Archive for the 'queer' category

Marriage equality - yet another reason to love football?

Sep 07 2012 Published by under queer

Marriage equality has a pretty shitty record when it is put to a popular vote.

This fall, at least three states will be voting on marriage equality: MarylandMinnesota, and Washington. In these states voters will decide whether LGBT citizens have the right to marry the person of their choice. Things are (hopefully) a little different this time. For the first time ever, there is popular support for marriage equality. President Obama voiced his support for marriage equality, and this is now part of the official Democratic platform. The NAACP has followed suit, as did famous people like rappers (BTW, you did watch Jane Lynch on the Maddow show, right?).

Of course, some folks don't agree. A delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, Emmett C. Burns, got a little miffed when Baltimore Raven's linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo voiced his support for marriage equality. Delegate Burns jumped into action, sending a letter to the Ravens organization asking them to "take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employees". What followed is the best response ever, in the form of an open letter to Del. Burns from Vikings punter Chris Kluwe. The whole letter is awesome, and you should read it. And not just because he uses the phrases "lustful cockmonster",  "narcissistic fromunda stain", and "mindfucking obscenely hypocritical". Seriously, go read it.

Do you wan to know why marriage matters? Imagine that a couple goes to the hospital because of complications in a pregnancy. The woman sits in a room, terrified, as she loses her child. Her partner is not allowed to be with her, because the hospital doesn't have the right papers. That is fucked up, right? Does it matter that the partner was another woman? In this situation, even the legal domestic partnership didn't sway the hospital to recognize her as "next of kin". Everything about this is just fucking wrong.

This is not an abstract scenario for me - it is personal. There are a multitude of rights that I am denied in my relationship because I have partnered up with another woman (1138 federal rights and protections). I have spent the time and money to make sure that I have a will, power of attorney, and the other legal documents that may be required in an emergency (an extra thing that I have to worry about if something horrible ever happens - where is the nearest copy of the legal paperwork?). I'm lucky that I can do those things - it's not cheap - but even so, there is no guarantee that the papers will be enough.

That I have to ask for permission to get married from my neighbors makes me sad and angry. I don't know what's the best way to make the case. I have no idea what talking points or arguments work. I LOVE that there has been people willing to go public with their support of marriage equality. Thank you Mr. Kluwe, Mr. Ayanbadejo, President Obama, 50 Cent, et al. But what matters now is that folks vote in favor of marriage equality when given the chance. I don't think that folks standing in line at Chik-Fil-A are going to change their mind. But I want to be hopeful that many of my fellow citizens can empathize. That everyone can think of how they would feel if they were in my situation. Because the odds are good that you know someone in my situation. Maybe, like Dr. Isis, you are related to someone in my situation.

Right now, I need your help. We need your help. Please don't stay out of the way, above the fray. If you can, give some money to organizations that support marriage equality (PBO, MDMN, and WA). If you live in a state where this issue is on the ballot this fall, put a sign up in your yard. And when you go to vote, think of me and my family.

Cory Booker's excellent argument in support of marriage equality


UPDATE: There is now a version of the letter that Kluwe has edited so it does not have swear words. It is still full of win.


7 responses so far

Staying out of the fray

Aug 02 2012 Published by under queer, Uncategorized

OK, one more. I'm a little worked up over the whole thing.

I know that some people are avoiding the whole Chick-Fil-A thing. These are generally good people. They didn't go to CFA yesterday, and generally support their gay friends. But they are being silent on the whole issue. Not posting/tweeting about it. Just ignoring the whole thing. Because they only eat at CFA a few times a year anyway, so it's not that big a deal. Not worth getting into those arguments. I get it. It can be exhausting to argue with people about these things. But right now we need allies. This is why I <3 Dr. Isis so very much. Just realize, that your silence means something, too. I refer you once again to the excellent post at Owldolatrous Productions (Srsly, go read it. Then tweet it, share it, etc.).

But what are you guilty of? When you see a bully beating up a smaller kid and you don’t take a side, then you ARE taking a side. You’re siding with the bully. And when you cheer him on, you’re revealing something about your own character that really is a shame.


