Last Tuesday evening I had the chance to attend a social gathering of sorts for a national GLBT rights organization. In spite of being gay, I’ve never been involved in GLBT advocacy nor the politics. I was having a conversation with another guy and he asked what I did. I explained that I was a geology undergrad, but that I mostly study meteorites. I went on to talk about my current project and I could sense that I was losing his attention. I tried to explain things in more approachable terms, but the damage was done. All my talk and enthusiasm over shock veins, olivines and zoned pyroxenes was lost on this poor soul. He was there to learn about getting involved with this organization, not hear about space rocks. I was there because I was invited by a handsome guy in PSU’s pre-med program and the prospect of free food and gin.
After that conversation, and a couple others, I realized that I wasn’t among my people. And by that I mean those with whom I share a common language or interest. Generally speaking these are either fellow science nerds or restaurant workers.This wasn’t some earth shattering revelation. I’ve never felt a pressing need to let my sexuality dictate my friendships. Unless I decide to tell some bawdy joke, I’m not likely to talk about being gay. If you’ve read my blog for any extended period of time, then you already know where my enthusiasm is found. If this is your first time here, then take a look at the topics on the right side of the home page. Therein is where you’ll find the subjects that are nearest and dearest to my heart. And if you understand or try to understand those topics, I count you as among my people.
That evening stuck with me. Here I was attending a gathering for an organization that has worked to overturn discriminatory laws and fight for my right to marry who I love, and I was there for the free food. This isn’t an aspect of myself with which I am unfamiliar. I’ve often thought about my apathy towards such advocacy, but never did much beyond that. However, it wasn’t until that point that I started to become somewhat bothered by it.
Later that week I had dinner with two other geobloggers, Michael Klaas and Julian Lozos who also happen to be GLBT. I wanted their perspective on the issue and asked if they’ve had similar thoughts. All three of us arrived at the same conclusion: just because someone is GLBT doesn’t mean there is a connection or rapport that automatically makes them “family”. In fact, none of us have felt much reason to consider the GLBT community our “community”. The three of us were having dinner and conversation because of our interest in science and science communication; not because of our non-hetero normative experiences.
At this point you may be asking yourself why I’m writing about being a gay scientist if I don’t feel the need to publicize it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear-cut reason. Part of me feels a sense of responsibility to speak up and make it clear that there are GLBT within the ranks of science and academia. After all, it was someone else’s speaking up that made my life as a gay male easier. Do I not have a responsibility to pay the same debt forward for the future generation? And how do I approach that without labeling myself in terms of my sexuality?
Therein lies my major struggle and I have no expectation that any reader answer those questions. I’m simply throwing out some thoughts and ideas that I’ve had over the week. However, feel free to comment on the subject. Be warned though- if any comments are derogatory or inflammatory I will exercise my mighty ban hammer and delete them without warning.