UA retired professor on coming out in the sciences

In addition to the Anchorage community leaders who spoke to the local media on National Coming Out Day, retired University of Alaska professor Steven Jacquier wrote his story of being gay in the sciences for a national website:
The writers at boingboing realized they'd never seen a Coming Out Day feature dedicated to the experiences of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered persons in the sciences and engineering, and hoped to add to the diversity of stories and help science-minded young queer folks everywhere know that it does, indeed, get better.
One of the featured stories is by Steven Jacquier, who trained teachers and science educators at the University of Alaska and experienced the pink glass ceiling:
Early Oppression Led to a Happy Life in the Sciences

Becoming a minister was my first career goal but the clash between being gay and the church killed that intention. At the same time—age 16—being gay also got me kicked out of my parent's house. In high school I had won science fair awards, prompting the military to persistently recruit me, so with the seminary door closed I decided to become an officer. Military college tuition and benefits were a tantalizing opportunity for a teenager on his own with no money ... but while actually filling out the induction papers at the recruiting station I discovered I had the option to either lie about being gay and be in, or be honest and be out. I chose to be out—in more ways than one. The remaining career path on my list? Science. I worked my way through university in part by serving food to military-funded students and washing their dirty dishes, yet am still glad I did not lie. A life in the sciences has worked out so much better!

Internships and field studies with the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies, Indonesian Institutes of Ecology and Parasitology, and in industry led to decades of work on a diverse range of fascinating and rewarding projects. Human ecology in Java, mariculture in Ecuador, agricultural research in New Jersey and California, health science education and disease prevention projects in Alaska and Nepal. At some junctures being gay in the sciences has meant hitting a glass ceiling, no doubt about it; for example, the same year I ultimately won a national award I was conspicuously passed over at the state level in Alaska. There has been definite progress over the years, though, thanks in large part to the efforts of NOGLSTP working with AAAS and other professional associations.

As with being LGBTIQ, being a scientist is as much—if not more—a privileged perspective and invaluable approach to perceiving and understanding the world than how one is defined by professional employment or simply by the nominal fact of for whom one feels affection. Whenever I work with students I have them draw a scientist; they usually draw a man in a lab coat pouring chemicals or peering through a microscope. Especially with LGBTIQ youth, I know I have been successful when at the end of the course I ask them again to draw a scientist and they draw a smiling self-portrait. Out and proud career role models for LGBTIQ youth have too long been restricted to hairdressers, dog groomers, and positions in the arts.

Our youngest recently graduated from high school and flew the nest for university; with her away my partner and I decided to retire. We moved from Alaska to Hawaii, where I am beginning work with some local efforts on rat lungworm, dengue fever, and other emergent and resurgent tropical diseases as well as with FASD (Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders). Overall, life as a gay man in the sciences these past decades has been good; thanks to folks like you being out and proud I expect the outlook for our children and students to be even better.
Thanks to Steven for contributing his experience as a gay man in the sciences and as a gay Alaskan!

Do you know LGBT Alaskans in the sciences and engineering? NOGLSTP, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals, is calling for nominations for their 2011 Recognition Awards:

Do you know a GLBT colleague who conducts important scientific research, develops critical engineering applications, or mentors GLBT students in science, technology, engineering, or math? If so, please nominate them for one of NOGLSTP's 2011 GLBT Recognition Awards in the categories of GLBT Scientist of the Year, GLBT Engineer of the Year, and GLBTA Educator of the Year. Nominees need not be well known to the STEM community, but they should the "out" and willing to serve as role models. Self-nominations are accepted. The nomination dealine is November 15. Follow this link for more information and nomination instructions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can remember talking to the young girl in the photo on an Alaska flight one time and she made reference to her dads on several occasions. She was such a sweet person and I loved the fact that she was very proud to have 2 dads. They are all very lucky to have eachother. People can learn from their unconditional love.

Copyright © 2008 by Bent Alaska.