Celebrating LGBTQ+ scientists

As prospective students drive into California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB)’s campus, they pass by banners that boast inclusive excellence the campus offers. However, students from the LGBTQ+ community may still worry about facing homophobia when joining the campus community, especially in STEM fields which has been traditionally dominated by heterosexual male scientists.

This was the case for third-year biology and UROC scholar Danielle Anderson when applying to CSUMB. 

“I was talking with another queer person, and I found out that her and I had done the exact same thing when applying to CSUMB, as that we lied and said that we’re straight.”

Anderson said the reason for omission of her identity was she was unsure if the person viewing her application had negative feelings toward LGBTQ+ people. Experiences like these prompted Anderson to put on a tabling event within the Chapman science building on CSUMB’s campus to celebrate the International Day of LGBTQ+ people in STEM.

Anderson worked with the College of Science, as well as Olivia Equinoa – an officer in the science club on campus – in order to set up a table, informing students about famous scientists in the queer community, safe spaces on campus for queer scientists and the history of the International Day of LGBTQ+ people in STEM.

“A lot of people took brochures,” Anderson said. “This is our second stack of the day because they all went.”

According to the brochure, the event celebrates the anniversary of American astronomer and gay activist Frank Kameny’s U.S. Supreme Court case fighting against workplace discrimination. 

While it may be difficult for queer people to break into STEM because of potential discrimination, the table noted other notable queer scientists such as neurobiologist and first openly transgender elected member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Ben Barres.

The colorful table sported flags representing different segments of the queer community, as well as information about gender and sexual orientation. Additionally, information about support programs and scholarships that may be of interest to students were presented.

Despite the support and resources available, Anderson shared some worries that her and other queer people in STEM face. 

“You worry about a lot of people, specifically possible mentors and teachers and guidance people who might be homophobic,” Anderson said.
“I want [queer people] to know that no matter what their identity is, that they’re welcome here,” Anderson said. “If there are people in the College of Science that don’t welcome them here, they are not welcome. It’s not the other way around.”

Below are some helpful resources for LGBTQ+ STEM students provided in the brochure:

Organizations

  • The Trevor Project – thetrevorproject.org
  • Pride in STEM – prideinstem.org
  • The STEM Village – thestemvillage.com

Scholarships

  • Point Foundation – pointfoundation.org
  • WiseGeek LGBTQ+ Awareness Scholarship wisegeek.com
  • Unicorn Scholarship – bold.org/scholarships/unicorn-scholarship/
  • NOGLSTP – noglstp.org

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