Gay Mathematician Alan Turing
After over 60 years, British mathematician, Alan Turning, was finally pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II for the crime of being gay.
Alan Turing was among the most important Britons of the 20th century. A developer of the modern computer, the renowned mathematician helped shape the future of technology. He was also a World War II code breaker who helped crack the most impenetrable Nazi tool of secret communications, the famed Enigma code.
None of that seemed to matter, however. In 1952, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" for homosexuality, then a crime in England. As part of his sentence, he was chemically castrated and subjected to estrogen treatments. Two years later, he committed suicide. He was 41 years old.
On December 24, 2013, Alan Turing finally received a posthumous royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II. Back in 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a formal apology on behalf of the nation.
The story of his life was made into a major motion picture, The Imitation Game.
Visibility for LGBTQ STEM Workers
Why is visibility for LGBTQ STEM workers so critical? A variety of studies, reports, and surveys offer a small window into the reality of the professional and academic environments—environments in which LGBTQ STEM workers face higher rates of exclusion, harassment, assault, and more than straight colleagues, and can still be legally discriminated against by employers.
--A 2013 survey of STEM workers found that more than 40% of LGBTQ identified respondents working in STEM fields are not out to their colleagues.
--In 28 states it’s still legal for employers to discriminate against someone for their sexual or gender identity.
--A 2018 study found that undergraduate sexual minority students were 8% less likely to be retained in STEM compared to switching into a non-STEM program, but more likely to have worked in a lab than their heterosexual counterparts (an experience typically associated with retention in STEM the pipeline).
--A 2014 study of STEM faculty at universities found that 69.2% of "out" faculty members felt uncomfortable in their university department, and that those who were out were 7.2 times more likely to experience exclusionary behavior by colleagues.
--According to the Association of
American University’s Climate Survey on
Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct
(2015), transgender, genderqueer, and
gender-non-conforming undergraduate and
graduate students reported the highest
levels of on-campus sexual assault and
--The Association of American University’s Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct reported that 60% of LGBTQ students reported incidences of sexual misconduct and harassment; comparatively, only 45% of their heterosexual classmates did the same.
--A recent report on the LGBQT climate in physics has drawn attention to some of the major issues faced by sexual minority STEM professionals, including a heterosexist climate that reinforces gender role stereotypes in STEM work environments, a culture that requires, or at least strongly encourages, LGBTQ people to remain closeted at work, and a general lack of awareness about LGBQT issues among STEM professionals.
--In June 2016, Chemical Engineering and News conducted an informal poll of its readers to look more closely at the experiences of LGBTQ individuals in the chemistry community. Of the 270 who responded, 44% said they had felt excluded, intimidated, or harassed at work in the course of their career.
[Source: 500 Queer Scientists]
Astronaut Sally Ride Comes Out Posthumously
Pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, died on July 23, 2012 from pancreatic cancer, at the age of 61. Ride, who relished privacy as much as she did adventure, chose an appropriately discreet manner of coming out. At the end of an obituary that she co-wrote with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, they disclosed to the world their relationship of 27 years. That was it. As details trickled out after Ride's death, it became clear that a circle of family, friends and co-workers had long known of the same-sex relationship and embraced it. For many millions of others, who admired Ride as the first American woman in space, it was a revelation. And it sparked a spirited discussion about privacy vs. public candor in regard to sexual orientation.
Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world, noted that both he and Ride were baby boomers who grew up "in a time when coming out was almost unthinkable." Robinson is 65. Ride was 61 when she died of pancreatic cancer. "For girls who had an interest in science and wanted to go places women had not been allowed to go, she was a tremendous role model," Robinson said Wednesday. "The fact that she chose to keep her identity as a lesbian private, I honor that choice." However, Robinson said he had a different standard for younger gays, to the point of insisting that his own clergy in New Hampshire be open about their sexuality if they are gay or lesbian. "While there is still discrimination and coming out will still have repercussions, the effect of those repercussions are vastly reduced now," Robinson said. "I believe that times have changed."
