Lots going on this week

(by gerty-z) Oct 12 2016

This week was both World Mental Health Day and National Coming Out Day. It is surely not a surprise to anyone reading this that I am a lesbian. I'm out, and continue to come out (over and over and over again). I love my queer family and community. BUT! I do not want anyone to feel like they are required to come out. I am lucky to feel safe and supported, and being out is important to me. Everyone has to come out (or not) on their own terms and in their own time.

I'm less outspoken about my struggles with mental health. So here goes: I struggle with anxiety and depression, and I have ADHD. My brain chemistry can really fuck with my life, but with self-care and therapy and meds I'm doing pretty fucking well. Still, it sometimes feels that anxiety and/or depression are lurking in the corners, just waiting for me to let my guard down. There are days that it is hard/impossible to get out of bed. I have days that the best I can do is to stare at the wall and not cry. I have days that I can't sit still because I am overcome with fear and must "do" something.

There is still real stigma around mental health problems, and that is not OK. My parents still tell me that taking antidepressants is a (and I quote) "stupid waste" and that I should just "face my problems instead of hiding". That hurts. And it made me wait to actually get help, which totally fucking sucks. Then my (now ex) wife tried to use the fact that I was on meds to argue that I shouldn't have equal custody of Twig during the divorce. That really fucking hurt. This kind of bullshit has to end. I hope that being straightforward about my own struggles helps.

I believe in being out as a lesbian because it feels authentic and honest to me. I want to be honest about mental health, too. Because it is part of me. Sometimes a struggles, but more often a gift. I'm creative and smart and hilarious. I wouldn't be me without all the parts of me.

Getting help does not make you weak. Taking care of yourself takes courage and strength. Depression lies. Let your friends love you. Because you are awesome and important. And you are not alone.


5 responses so far

appreciation #drugmonkeyday

(by gerty-z) Sep 23 2016

As I'm going through the final push through the process of getting tenure, I need to take a minute to say thanks to the folks that have helped me so much over the last 6-ish years.

I've been very lucky to have some really great mentors. I'm not really impressed with formal "mentoring committees", but I have absolutely benefitted from some great people who have helped me along in this journey. People that help me figure out what to do when there are issues managing my lab, or ordering, etc. And there are also those folks that sometimes take me out for a drink and (sometimes) give me a quick kick to the ass. Thank you to everyone!!

I want to take one small moment to shout out to DrugMonkey, who has been so incredibly helpful. If you don't read DM's blog you are missing out. Interacting with DM has helped me so much. I've gotten practical, realistic advice that has helped me learn my way around the NIH funding system. And I've gotten some of the best mentoring out there - advice, encouragement, commiseration.

Thanks, dude.

One response so far

Radio silence

(by gerty-z) Aug 31 2016

I started blogging just after I got my tenure-track job. I was basically freaking out because I had no idea what I was doing and I stumbled on the science world blog-o-sphere. It blew my mind that there was all this super-useful information just sitting there and no one around me seemed to know about it. Being able to talk with folks was incredibly helpful to me when I was starting my lab. Having a space to share my story made me feel no-so-alone. I actually e-met other queer scientists, and that was awesome.

Around the end of 2012 I quit blogging so much. Not because I was over it. I missed interacting with folks here. But real life was getting in my way. I split up with my wife and moved out. It was hard, and painful. The divorce did not go smoothly. My ex-wife tried to argue that I should not have equal custody with Twig. Lawyers got paid (lots). My mental health was shaky - at best. It was basically all I could do just to sort of keep my head above water. I spend a lot of time dealing with lawyer-related stuff, and it sapped my emotional energy so that I just barely stayed above water.

Anyhow, I sort of feel like I have some things to say about depression and anxiety and single parenting while queer and how it felt to have my life collapse right before my 3-yr review and etc. More of that will probably come. Consider this a warning.


