LGBT + researchers face location restrictions

After completing my doctorate. in biochemistry and biophysics in the fall of 2021, I traveled the United States with my wife, a deeply trained engineer and immigrant from France. As scholars and a bicultural, strange couple, we are constantly weighing our careers, lifestyles, and travel opportunities and limitations.

Research requirements often force scientists to move every few years and travel regularly for research or conferences, and where we go to track opportunities is usually beyond our control – determined by the location of the site, instrument, collaboration, conference or conference. finding a job. One scientist, Anita Di Chiara, told me: “I feel I do not have the freedom to choose where to go. To choose where to go, I will have to leave academic research. ”

These travel requirements can weigh heavily on any scientist, but those in the LGBT + community face additional obstacles; cultural acceptance and laws can vary dramatically from country to country. The questions go beyond “will I like the food and the weather there?” To “Is it safe for me to be myself?”, “Will I have access to the health care I need?”, “Is there a dating pool?” for me? “and” Will I be my son’s mother legally? ”

LGBT + scholars consider issues like these at every stage of their academic careers, so I spoke to eight LGBT + scholars at the undergraduate level with professors to find out how the location has guided their professional lives.

ILGA world

From bachelor’s degree to high school

Lisa Coe is a laboratory assistant at New York University in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, a country where homosexuality is punishable by law. Coe, who identifies as a queer, moved to the UAE for her job after completing her bachelor’s degree in microbiology in the United States in 2020. Before moving, the university linked her to one of the departments that is openly gay. to be able to ask him questions.

Despite cultural barriers, Coe has created a strange community in the UAE through the Pride Group on campus and dating apps. She said she takes advantage of the globalized field in which she finds herself and the privilege that comes with being from the United States. Having an incredibly supportive advisor during her undergraduate studies and then living in a culture harder to navigate as a strange person, Coe is careful given the location of her high school and the counselor options that work for her and her partner.

Two trans men in Europe, who asked to remain anonymous, told me about the factors that influenced their decisions about where to go in higher education. Both said they had significant concerns about health care options. “I can only look at places with universal health care because my medicines are expensive,” said one man.

Not only are the costs a huge problem, but the documentation associated with obtaining the necessary health care can be restrictive, unbearable or difficult to navigate. In many European countries, the process of receiving hormones involves a diagnosis or a letter from a doctor, which often requires a long wait and does not have to be transferred to another European country. One man told me that although he was excited about a research project in another country, he could not go there because of these restrictions. “Sometimes it’s better to take a better work environment instead of research,” he said.

Another concern raised by one of the men was the consideration of trans-health care operations. They usually come with grades and long waits, and sometimes need to be completed in several stages; to complete them, one will probably have to stay in one place for more than a few years, during which most academic positions last.

To complicate matters further, a man told me that he could not attend a conference that would be important for his professional development and networking because it was held in a country that would not allow him to enter as a trans person.

“Maybe the conference organizers just don’t think about it,” he said, but he doesn’t have that luxury.

Graduated from postdoc school

Boomer Russell is a third year doctor. Candidate in the Department of Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville and has always lived within a single two-hour driving radius in Tennessee. He feels comfortable being out as gay and has a great support system, but the queer community in this region and therefore the dating group are small and limited compared to other places in the US

Russell loves his department, but their decision to stay so close to home for his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees. it was largely driven by financial constraints and family obligations, not by prospects for meetings. Of course, dating is not a priority in graduate school, he said, but it often overlaps with the times in people’s lives when they find a life partner.

“People don’t apply for high school, thinking about what stage of life they will be there,” he said. “If I had thought about it, I would have applied to other places that are not in the Bible Belt.”

Russell planned to try to move to a new place for his postdoctoral fellow, but he said he would not be surprised if he ended up back in a place like Knoxville, because it is so important for strange people to show up and to stay in these regions to advocate for other members of the community and to be a role model for other upcoming LGBT + scholars.

PhD student to professor

Early Aviner, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco, is now seeking a teaching position. Aviner moved to San Francisco from Israel for his postdoctoral fellow and said academic orientation was already difficult, but being gay added an additional layer of disappointing difficulties.