10 responses so far

More than a sandwich

Aug 02 2012 Published by under exhaustion, queer, Uncategorized, venting

Yesterday, a lot of people apparently went to stand in a long line to buy a fast-food chicken sandwich. Some of these people claim to be supporting "The First Amendment" against "Intolerant Liberal Thought Police". Or something. But really, they just wanted to make a point that they hate The Gays.

First, let's clear somethings up:

1. This has nothing to do with free speech. Dan Cathy can say whatever he wants, and he (and THE COMPANY) can give their money to whomever they please. And anyone can go to Chick-Fil-A anytime they want (except Sunday), though that is probably not the healthiest choice. No one is suggesting that either of these activities  should be made illegal.

2. Boycotts are widely used as a mechanism for consumers to demonstrate that they disagree with a stand that a company takes. Some "christians" have urged a boycott of Starbucks after they publicly supported marriage equality. This is their right, just as it is my right to advocate a boycott of CFA because they fund hate groups.

3. Intolerant. I'm not sure that folks understand what that means. If someone gives money to a group that works to limit my rights (and the validity of my family), I may express outrage. I am not the intolerant one in this scenario. There is a great post on the Owldolatrous Productions that one of my Actual Friends* posted on FB.

Asking for “mutual tolerance” on this like running up to a bully beating a kid to death on the playground and scolding them both for not getting along. I’m not trying to dissolve Mr. Cathy’s marriage or make his sex illegal. I’m not trying to make him a second-class citizen, or get him killed. He’s doing that to me, folks; I’m just fighting back.

If you went to Chick-Fil-A yesterday to "show support", think about what you actually did. You gave money to a company that will turn around and give some of their profits (your money) to groups that work to make it illegal to be homosexual. Not just to oppose marriage equality. The hate rhetoric that regularly flows from these organizations goes way beyond just opposing marriage equality. And if you go on twitter or FB to gloat about what you did, you have just told your gay "friends" that you went out of your way to stand in a long line for a shitty chicken sandwich as a demonstration of how much you despise them. And trust me, you have gay friends. They may not tell you (can you blame them?), but you most certainly do.

Think about this next time you want a chicken sandwich, or waffle fries or whatever. In effect, YOU are giving money to these groups. Groups that make it fucking hard for ACTUAL PEOPLE, including me and my family. Groups that work to ensure a culture and policies that contribute to high suicide rate in GLBT kids that have to grow up in this environment. I haven't eaten at CFA in many, many years. But I can't imagine any chicken sandwich being so good that it is worth this. There is no piece of food so awesome that it could ever convince me to give money to the KKK or any other hate group.

For me, it's personal. The boycott of CFA isn't about the first amendment. It isn't about religion, or however you define "traditional" or "biblical" marriage. It's about my family. I hope they fucking go out of business. I hope society stands up and says "this is not OK". I hope that people who care so much about the bible pay more attention to the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" part. I'm not optimistic that will happen.


Here are some other perspectives, from someone else that got upset with their FB feed yesterday, and from a CFA employee. I wish that everyone that worked at CFA and felt this way would quit, even though I understand that this might not seem like a viable option.

*I grew up in a big red state. I have quite a few posts on my FB timeline gloating about going to CFA. These people obviously don't value my friendship.

7 responses so far

Just an example of why I

Aug 02 2012 Published by under hilarity, queer

Yesterday, Dr. Isis (@drisis if you are on twitter and don't follow, then WTF?)  took to the twitter and demonstrated why I <3 her so, so much. She started fighting back against the idiots and bigots that were bragging about their day of eating greasy chicken sandwiches w/ a side of hate. She even got blocked by Scott Baio!

Other awesome tweeps joined in (YAY to you all!), and of course Drug Monkey (@drugmonkeyblog) kept the #FWDAOTI going. I didn't get to play much, because my mom is in town and I was busy catching up with her. But every time I checked in, it was full of win.

