I grew up admiring and wishing to emulate great scientists in history not realising that many of them are queer. I thought that I had too few queer role models but in reality they were just hidden. I remember being in awe of scientists like Sally Ride (the first American woman in space) for her fearless pursuit of knowledge. The world only found out about her 27 year relationship with a woman upon her death in 2012.
When I was deciding whether to pursue a career in biology or to explore the possibilities of the charity sector, I was energised by activists fighting for medical research into HIV and AIDS. The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in particular showed me that science is influenced by the world around us and that I had the power to make a difference.
Later in my career people like Ben Barres (a neurobiologist and the first openly trans man to become a member of the US National Academy of Science) inspired me to fight for better access to STEM education and careers – not just for queer people but all underrepresented groups. He shines a light on the impact that diversity has on STEM and all of our lives.
Now I have the privilege to be visibly and openly gay. It’s a joy to be the proud representation that is so important for our community.
Today I look for support and inspiration from not just LGBTQ+ STEM pioneers of the past, but young people who are making their mark on the world. The adage that ‘you have to see it to be it’ is still true but what we often assume is that we have to always get this representation from older generations. Young queer people living their lives with such fierce pride inspire me every day and push me to be a more authentic version of myself.
During LGBTQ+ history month I am grateful for the inspiring queer community – especially the future STEM professionals who are currently participating in In2scienceUK programmes. I hope one day they feel empowered and supported to live openly in their professional lives.