There's no question that gays and lesbians overall are coming out now at a higher rate and an earlier age than those of previous generations. According to the LGBTQ Movement Advancement Project, adults aged 30-54 are 16 times more likely to be closeted than those under 30. Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign's vice president for communications, said his initial reaction to the revelation about Sally Ride was, "What a shame that we didn't learn this while she was alive." "However, the fact it was acknowledged in death will be an incredibly powerful message to all Americans about the contributions of their LGBTQ counterparts," Sainz said. "The completeness of her life will be honored correctly."
Remembering Sally Ride
Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 – July 23, 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became famous as the first American woman to enter space, part of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger. As of 2012, Ride also remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space at the age of 32. In 1987, she left NASA to work at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control.
Sally Ride, America's first lady in space, will be remembered as a reluctant celebrity who cared deeply about the nation's space program and devoted her post-NASA career to keeping middle-school kids (especially girls) hooked on science, math, technology and engineering. Ride, 61, died after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Her death came 29 years and a month after she broke a gender barrier by launching into space aboard shuttle Challenger.
She is also remembered as a loving partner to Tam O'Shaughnessy, with her for 27 years. Ride is survived by her partner of more than two decades, Tam O'Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin; and nephew, Whitney; as well as her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science. O'Shaughnessy, at Ride's side during the astronaut's lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, co-authored four books with Ride and is a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University, and chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride's foundation, Sally Ride Science.
In Ride's death, many are asking: Who is Tam O'Shaughnessy? The answer is someone who closely shared Ride's passion for science and space. According to sallyridescience.com, O'Shaughnessy "helped found Sally Ride Science because of her long-standing commitment to science education and her recognition of the importance of supporting girls' interests in science. She finds her work with Sally Ride Science irresistible."
"Ride lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love," friends wrote in a statement posted on the website of her business, Sally Ride Science. "Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless." Ride became a household name when she rocketed into orbit on June 18, 1983. But she never was at ease with fame. "Sally was a very private person who found herself a very public persona. It was a role in which she was never fully comfortable," said fellow US astronaut Steve Hawley, who was married to Ride from 1982 through 1987.
Lynn Conway: Computer Scientist and
Lynn Ann Conway (born 1938) is a transgender American computer scientist, electrical engineer, inventor, and activist. Conway is notable for a number of pioneering achievements, including the Mead & Conway revolution in VLSI design, which incubated an emerging electronic design automation industry. She worked at IBM in the 1960s and is credited with the invention of generalized dynamic instruction handling, a key advance used in out-of-order execution, used by most modern computer processors to improve performance.
Conway grew up in White Plains, New York (dn Robert). Conway was shy and experienced gender dysphoria as a child. She became fascinated and engaged by astronomy (building a 150 mm reflector telescope one summer) and did well in math and science in high school. Conway entered MIT in 1955, earning high grades but ultimately leaving in despair after an attempted gender transition in 1957–58 failed due to the medical climate at the time. After working as an electronics technician for several years, Conway resumed education at Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science, earning BS and MSEE degrees in 1962 and 1963. After learning of the pioneering research of Harry Benjamin in treating transsexual women and realizing that genital affirmation surgery was now possible, Conway sought his help and became his patient. After suffering from severe depression from gender dysphoria, Conway contacted Benjamin, who agreed to provide counseling and prescribe hormones. Under Benjamin's care, Conway began her medical gender transition.
While struggling with life in a male role, Conway had been married to a woman and had two children. Under the legal constraints then in place, after transitioning she was denied access to their children. Although she had hoped to be allowed to transition on the job, IBM fired Conway in 1968 after she revealed her intention to transition to a female gender role. In 1987, Conway met her husband Charles "Charlie" Rogers, a professional engineer who shares her interest in the outdoors, including whitewater canoeing and motocross racing. In August 2002, they were married in Michigan.
Deirdre Downs: Physician and Miss America Titleholder
Deidre Downs is an American physician
and former beauty pageant titleholder.
Downs was Miss Alabama 2004 and later
was crowned Miss America 2005.
After graduating from Pelham High School (Alabama) in 1998, Downs attended the University of Virginia on a volleyball scholarship. While at the University of Virginia, she was an Echols Scholar and a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. After her freshman year of college at the University of Virginia, Downs chose to focus on her studies and aspiration to go to medical school and ultimately transferred to Samford University (Birmingham, Ala). Her transfer resulted in her losing her scholarship, so she began competing in local pageants to earn scholarship money. She graduated magna cum laude in 2002 from Samford University with a degree in history and a double-minor in biology and chemistry. She was also a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship in 2002.
