight to survive and thrive within an intolerant environment.

Until the past few years, I’d wager that many cis-gender people had little understanding of how pivotal civil rights legislation can be for the transgender community. But make no mistake – the slate of anti-trans laws that have sprung up around the country aren’t simply a matter of political posturing for us. What these laws are trying to dictate is our right to openly and freely exist. And despite what the people behind these bills would have you believe, transgender people exist everywhere. We will continue to fight and to make our voices heard. But struggling against hateful bigots is physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausting. No one can be their best selves when they are weighed down by the cruelty of others. When we have to face these concerns on top of a competitive job market, I fear that our profession may be losing many good people before they can get their foot in the door.


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.