10 responses so far

Just keep walking

(by gerty-z) Aug 30 2016

Ugh. Again yesterday some yahoo wrote an article about "How to approach women wearing headphones". I'm not gonna link to it because...well, because you just SHOULDN'T interrupt a woman (or anyone) wearing headphones. Other times not to approach a woman (a non-exhaustive list): she is reading a book, she is working on a laptop, she is on the phone, etc. It is rude to interrupt. That includes waving your hand in front of her face (WTF), or passing her a note. Just keep walking.

The simple fact is that you are not entitled to her attention. Think - why is your desire to talk to her more important than her desire to be left alone? SPOILER: it's not. Just keep walking. "BUT!" You may be saying (because someone is always saying - I have seriously had this conversation more than once on twitter). "I just want to say something nice!" or "How are you supposed to meet anyone" or "But she is cute!". I don't care. Leave her alone. Seriously, just keep walking.

I like to work in coffee shops and sometimes bars. That does not mean that I want to talk to random people. I have a pretty decent RBF, and I use a lot of common behaviors to keep folks from talking to me: headphones, laptop, avoiding eye contact, ignoring folks that approach anyway, etc. All women do this. In part because we all know that it is often safer to avoid interacting with someone (especially a guy) than to have to "reject" him in some way that could escalate. Yes, all women. So PLEASE, just keep walking.

When I am open to talking to folks, you can tell. I won't be staring at a screen, avoiding breaking focus even if you sit right next to me. You'll see that I make eye contact with my fellow humans. I may even say "hi" as you sit down or walk by. These are common social cues that let you know it is OK to approach a stranger. If you just MUST talk to someone, I recommend that you take Captain Awkward's advice and greet a nearby dude instead. Or, you know, just keep walking.

No responses yet


(by gerty-z) Aug 26 2016

I play Pokemon Go - I find it entertaining. Those little critters are hilarious and adorable. For example, did you see the hilarious assessments of The Bloggess' renamed pokemon??

Anyway, last night a friend showed me this website, where you can calculate the IV values of your pokemon and predict how they will evolve, etc. I'm in trouble now.

5 responses so far

Co-first bullshit

(by gerty-z) Aug 25 2016

Academic credit is based on publications. This is not news to anyone, of course. Most papers (in biomedicine) have more than one author, which means that at some point there has to be a decision on what order to put the authors in. There is a standard sort of rule (again, in biomedical-type fields, other fields have their own conventions):

First author - the student/fellow/trainee that did most of the work.
Middle author(s) - people who helped out with experiments or contributed unpublished reagents, etc.
Last author - the PI of the group. In general, the person that you direct correspondence to regarding the paper.

For us biomed types, you get the most "credit" for a paper if you are the First author or the Last author. First author credit gets you a good postdoc, maybe a PD fellowship, and hopefully a job. Last authorship gets you tenure and grants. Middle authors get ... a pat on the back, a high-five for collaborating/playing well with others, a line on your CV (which can be a big deal).

Sometimes it is not that easy to decide what order the authors will be listed. Maybe two labs collaborated and one grad student from each group did a lot of work. Maybe a new postdoc picked up and finished up a project that had been started  by a different lab member.  Maybe you have a conjoined twin. Whatever. Discussions and wrangling about order of authors can get nasty, because we all recognize the importance of being First or Last author. Some folks have tried to get around this by designating Co-First authors. Maybe this placates someone who thinks they should get more credit. That's crap, as DrugMonkey and CPP, and probably a million others have said before.

The problem is, this is bullshit because there can only be ONE First first author. The second co-first author is NOT first. This came up on twitter today when I noticed a tweep proposing SWITCHING the order of co-first authors on a CV. This is a BIG NO-NO!! Yes, I understand that if the co-first authors were really equal contributors that it wouldn't matter. But that is not the reality. And if I read your CV and look you up on Pubmed and the author list has been changed, then I'm going to look at your application like CPP - with extreme prejudice. Maybe not everyone has the same view...but do you want to take the chance that your CV gets trashed? Don't do it.