Aviner’s partner is also in academia, so they have to deal with the difficulty of two partners securing academic jobs in the same field, commonly referred to as the ‘two-body problem’. And to further complicate the situation, if Aviner returns to Israel for his next step, they will have to face new legal, remote and cultural challenges to stay together. Because of these complications, Aviner said, “I can’t think about the next step, where science has taken me, because it comes at a loss. It’s a really emotional decision. “

Besides, Aviner enjoys living in San Francisco, where being gay is well-received, so it’s not something to worry about much. He said that the feeling of being accepted and safe frees up mental space for other things and he would like to stay in an acceptable environment. “There’s no point in adding extra stress and weight,” he said.

So far in his career, Aviner has noticed that many people in university systems view statements about LGBT + diversity as simply performative, and believe that being part of the LGBT + community should not matter in the workplace. It is often the responsibility of LGBT + people to explain how they bring diversity, he said, when universities need to ask what they can do to help people in the LGBT + community overcome barriers. “It’s disrespectful to think you shouldn’t bring this into the work environment,” he said, “because people talk about their families.”

Anita Di Chiara is a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome, Italy. Through her doctorate. and four postdoctoral fellows, she has lived in Italy, the United States, Brazil and England. In addition to moving every few years, Di Chiara also had to travel extensively to work in the field, often to places that were not friendly to the LGBT + community. She is always very careful and tries not to draw attention to herself, she said, and if her partner travels with her, sometimes it’s best to let people think they’re sisters.

In particular, Di Chiara found an acceptable environment in San Diego, where she first managed to appear as a lesbian in front of her boss, and in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the world’s largest gay parade is taking place.

Due to the pandemic and visa problems, Di Chiara and her partner had to move back to Italy, which she said was a particularly difficult transition once they became accustomed to a more inclusive environment. Although same-sex couples can enter into a civil union in Italy, marriage is not yet legal, and adoption or surrogacy is not an option for same-sex couples in Italy who want to be parents.

Traffic development project

Beyond postdock

Within the United States, too, marriage and parenting laws can dictate where queer families can live comfortably.

Katie Thompson-Pere, an assistant professor in the Department of Development and Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine, said the laws governing the LGBT + community influenced her decisions after graduating. She went to Harvard University for her doctorate. because Massachusetts was the only state at the time where she and her partner could marry and share legitimate health benefits. She then moved to San Francisco for her postdoctoral fellowship, at which time California also recognized her marriage.

Even after gay marriage became legal in the United States, Thompson-Peer knew that state laws governing parental rights could make a huge difference in her life. Although both parents may be listed in the birth certificate, this administrative document does not is protected by the full faith and credit clause of the US Constitution, which means that other states are not required to recognize it and not everyone will recognize it.

To ensure legal recognition from other countries, Thompson-Pear had to go through second-parent adoption procedures, which can be long and expensive and vary considerably from country to country. She also wanted to make sure her son grew up in an environment that embraced their family.

“In California, he’s not the only child with a family structure that reflects ours,” she said. “It’s one thing to put myself in these situations, but it’s another to put my child in those situations.”

Thompson-Peer was lucky to have opportunities for teachers in California, where court proceedings were manageable, and she knew that her son would not have to constantly explain his family structure. She loves her position at UC Irvine, which was also the only place she interviewed that connected her to a justice officer during the interview process.

Sharon Colling is a professor of environmental research at the University of Colorado Boulder and executive director of the Earth Leadership Program. Colling identified herself as a lesbian, but kept that identity to herself through her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Being in the Midwest at the time, she didn’t have many role models for scientists, let alone strange scientists, but she said she still lacked the way of life in the Midwest.

“I grew up in a relatively small town and I love living in a small town, values ​​and the connection to nature, and I still can’t live in those cities in the United States,” Colling said. “They are mostly not welcome to LGBT + people… and that saddens me.”

After moving to Boston and pursuing a doctorate. at Harvard, Colling was able to begin to be more outspoken about her identity. She took this into account when applying for postdoctoral and teaching positions later. “I was super excited, not only for the great job, but for finding my people,” she said.

Colling is happy and comfortable in Colorado, but she also has to travel a lot throughout her career, including vacations in Tanzania. Living in the traditional culture there, she could not share much about her personal life. “When you can’t be who you are, then you feel like you’re missing half of your body,” she said.

Even as a full-time professor, she still thinks about these issues when meeting new people and visiting new places, because just sharing that she has a wife can stop conversations.

“I wish I could be the only one and just show up,” she said, “but it’s still complicated.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.