I made a little storify that has a sampling of the awesome. It doesn't have everything, and it's not in the right order, probably. In my defense, it was the first time I storified anything. But you can get the gist. I can't figure out how to make it show up here, but you can see it here. And if you don't want to click through, here is a sample from Dr. Isis's timeline last night. Fucking. Genius.


7 responses so far

time flies on by

Jul 26 2012 Published by under mentoring, queer, Uncategorized

This week has been a little ... crazy.

First there is only what can be considered a mentoring FAIL. I am writing a review article with a grad student, and I think it is fair to say that I royally botched it. It became clear (a little late in the process) that I had not given my very new graduate student enough guidance. This is not hir fault. My expectations were totally out of whack. So now I have spent the last week spastically writing the thing over, and will have to work to make sure that ze does not feel like a failure because so little of hir sentences show up in the final version.

But then things looked up! My wife sent me a picture of a super-cute fuzzy little puppy. And he gets to come and live with us! YAY for PUPPIES!

zOMG! It's a super-cute puppy!

And finally, today is my anniversary.* Nine years ago, my wife and I stood with a small group of friends by a nice stream, said some nice things, and then had a super dinner. It was awesome. We told Mini-G about the anniversary this morning and her immediate response was "so what are we doing?". It was super cute.


*A question that I always get when people hear it is my anniversary is: "Really? I didn't think that gay marriage was legal". Please don't be that person. My relationship is not recognized by the government, but that does not change the fact that today is my anniversary. FFS.



36 responses so far

We'll miss you, Sally Ride

Jul 24 2012 Published by under queer

Sally Ride died yesterday from pancreatic cancer (NASA obituary). She was only 61 years. When I was a little girl, Sally Ride was definitely a hero of mine. I had pictures of her on the space shuttle tacked up on the wall of my bedroom. I read her biographies, over and over. She was an inspiration to me, and probably a million other girls over the years. She will be missed.

I did not realize, before yesterday, that Dr. Ride was also a lesbian. She had been with her partner, Dr. Tam E. O'Shaughnessy, for 27 years. As Dr. Ride's sister, Bear Ride* said,

"I hope it makes it easier for kids growing up gay that they know that another one of their heroes was like them."

Sally Ride on board Challenger during STS-7 in 1983. Source: Wikipedia (

Rest in peace, Dr. Ride. And thank you.


*who has the best name ever, and also identifies as gay.


13 responses so far

out on the tenure track - sad story

Jul 16 2012 Published by under academia, queer

There was a fellow, Albert Romkes, who got a tenure-track position at the University of Kansas in Mechanical Engineering. When he came up for tenure, he got approved by his Department and School, but then was denied by the University level administrators (full story here). He was the first and only openly gay faculty member in the School of Engineering. There is no way to know why the Dean decided to deny tenure to Dr. Romkes. Some of the faculty and other members of the KU community feel like he was not treated fairly (there may have been some shenanigans with the "rules" applied by the P&T committee) because of his sexual orientation. KU, obviously, denies discrimination.

Romkes doesn't feel like he was actively tormented as an openly gay faculty member at KU, though it was apparently a little awkward to bring his partner to events. Still, this is what he has to say about the situation now:

"In hindsight, I should have mentioned it in the interview because I could have avoided a lot of misery," he says, "If anybody would have had a problem, they wouldn't have hired me, and I would have been better off. I would have done my work anyway, but at a different place. And I wouldn't have to deal with this issue."


h/t @bam294 for the link

19 responses so far

Recruit and retain

Jul 07 2012 Published by under lab management, queer

One of the things that I struggle with as a new PI is recruiting the right people into my lab. I have been very lucky to get some excellent students, but it can be harder for new Asst. Prof.'s to get good postdocs. Recruiting and managing people is one of the biggest part of this job, IME. And it is scary! What if you recruit the wrong people? Yesterday on twitter, @drew_lab, who just opened last week (CONGRATS!) posed an important question:

I want to set up a lab that is both supportive of, and welcoming for, all kinds of diversity. Anyone have tips on how to recruit and retain?