24 responses so far

People call me "sir" (or, gender: I haz it)

(by gerty-z) Aug 20 2016

Of course I get the occasional (very frequent) email addressed to "dear sir". But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about when the cashier asks me, "what can I get you today, sir?". It can be a server at a restaurant asking, "sir, can I bring you another drink?". It happens to me quite a bit - at least once a week, I would estimate. In other words, I get "misgendered" - I identify as female, but someone else assumes I am male. I misgendered someone once (that I know of). It was awkward and horrible and I apologized So Much. I didn't know them well, but I should have known better. Or to at least asked. Ugh. I'm still embarrassed thinking about it.

Being misgendered used to bother me. I don't present as super feminine, and I have short hair, but ... I don't know, it just bothered me. I have other secondary sex characteristics* that identify me as female, so being misgendered made me feel unseen. But I kinda also like it. I remember once, in 4th or 5th grade there was a substitute teacher that misgendered me (I have a gender-neutral first name). So I spend they day pretending to be a boy: I lined up with the boys for lunch and recess, etc. My classmates thought this was hilarious. I was ... ambivalent? Looking to be accepted? I don't even know. I went along with it, though. Until another teacher set things straight ad then I was just embarrassed. After that I let my hair grown out so I was more clearly a "girl". Because being a kid is hard and you do what you can to survive.

I think that maybe this is the problem - I've never been really comfortable with gender presentation. I don't feel comfortable lining up with "normal" female standards, but I don't consider myself male. I am coming to actually love that I'm a little androgynous, and I have started to actually play that up. I guess some would characterize me as "butch", but for some reason that doesn't really feel right either.

ANYWAY. Here is the point I was aiming at - this is not an easy place to inhabit as a jr faculty. It's pretty well accepted that women (especially younger women) get worse student teaching evals than men. I can't help but think that my evals were also negatively influenced by the fact that I am clearly gender-nonconforming GLBTQIA*. And also, I am relying on a (mostly old-white-dude) senior faculty to vote to give me tenure. But I KNOW I make some of these guys uncomfortable. I try to tone things down and just be generic, because I don't want to make this an issue.

I don't know what the best way to handle this is. I am just trying to stay honest to myself, but I can't pretend that the awkwardness of having to correct folks - at the coffee shop or in faculty meeting - don't wear on me. Chalk it up as another hurdle that non-cis-hetero folks have to deal with, I guess.




10 responses so far


(by gerty-z) Aug 16 2016

I love seminars. For real, no sarcasm. I go religiously, and I expect everyone in my group to show up every week unless they have a good excuse. There are so many times that I learn things in (seemingly unrelated) seminars that open up new ways to think about our research. New techniques, new insights ... all the new things!

This is why I take my seminar series committee appointment so seriously. It's not just for me - I want to make sure that every seminar is awesome. I want to make sure that we bring in a diverse group of speakers - diverse in research topic, in race/ethnicity, in what institutions they work, etc.

My diversity goal is a little selfish - I want to hear ALL the coolest things. But also, I believe that it is very important to have a diverse seminar series for the graduate students. I want students to see that lots of different kinds of people can be successful and do cool things. One easy way to start on the path to this goal is to make sure that you have a good representation of women and under-represented minorities giving seminars.

The argument I hear a lot is that there just aren't enough "good" women/URM to invite for a seminar. I think this is bullshit - it just is not an ingrained response to think of the non-white-dude. So, a while ago I made a post just to list women that give awesome seminars. I hope you will go add to that list, so everyone can use it. And feel free to add URM speakers, too (regardless of gender)!

I was motivated to post this because Dr. Zen mentioned me on twitter in response to a question about how to pick good seminar speakers. Thank you, Dr. Zen!!


One response so far

I'm going up for tenure!

(by gerty-z) Aug 15 2016

Hello, friends. I hope you are enjoying your summer break (or enjoyed, if you have already started classes again). This is a special year for me. See, I'm up for tenure, at a MRI that has an "up or out" policy. That means I either get promoted (with tenure), or I get fired because my contract will not be renewed.

