Why we celebrate International LGBTQIA+ STEM Day
Graduate student Vivian Rosas describes the importance of celebrating International LGBTQIA+ in STEM Day and her recent experience attending a celebration held by the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering
The Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering (DGSE) student association (SAGE) proudly hosted a bagel and coffee hour on November 18 celebrating the International LGBTQIA+ STEM Day. The event gave an opportunity for the College of Science, especially geoscience students and faculty, to come together and open the dialogue as to why we celebrate this day and provided a safe space to celebrate our queer faculty, students and community members. Participants enjoyed free coffee (donated by Buzzed Coffee) and bagels (provided by the College of Science), and were able to take home Pride buttons, stickers and pronoun pins.
LGBTQIA+ people are subject to discrimination for simply existing; they often have to worry about job security, success in their field and their own personal safety due to their sexuality and gender identity. Building a community where these issues are actively recognized, discussed and worked on not only creates a safer environment but it diminishes the false perception that one needs to be straight and cis-gendered to achieve success in STEM.
Time and time again we hear about the lack of diversity in a variety of fields in STEM, whether it’s gender inequality, racism or LGBTQIA+ bigotry. Even though certain fields may lack diversity in a particular identity relative to the population as a whole, this doesn’t mean that people of those identities aren’t present, rather quite the opposite. Diverse individuals have been in STEM from the beginning, contributing and creating new science, and often overcoming tremendous obstacles and discrimination due to their identity. We take a moment on November 18 to highlight the LGBTQIA+ community, to realize the barriers they must overcome for the pursuit of knowledge and try to create an environment where people from all backgrounds and identities feel welcome and included.
Although an accessible environment can be created for this community, they still are vulnerable to peril. Safety is usually taken for granted for those not part of this community, but for those who are, we often see tragedy strike. We remember and mourn the lives that were lost and forever changed by the hate crime that occurred at Club Q (a LGBTQIA+-friendly nightclub) in Colorado Springs on November 19, 2022. Lamentably, the tragedy is another example of the dangers the LGBTQIA+ community endures, and how even in places created for them, they are still at risk. It is not enough to make space for them, but we must actively work against the intolerance and implicit biases we find within ourselves and others.
Action without acknowledgement is a risky game, but acknowledgment without action is nothing at all. Having both is where real change can be implemented. Whether it’s being part of a huge movement or participating in something as casual as SAGE’s bagel and coffee hour, one can learn and acknowledge the prejudice inherent in our fields, enact change for inclusivity and create an environment where pursuing curiosity is a fundamental right, not a privilege.
About the author
Vivian Rosas is a second-year graduate student in the Department of Geological Sciences and Engineering. Vivian is pursuing her Ph.D. in Geophysics, and her research focuses on using seismology and geodesy to look at surface deformation. Vivian’s passions also include improving diversity, equity and inclusion in the geosciences.