I think that there is no doubt the Drew Lab is going to be an awesome place to work. Lab diversity is something that I have thought about quite a bit. I would love to hear what kind of tips you have to offer for the Drew Lab and me! I was specifically asked by the leader of the Drew Lab, @labroides, if it was OK for a straight man to put a rainbow sticker on his laptop* to show he was supportive of queer folk. In our conversation he even said he was not interested in a "straight but not narrow" version,

"I feel like it's saying I support gay rights, but please don't think of me as gay. As if that would be a bad thing."

I totally agree. All I can say is HOORAY for allies and increased visibility. RAINBOW STICKERS FOR EVERYONE!

Please, if you have other tips that can shape lab culture to be welcoming of diversity (in all its forms) please share in the comments 🙂


*this fantastic idea was put forward by Daniel at Grains of Sand, and included in the DiS Pride Carnival

11 responses so far

It's here! The DiS Carnival #17 - PRIDE!

Jul 05 2012 Published by under queer, Uncategorized

As promised, it is now time for the Diversity in Science Blog Carnival-PRIDE edition, brought to you by! This year, I asked queer* scientist and our straight allies to write in and describe what it means to be an "advocate". And we got a LOT of great entries! This is the first time I've ever hosted a blog carnival, but here goes 🙂

Jeremy Yoder, at Denim and Tweed, is going to the streets being a political advocate to introduce an amendment into the state constitution defining marriage as "one man and one woman" (same-sex marriage is already not recognized by law in MN). Basically, he is calling voters, one by one, and asking for permission to get married someday. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to have to try to calmly discuss such a personal thing with strangers, many of whom don't agree that you should have this basic right. I am cheering from him from far away, and hope that Minnesota can be the first state where the majority doesn't vote to restrict the rights of the minority. Visit the Minnesotans United for All Families site to learn more.

Other great examples of queer advocacy include Trey at Genomes Are Us, who is trying to convince software companies to make it possible to recognize "non-traditional" families in pedigree/geneology software. And there are some good videos up at Talk Nerdy to Me that are accessible descriptions of literature about whether being gay is nature vs. nurture. The description of the genetics seems reasonable to me, but the anatomy arguments I find more difficult to assess. But one of my favorite organizations for queer advocacy in STEM is NOGLSTP (the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals). NOGLSTP hosts an "Out to Innovate" career summit that looks FANTASTIC! You can read more about it at the Minority Postdoc site here.

Even though there are so many folks out there doing what is easily recognized as "advocacy", I was surprised to find that the over-riding theme that emerged from all the entries was that for many of us being out and visible is a major part of our advocacy. I think that this is really important, and the reason that I encourage everyone who can (safely) be out to do so. Being visible makes people realize that they KNOW someone who is queer. Obama mentioned that knowing queer families helped him "evolve". But being out also means that you are showing folks that you can be both queer AND a scientist. Jeremy may have spent the day collecting signatures for MN United for All Families at Pride, but he is an advocate every day because he is a gay man that does good science. I like his idea of queer advocacy:

I think that the point of advocacy is to try and leave the world a little bit better place for the next generation of queer kids, the ones who are just realizing they have to figure out how their orientation fits into the lives they've only just begun to build. In the spirit of It Gets Better, if good examples of how to be gay are what helped me come out, how can I not do my best to be a good example of how to be gay now that I'm out?

There were some entries from queer students that made me realize again how important it is to be visible. REALLY visible, if you can. This may be as easy as just showing up. Sarcoza, at Gravity's Rainbow, went to a brown-bag lunch event for LGBTQ at the Ecology meeting and was wondering where everyone was. She wonders if the queer scientists leak out of the pipeline because many of the jobs are in places that are unpleasant (or even unsafe) to live as a queer family. I know that local politics influenced where I was willing to apply for jobs, but I also agree with Zwitterionique and Moose (a guest post at Grain of Sand) that academic institutions tend to be pretty happy, liberal enclaves, though we definitely still have room for improvement. But I wonder if there is any data about the proportion of gay academics and state politics? Daniel, an ecology grad student that blogs at Grains of Sand, also noticed a lack of queer faculty. He wondered it there was an unwritten "don't ask don't tell" policy. Daniel started a local queer scientist group, and this has helped him to find a local community. Moose has also benefited from a local Queer Science group (I love this quote!):

I’m no longer that weird queer in a geek space or that weird geek in a queer space...

