I’m in the ongoing process of being out in a couple of life aspects, being gay and atheistic, (gaytheistic?) which involves a bunch of references to my boyfriend in casual conversation and honest but non-confrontational answers to questions like “So where do you go to church”. I try to be the best “normalizing” presence I can be so that the benefits of visibility accrue. In spite of this I still feel invisible, not just to the “normal” public but to other LGBT people.
During the process of coming out and becoming more comfortable with who I am I did the normal things. I read up on the process, looked for mentors and affirmation from other LGBT people, told some supportive friends and family and settled into the routine of telling more casual acquaintances. It was comforting to watch other LGBT people come out, forming growing galaxy of role-models and luminaries in all fields. There’s one exception.
The Independent’s 2013 Pink List features artists, actors, activists, business people, politicians and musicians but only two people in academia and no scientists or engineers. The Out/G3 Reader Awards, honor “diversity champions”, broadcasters, athletes, “inspirational role models”, politicians, and rising stars but no scientists or academics. The Guardian’s World Wide Power list is more comprehensive but also doesn’t include any scientists or academics. Out’s Power 50 doesn’t feature any scientists or engineers. The Advocate’s Innovator’s List is the only list that I’ve come across that features people in STEM. It makes you wonder if you’re an outlier, if you’re the only one.
It’s not just about lists of featured people either. There’s little to no science coverage in most LGBT-focused news outlets. This could be emblematic of a lack of science coverage in news media en generale so I’m not saying this is Definitive Proof that the gays hate science. So as an out gay scientist I can’t help but feel unnoticed. I can’t help but feel like science and engineering are things that LGBT people do not do or do not care about. It’s isolating enough to work in a lab by yourself all day. It only makes it worse when the community that’s supposed to support you doesn’t seem to care about you, or is baffled that you exist at all.
In this environment I often found myself asking “Do other LGBT scientists exist?”.
Given the LGBT’s historic push for visibility it’s baffling to me that people in STEM are being left invisible. Sure LGBT people are normal people but we’re also doctors, scientists and engineers; we’re just as driven to curiosity and discovery as everybody else. There are many LGBT scientists and engineers both historically (I’m looking at you Alan Turing and Marget Mead) and contemporarily.
With organizations like NOGLSTP and oSTEM ready and willing to provide names the lack of attention is unjustifiable and negligent. The scientific community is now one of the stanchest allies in the normalization and acceptance of LGBT people. Birth order investigations and genetic studies have served as ammunition in the fight against the “it’s a choice” and “it’s unnatural” arguments against them. We owe it to ourselves and to our scientists to stand with them and acknowledge what our scientists have done for us. We owe it to future generations to provide a diversity of LGBT role models.
Where are the LGBT scientists? They’re right were they always have been. It’s up to you to see them.