I have been having a hard time writing this text for the past few days because I feel like I might not be the best person to write this. I am in the incredibly privileged position of having never been not out at my current department and in addition to that I belong to one of the most (if not the most) privileged group within the LGTBQ+ community as I am a young gay white man from an affluent country in a stable relationship. That said, I also know that to some extent I have also just been lucky, and I also know how much a person can struggle with their sexuality–as I myself have struggled for quite some time. I also know how it feels when you are not sure if it is safe to out yourself–for example by clearly mentioning your partner’s gender–or to express yourself or if the only adjective people use to describe you is ‘gay’.
Academia is not known to be the most open space at all times, and it can be even harder if you do not fit the norm. Or if you try to fight norms because you notice that certain groups are not included in studies or academia to the extent that they should be. That is why I try to do my bit by chairing the ‘Research & Academia Committee’ within the LGTBQ+ organisation UMPride. In this way I can also use my privileges to my advantage and, together with my brilliant committee members (shout-out to you, amazing people!), try to make UM and science a bit more welcoming and inclusive.
I am incredibly proud of the work we are doing; however, I would be even happier if certain battles were not needed in the future anymore. If people could just refer to their same-sex partners in any way they please without being afraid to out themselves, if people would not make jokes about people sharing their pronouns, if people would understand why it is important to be LGTBQ+ inclusive in their scientific works, if people would understand that transgender people still face incredible hardships and so many battles that I cannot name here due to a lack of space.
Pride is one of the most fun months there is, and I love to celebrate Pride with my friends (and it should stay that way!), but it should also be a moment where we LGTBQ+ people are allowed to say: We are not there yet. Just because we have marriage equality does not mean that we are not a marginalized group anymore. Science and society can do better and should do better. For us. Because we deserve it. Like anyone else. And also, because–let’s be honest–we are awesome.
“Openness may not completely disarm prejudice, but it’s a good place to start.”
-by Thomas Gültzow