November/December 2020Vol. XXXIII No. 2

LGBTQ+ Scientists and STEM

Timothy F. Jamison

I hope this finds you and yours well. I write with a fourfold purpose – to share with you a recent article in Nature, to offer a personal perspective, to highlight some important resources, and to facilitate connections among LGBTQ+ colleagues at MIT.

The article itself, “How LGBT+ scientists would like to be included and welcomed in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) workplaces,” may be found here, and I would like to start by thanking George Barbastathis and Lorna Gibson for bringing it to my attention. I found it to be heart-wrenching, inspiring, and constructive, from the very first word of the article – “Invisible”. It provides summaries of important studies whose data indicate a profound sense of marginalization of LGBTQ+ scientists. In fact, the data illustrate the troubling reality that exclusionary, offensive, or harassing behaviors are common experiences.

Even more moving in my view are the six personal accounts of experiences of LGBTQ+ scientists.

For example, from Kaela Singleton, who is a postdoc in developmental neuroscience, is Black, uses she-series pronouns, and identifies as queer: “A professor once brought up my queerness in class as a deficit in my cognitive processing.” I note the tragic irony of the comment vis-a-vis her chosen field of study. J.J. Eldridge (she/they), a professor of astrophysics who is transgender and identifies as non-binary, upon seeing an anti-trans article posted on the Facebook page of a conference they had organized: “. . .[I]t was the worst thing I’ve experienced – my entire self was being called into question.” I encourage you to read these and the other four personal accounts in the article.

I mentioned above that my impression of the article was also “inspiring” and “constructive.” A wonderful example of both I found in the account provided by Sean Vidal Edgerton (he), who is gay, queer, and a virologist and scientific illustrator. He and his colleague Lauren Esposito are co-founders of 500 Queer Scientists, a website whose original primary aim was to raise awareness and now, about two years after its launch, features biographies and contact information of 1340 (as of this writing) LGBTQ+ scientists. In its own words, the impact and ongoing goal of this site is to “ensure the next STEM generation has LGBTQ+ role models; help the current generation recognize they’re not alone; create opportunities for community connections and greater visibility within STEM.”

That many at MIT may have had experiences comparable to those highlighted in the article saddens me. George ( and Lorna ( have let me know that they are eager to hear from LGBTQ+ colleagues. The Institute Community Equity Office (ICEO) and Institute Harassment and Discrimination Response (IDHR) office are other important MIT resources. Please, of course, also feel free to contact me.