Queered Science is a series of profiles meant to highlight queer science and tell you what you need to know about it, for your intellectual edification and so you don’t feel excluded from a major and predominantly heterosexist subset of academia and industry.
Header by Rory Midhani
We’ve been talking recently about how it feels to be queer in the sciences, and in particular, a queer woman in the sciences.
And you guys had awesome comments of your own, so now we have a whole space to talk about just these things! We’re going to have a few different open threads, each on a different sub-issue of being queer in the sciences. I’m excited because I always have so much to say on this topic, but not a whole lot of people to say them to. From your comments, it looks like you all have things to say too! Like many of you mentioned, I often feel like I have to keep my science self and my queer self separate, but this is the perfect space to merge them.
First, one of the most basic questions: Are you out to your co-workers/ peers/ advisors/ bosses/ important people?
Like I’ve already mentioned, I wanted to come out for a while, but it never quite felt like the right time. I mean, when is the right time? We all know how uncomfortable it is when everyone else can effortlessly talk about their wives/kids, or at least have their presence assumed, and we have to sit quiet like the weird kid with no friends in the corner. But how do you casually interject a comment about your sexuality at the work party?
For me, it was a slow and gradual process, one co-worker at a time, either in the lab or in the field, and each conversation had my heart beating so hard it practically fractured my sternum, a huge rush of adrenaline and weak knees for an hour or so afterward. I didn’t come right out and say it, but a quick correction of their pronouns was usually enough to catalyze a discussion.
Then again, like I mentioned, I work in an accepting part of the world. Not everyone even feels safe about being out – the potential awkwardness involved isn’t even part of the equation. Many of the comments so far have mentioned feeling legitimately worried about losing jobs, opportunities for promotion, grants, or future projects.
So. Are you out professionally? If so, how did you do it? We all know that coming out isn’t a one-time ordeal, but kind of a constant coming out or being out – every new person you meet, you have to re-introduce your queerness into the discussion. What is your favorite coming-out story? How were the reactions?
If you’re not out, why not? What are your thoughts on the topic?