I've turned in my tenure dossier - research statement, CV, teaching evaluations, list of folks that I think should write letters for me - and now, I wait. This sucks so much. I know that I did the best I could, considering*. But still, this is a Big Fucking Deal. And all I can do is wait. UGH!!!!

Well, that's not entirely true. Because there is other stuff to do. I have a few papers that need to get out. They should have been out already, in a perfect world, but it turns out that being a single mom*, teaching, running a lab, and all the other stuff took up some time so I'm a little behind on the paper submissions. But we have some good stuff, that is ready to go. It's gotten good responses at conferences. I think they will be good papers.

Now I'm stuck in this weird place between being tenured and being fired. Part of me is looking forward to what I might want to do if I get the Tenure. Another part of me is planning for when I don't. Reaching out to folks to see if they have job openings (your tenure packet is very similar to a job application, conveniently). I don't really want to leave my MRU - I have some amazing colleagues and incredible collaborators. But I have to be prepared. So, here I am, on the job market again. UGH.

I thought starting up the lab was hard (it was). This is another hard part. But I have such an awesome group, and a fantastic support network now. Even though I am scared and nervous and scared ... it's nice to know I have folks here on my side.


*details will probably follow. I miss writing here - it is good for me, and I want to pick it up again.

18 responses so far

grieving with my queer family

(by gerty-z) Jun 13 2016

This weekend, an asshole walked into Pulse, a gay bar in Orlando. It was Latinx night. It's Pride. The club was packed with dancing queers. Pulse was a safe place, maybe the only safe place for some of them. Until this asshole decided to start shooting. He shot over 100 people, and 49 have died.

My heart is broken. I can't stop thinking of all the folks whose lives have been shattered. The folks who lost loved ones. Those that were injured and will carry this with them for the rest of their lives. For all the queer folks in Orlando that had their safe place turned to carnage, and won't feel safe again for a while. For the folks that were outed by because they were at the club that night and now have to worried that they could get fired or lose their homes - because it is 100%  legal to fire and discriminate against someone for being gay in Florida.

I'm grieving for all my queer friends and my chosen family.

I'm so lucky that I can live openly. I am honored that I can be a role model, mentor, and safe place for others. One of the most gratifying parts of my jobs is cheering on the young queer scientists that are totally rocking it. But I'm scared. I know how it feels to have to consider where you are before you hold your girlfriend's hand. I have a habit of always scanning faces as I walk down the street so I know if I've caught someone's attention. I have had men (always men) leer at me if they saw me kiss my girlfriend. I have felt the anxiety of walking at night and coming across a group of guys and hoping they weren't a bunch of homophobes that might want to "convert" me to heterosexuality (aka rape). I've had strangers yell at me on the sidewalk and tell me that I'm going to burn in hell.  I've walked down a street with a gay friend and been concerned that he was going to get beat up. These things have all happened in what would be considered "safe" places. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I've not been beaten up for being gay, or fired, or evicted, or had my daughter taken away from me.

There is homophobia all around us. People that can't bake a fucking cake if gay people will eat it. Politicians that argue that same-sex marriage should be outlawed, and that pass "religious freedom" laws that make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQI* people (and the people that vote for them). Every news organization that didn't mention that the shooter targeted queers, and erased the victims of this horrible crime. Religions that teach it is sinful to be gay. People concerned about the gay agenda. Mix in easy access to fucking assault rifles and people die.

The LGBTQI* community is a target of violence. In the first 5 months of 2016 at least 10 transgender people have been murdered. Sexual orientation was a factor in 20% of hate crimes in 2013.

I am grieving. I am angry. And I am scared. So I'm going go grab a beer at my local gay bar. I will take comfort in my queer community, and we will start to heal together.

Because in the end, love WILL win.


A gathering of queers and allies outside Stonewall, in support of our friends in Orlando. source

4 responses so far

Older posts »