LGBTQ Coalition Building in a Networked World

By Stephanie Miller

It is now a well-established fact that diverse working groups are more creative and better equipped for problem-solving — two virtues highly regarded in STEM professions. A diverse palette of backgrounds and experiences (i.e. racial/ethnic identity, ability, gender expression, sexual orientation, etc.) ensures a multitude of perceptions and approaches. We all have a stake in equality. A significant portion of LGBTQ advocacy must therefore be committed to capitalizing on allied resources just waiting to be tapped.

The most valuable alliances are those between the LGBTQ community and other historically marginalized groups. Pride Month is a good time to reflect on how we can improve the experience of all marginalized groups in society. There’s plenty of reason for celebration, too! (Ever been to a Pride Parade?) Ultimately, the rights of LGBTQ people are a cause that everyone can rally around. This is especially true in the highly collaborative scientific community.

With the advent of a fantastically networked world, working towards a representative diversity in science has become more exciting and nuanced than ever before. Websites and list-serves located in the internet dimension of our lives provide platforms from which we can actually establish physical spaces to hold these conversations and those yet to come.

Conversations about the scientific community’s composition and efficacy have traditionally been held at conferences, such as scientific conferences (e.g. the American Chemical Society), minority science conferences (e.g. the Society for the Advancement of Chicano and Native Americans in Science National Conference), and professional meetings (e.g. the National Postdoctoral Association Annual Meeting). People who attend these meetings are there to network! Each of these conferences have had professional development panels and/or social mixers where LGBTQ scientists can meet.

My advice to you is to organize your own event and create conversation! I’m having a great time coordinating speakers for a discussion panel entitled “Strategies for Navigating LGBT Identity in Science” to take place on September 25th in Washington D.C. at the 39th annual meeting of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Engineers (NOBCChE). This effort also building my resume and professional network.

Here’s where it gets fun. You can mix and match any identity and find grounds for collaboration. Many marginalized groups experience similar symptoms of oppression, i.e. low graduation rate, high poverty and suicide rates, and particularly low representation in leadership positions. The more voices we can bring to the table to discuss these issues, the better.

Stephanie Miller is a Milligan Graduate Fellow in the biophysics Ph.D. program at the University of Maryland College Park. Any opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors.

The citation for this article is:
S. Miller (2012) LGBTQ Coalition Building in a Networked World.
DiverseScholar 3:2

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Published 5-Jul-2012