Downs was crowned Miss Alabama 2004. She was Alabama's representative at the Miss America 2005 competition held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Her platform was "Curing Childhood Cancer." She won that pageant and was was crowned Miss America 2005.
After completing her stint as Miss
America, she began medical school at the
University of Alabama at Birmingham
School of Medicine. She received her
Doctor of Medicine in 2010 and then
completed her residency in obstetrics
and gynecology at the UAB Medical Center
in 2014. She continued her education at
the UAB Medical Center and completed her
fellowship in reproductive endocrinology
and infertility in 2017.
Downs married Abbott Jones in 2018 in a private ceremony in Birmingham, Alabama. Her wife is an attorney and writer. Downs is the first former Miss America national titleholder to enter a same-sex marriage.
Downs is a Physician in Obstetrics and Gynecology (Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility) and currently employed at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical Center.
Famous LGBTQ Scientists, Researchers, Philosophers, Historians
Within the scientific and technical fields, many talented and noteworthy LGBTQ people can be found. They are well represented among researchers and professors. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people have made and continue to make great contributions in the fields of physics, astronomy, biology, anthropology, social and behavioral science, mathematics, engineering, medicine, economics, history, education, philosophy, and more.
Leonardo da Vinci – 15th century Italian artist, scientist, and engineer
Sir Francis Bacon – 17th century English philosopher of science
Alfred Kinsey - Researcher, Father of Sexology (1894-1956)
Magnus Hirschfeld - German Physician and Sexologist (1868-1935)
Florence Nightingale – 19th century British Nurse
Alexander von Humboldt - 19th century Prussian naturalist
Sonja Kovalevsky - 19th century Russian mathematician
Alan Turing - British Mathematician (1912-1954)
Margaret Mead – 20th century American anthropologist and psychologist
Michael Foucault - French Philosopher, Sociologist, and Educator (1926-1984)
Deirdre McCloskey - American Economist and Economic Historian
Martha May Eliot - American Pediatrician & Public Health Specialist
Sally Ride - American Physicist and Astronaut (1951-2012)
Lynn Conway - American Professor of Engineering & Computer Science
S. Josephine Baker – 20th century physician
Allan Cox – 20th century American Geophysicist
Neil Divine – 20th century American Astrophysicist
Louise Pearce – 20th century pathologist
Jim Pollack – 20th century American astrophysicist
Bruce Voeller – 20th century American biologist and AIDS researcher
Clyde Wahrhaftig - 20th century American Geologist and Environmentalist
Dean Hamer - Geneticist, Chief of Gene Structure & Regulation at Natl Institutes of Health
Bruce Bagemihl - Canadian biologist
Simon LeVay – British neuroscientist
Deirdre Downs - American Physician, Obstetrics & Gynecology
Closeted LGBTQ Scientists
Many talented lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) scientists feel they must keep their cover to escape overt and covert discrimination. There is still much homophobia and heterosexism in the technical fields.
While there are many openly gay men and women in the sciences, there are many more that choose to remain in the closet in order to keep their place in the laboratory. We may commonly think of academics as a liberal, open-minded lot, but lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer scientists have had as rocky a road to acceptance in the scientific community as they've had in other segments of society. Even in modern-day academia, LGBT scientists may feel reluctant to come out even to co-workers or superiors, not knowing whether they'll be met with support or scorn.
These issues are being increasingly talked about and exposed by authors and researchers and in settings like the Out to Innovate Career Summit in 2010 held by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists & Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP).
NOGLSTP is an association of scientific and technical professionals who earn their livings in the fields of materials science, biomedical engineering, geography, archeology, neurobiology, meteorology, oceanography, medical technology, physics, electrical engineering, biochemistry, zoology, psychobiology, computer science, epidemiology, microbiology, environmental science, linguistics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, science education, sociology, astronomy, botany, molecular biology, anthropology, law, aerospace engineering, science policy, physiology, ecology, patent law, geology, health professions, mathematics and more. Their membership includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer professionals and their allies. They advocate equal employment opportunity, professional networking, role modeling, science education, and scientific freedom and responsibility. They practice science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with pride.