Being out and visible helps. From my own experience, I know that after I came out in graduate school there were some faculty that came out to me. I don't think many of them were generally out, but it was still great to have someone that I could talk to about some of the different aspects of being gay and on the academic track. Moose alludes to this also, telling how having an out faculty member made it easier to enroll in grad school. Like when to come out on the job market. Daniel thinks we should all stop apologizing for being gay when we go on the market, and embrace that being gay could make us stronger as candidates, perhaps highlighting the service work that we do as advocates. I think this would be great, but is a little optimistic. First, at least in my field, service work doesn't count for much when it comes to the job search**. Second, I think that it is still a little risky. I made the choice to be fully out during my tenure-track job search, and I will never know how much this affected my job search. I do know queer scientists that have been discriminated against in job searches. I think that everyone has to make the choice that is best for them and their family in this situation.

One great thing that I got from reading the posts from some of our young queer advocates out there are awesome little tips about how to be MOAR visible as a faculty member. One simple suggestion from Daniel was to put a rainbow sticker on my laptop, so folks could see it when I was lecturing. I LOVE THIS IDEA, and am totally doing it next year when I lecture. I was shocked the other day when I happened to mention my wife in front of some graduate students and one of them was really surprised that I was gay. This student then came out to me, which was pretty cool, TBH.

Advocacy, and visibility, can also help with our straight allies. Zwitterionique raised the importance of straight allies, who can advocate for queer issues as the "independent and impartial" viewpoint.

My most effective moments of advocacy are those when a straight someone advocates for the LGBT community.  That’s going to happen more often if people know someone who is queer.  So I’m fantastically out – all the time.

I will never understand WHY people who are less effected by laws that influence queer families are seen as better able to discuss these laws, but that is a whole other issue. We had some AWESOME posts from allies for our carnival. In an anonymous guest post, an out-and-proud ally wrote about how s/he works to make sure that queer folk are treated fairly in hir academic world, and makes sure to include LGBTQ-specific topics in lectures to medical students.

It means that when I teach bacterially transmitted infections that I point out which diseases are found in LGBT populations, so our future MDs know what to look for and which questions to ask their patients.

Mentioning the queer population to future MD's is great, IMO, and something that I hope more medical school faculty start to do. InBabyAttachMode realized when she was having a baby how not being able to check the "married" box [link added-gz] made things harder, administratively and emotionally.

I can only imagine how left out you must feel if you cannot take part in all aspects of a society just because of the gender of your partner.

Finally, Scientist Mother and Dr. 24 hours tell their stories of how they became allies, but not without hitting some speed bumps along the way. Scientist Mother raises some really important points about how cultural influences can make it even more difficult to safely be out. And I really appreciate how she described her transition into an ally:

To realize that you can do better, you’ll make mistakes and that you can become an ally by simply understanding that people are more than just who they love.

We all have to learn to be allies and I'm glad to know she is advocating for us! Dr.24hours recognizes that there were some great people along the way that helped him realize why he should be an ally. And he makes a super point that highlights what is important here, and what we are striving for with our queer advocacy:

Marriage, freedom, is not a zero sum game. I am not less free because someone else has the same rights as I do! My right to marriage is not less valid because someone else has the right to participate in another union which is also a marriage. My liberty is unrestricted by extending it to all. In fact, it is deeply, and greatly, enhanced.

