I started this post while writing up the diversity section of my Science Online presentation, but it’s been languishing in my drafts folder for over a month. However, Dr. Glitterbear’s sad comment over at Deep Sea News prompted me to dig it out again. On a post on how to become a deep-sea biologist, Dr. Glitterbear said:
To do deep sea research, it also helps to be white, male and hetero. I was once in that field but grew weary of the homophobic attitudes. And after a prominent researcher told me that people like me don’t belong in science, I stopped fighting and switched to a field less insular and bigoted.
Now, I’m not a deep-sea researcher, but I am at an oceanographic institution with five research vessels and I do go out to sea. I agree with Peter and Kevin that it’s a lot easier to be female in the sciences these days, but I have no idea if it’s hard to be gay. That’s because I know very, very few LGBT scientists, grad students, or even undergrads. In fact, I think that I’ve only met three LGBT ocean scientists ever – Rick MacPherson, a former master’s student at SIO, and a friend in Boston who is just starting to get into marine resource management. (Along with Joan Roughgarden, but I’ve never met her.)
Since I bordered on haggery in college, it’s not for lack of knowing tons of LGBT people outside of science. But even at my very LGBT-friendly undergrad institution, I think there was only one gay undergrad in the ecology department. And currently at SIO, I don’t know a single LGBT person.
I can think of a couple possibilities:
1) I have met lots of LGBT scientists, but I didn’t know them well enough to know about their personal lives. I’m sure this is true to some extent, but after hanging around the same place with the same people for several years, you do tend to meet most people’s SOs at happy hours and graduation parties.
2) There aren’t that many LGBT people to begin with (<10% of the total population), and there aren’t that many ocean scientists, so it’s just a function of statistics.
3) Ocean sciences are unfriendly to LGBT people, so they are not out at work or leave the field altogether. I’m also sure this is true to some extent.
What do you think?