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By Hannah and Maxwell on

Celebrating LGBTSTEM Day

Today (Thursday 5 July) is the first ever international LGBTSTEM Day, celebrating all the amazing LGBTQA+ folks who work in STEM careers. We've two special posts from our Explainers Hannah and Maxwell, who share their experiences of being out and proud in STEM.

LGBTSTEM Day logo

Hannah

Hannah, an Explainer at MSI

I first realised that I wasn’t straight when I was 17, halfway through my first year as a Physics student at the University of Manchester. It took a while to find a label that fit after that, but I am now very openly and very proudly bisexual.

My girlfriend likes to point out that people usually know I’m gay within minutes of meeting me, and not just because I wear a lot of flannel!

Perhaps because I wasn’t quite as open about it then, being bi was mostly a non-issue as a Physics student. When I did meet people with biphobic opinions (“bisexual people are more likely to cheat”, “bisexual people think everyone is attractive”, etc.) it was outside of the context of my degree, on social occasions and nights out.

After finishing my degree I realised that I didn’t particularly want to go into research, and that I actually enjoyed talking about science more than doing it. When ‘science communication’ presented itself as an option via an MSc course, it seemed like the perfect role for me.

My MSc led me to what I do now, which is working as an Explainer at the museum and bringing STEM subjects to life for our visitors. Now I get to talk to people of all different ages from all over the world about science, and I absolutely love it!

Discovering my sexuality relatively late, well out of school, means my entire lived experience as a bisexual woman has been in Manchester. In my limited experience, this city is one of the most liberal and accepting in the UK, and I’m incredibly grateful for it.

That being said, while working as a waitress during my MSc I was unfortunate enough to have a homophobic colleague who made some pretty nasty comments. It wasn’t pleasant, but the experience has definitely made me appreciate working where I do now.

The Learning team at the museum, and the Explainer team in particular, are some of the most welcoming, friendly and open-minded people I have ever met. Being inclusive and accessible to diverse audiences is one of our top priorities as an organisation, and it really does start behind the scenes.

It’s so important for visitors to recognise themselves when they visit the museum and in their interactions with us, which is why I’m proud to be wearing the #LGBTinSTEM badge on 5 July.

I hope it brings a smile to at least one person’s face—whether they’re LGBT or not!

Maxwell

Maxwell, an Explainer at MSI

Hello! I’m Maxwell and I now work as an Explainer at the Museum of Science and Industry. As a (quite camp) gay man, my experience of being LGBT in STEM has been overwhelmingly positive. I have been incredibly lucky to witness the positive shift in attitude of today’s young people towards the LGBT community over the course of my career.

Other than to a very close group of friends, I was firmly in the closet during high school. The threat of bullying, name calling, or general hassle was all too real and not something any young person should have to worry about.

It wasn’t until college than I plucked up the courage to fully come out as gay (and let’s face it, I wasn’t fooling anyone). It was then that I realised that most people don’t actually care, and I have been happily out ever since.

Although I have never experienced any discrimination in the workplace, I am perhaps not as brave as I ought to have been. For five years, I was a science teacher at secondary school and during that time I never came out to my students. Some would argue that my orientation has no place in the classroom, others would claim that I have a duty to be open and honest. If you asked me back then I would have argued the former, but really, I felt it would be an unnecessary strain on an already very stressful job.

During my time working in various high schools across the North of England, I have seen a huge shift in the attitudes of today’s young people. More LGBT students are now out at school, and some trans students feel safe enough to express themselves in their own way. This is incredible and something I would never have imagined during my time at high school. Today’s LGBT youth are courageous and brave and are fantastic advocates for the battles that the LGBT community will continue to face for many years to come.

Unfortunately, there is still a long way to go. LGBT youth still face massive challenges with almost half of LGBT students report being bullied in Britain’s schools (The School Report (2017)).

I certainly wish I had been braver as a teacher and had the courage to be out to my students, as I am certain there will have been those who would have benefited from a positive LGBT role model. I can only hope that despite never being officially out, I fostered motivated, ambitious and open-minded young people who can be leaders in their community and continue to change attitudes.


Want to know more? Follow #LGBTSTEMday on Twitter and visit the LGBTSTEM Day website.

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