NOTE ADDED IN PROOF: As I was finishing this post, I got another email with a great set of blog posts solicited by Stanford computer science professor Luca Trevisan in honor of Alan Turing's 100th birthday. They are all fantastic!  There is one by Luca Trevisan, who talks about how easy it was to come out in the CS field. Sampath Kannan also feels that the environment of CS and IT make it so that there is no reason to be in the closet for fear of negative reaction in the workplace. Günter Ziegler wrote a letter to Turing dedicating the Berlin Pride Party in his honor, which is fantastic. Irit Dinur also finds it easy to be an out lesbian in CS, except when it comes to traveling abroad to the US for postdoctoral work and sabatticals (GRRRR, USA. GRRR). There was also an essay from Oded Goldreich, a straight ally, who discusses practical and cultural aspects of being queer in TSC/TOC. All in all, from these posts it seems that the CS fields are pretty open and welcoming to queer colleagues, which is GREAT!

ANOTHER NOTE! Stephanie Miller has a great essay on the Minority Postdoc site about building coalitions in a networked world. She has some great points about the value of diversity and how the queer community can organize to increase our advocacy and integrate with other minority groups. Good stuff!

Thanks to everyone that contributed to the carnival! And feel free to add your thoughts about queer advocacy in the comments 🙂


The NEXT awesome edition of the Diversity in Science Carnival will be on the topic of "Disability Awareness, Disabled Community". You can find the complete schedule here. Don't miss it!

SOME OTHER LATE ADDITIONS [updated for new posts]:

Glacial Till has a post up about struggling to decide how to be a scientist, and finding "community".

There is a really fantastic post at En Tequila es Verdad that you shouldn't miss: On Tides, Visibility, and Quiet Revolutionary Acts.



[edited to add in Dr24hours post, which I missed. sorry!]
[edited AGAIN, this time to put in the DiS flair I forgot. Like I said, this is my first carnival! :)]

*For simplicity, I am including all non-cis and/or non-heterosexual folks with this term.

**I'm familiar with tenure-track job search in biomedical science. Other fields may be different, please tell us what it is like in your academic world in the comments!

18 responses so far

Pride Carnival: from an ally

Jun 15 2012 Published by under queer, Uncategorized

This is an anonymous submission for the DiS Pride carnival that I got by email. I thought it was great, so I got permission to post it here in its entirety. Yay for everyone that helps advance queer advocacy!


I am an Ally. It's hard to pinpoint exactly when or where I reached full-on Ally Status (I'm card carrying, in case you are wondering) but as I sit here today, I'm proud to be out. Maybe it was my hairdresser in high school. Maybe it was my youth director at Church (when I still was a Christian). Maybe it was my office mate in grad school. Maybe it was lab mate who never actually came out because he was uncomfortable with others knowing such an intimate part of his life (in fact the only conversation we ever had about it went like this: me: You could have told me. him: I didn't want to.  And then we went back to drinking beer and it NEVER came up again. Nor did this conversation come up with anyone else-well, until now). Maybe it's the undergrad, whose hand I held, as he cried when his mother did not take the news that he was gay very well. Maybe it was my husband's mentor in college (aka the strongest woman that I have ever met). Maybe it was my great aunt who never felt like she could come out because Southern ladies don't do that. Maybe it was my cousin who came out in her 50's (her dad was a Southern Baptist preacher!). Most likely it's a collection of all these experiences.

So what does it mean to be an Ally? In every day life? It means on a committee when someone says, 'but our state doesn't recognize gay marriage', you say, 'it doesn't matter, they are committed to each other and it's irrelevant to this decision'. It means that when I teach bacterially transmitted infections that I point out which diseases are found in LGBT populations, so our future MDs know what to look for and which questions to ask their patients. It means voting against those who want to discriminate against LGBT folks. It means acting respectfully. It means being that ear or hand holder for that student that wants to honest with everyone about who he or she is.

Most importantly, it means not treating anyone as if they are different or special. Unless you are an actual sex worker, who you have sex with and/or who you fall in love with is wildly irrelevant to the rest of your life. Moreover, it is what it is. I don't hetero walk down the hallway or hetero start my car or hetero parent or hetero write a grant or hetero listen to music (I might hetero dress, but that's a topic for another day)...I can't imagine that a gay version of myself would suddenly have a different walk....just, perhaps, a different gender of partner to walk through life with.

4 responses so far

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