Some aspects of being a lesbian in science are unique to being gay (like the
issue of being closeted); but much of it would sound familiar to any woman
in science, or a member of any other non-dominant group.
A few of these common experiences are isolation, derogatory stereotypes,
colleagues' ignorance, the problem of getting into or bypassing the old-person
network, and the pressure of being the sole representative of (or unwilling
spokesperson for) one's entire group.
As a grad student who is a lesbian, I am lucky to be in a lab where
I can speak freely, at a university with antidiscrimination policies, in
a city with antidiscrimination laws and a large gay community. The
biologists I have come out to are supportive; but still I censor
myself in many situations. My girlfriend was thrown out of her office early
in her graduate career because her officemate refused to share with a lesbian.
It is hard to face the possibility that if I want tenure I may have to
compromise my rights and my personal principles (ie go back in the
closet). Or I might have to take a less prestigious post than I deserve.
I am not sure what the best course of action is. I have given and will give
this a lot of thought, in my spare time between running assays and plating
There is a mailing list (women only) called Lesbians in Science. To
subscribe, write to zita at ac.grin.edu.
There is also the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian
Scientific and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP).
To subscribe to the NOGLSTP mailing list, write to
noglstp-request at elroy.jpl.nasa.gov.
Theresa C. Swayne
Columbia University Dept. of Anatomy & Cell Biology
swayne at reed.edu or tcs6 at columbia.edu