The United Kingdom and Ireland are an unsafe environment for those who identify under the trans umbrella, due in part to the constant attacks in the British Press, building on institutional transphobia in society. If we want to challenge this, especially for those who engage with and work within STEM, we need to look at the behaviours of both ourselves and those around us to create more inclusive spaces. But what does this change look like? In today’s conversation, Dr Craig Poku (he/they; @C_Poku93) will be joined by Dr Shubhangi Karmakar (they/she; @Repealist_) and Avery Cummingham (he/him; @nuqueerengineer), who will give some practical suggestions for what these changes involve.
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00:00:00 Craig Welcome to the Pride in STEM Podcast, a series centered around bringing forward the voices of those who face barriers within the LGBTQ+ community. I’m your host, Dr. Craig Poku, a Black British queer scientist who goes by he/they pronouns. We want to mark the International Day of LGBTQIA+ people in STEM with important conversations from different members of our rainbow community. that will provide insights, highlight barriers, and discuss solutions in the context of STEM, both within the United Kingdom and Ireland.
In this episode, we’ll be focusing our discussion on gender identity. The British press combined with the way in which language is used by those who are cisgendered consequently forms an unsafe environment for those who identify under the trans umbrella. If we want to change this, we need to look at the behaviours of both ourselves and those around us to create more inclusive spaces. We hope that this discussion is the first of many steps to do this. Joining me today are the wonderful Shubhangi and Avery. Firstly, welcome to you both. And can you tell me a little bit about yourselves?
00:00:59 Shubhangi Hi, I’m Dr Shubhangi Karmkar. I’m an academic clinician in St. James Hospital in Dublin, Ireland. I’m a trainee editorial editor for the British Journal of Psychiatry and a reviewer for the International Journal of Medical Ethics. As you can tell, I very much define myself by the work I do. But also, I suppose gender ambivalent or gender agnostic. I identify as Indian by birth, British by naturalization, Irish by the grace of God. And I use the pronouns she and they interchangeably. And I prefer male declensions so being referred to as sir rather than ma’am.
00:01:45 Craig Awesome. And Avery, it’s your turn.
00:01:46 Avery [Laughs] So hi, I’m Avery. My pronouns are he/him. So I’m currently finishing up my Masters in Nuclear Decommissioning in Waste Management at the University of Birmingham. And post this I should soon be starting my PhD in nuclear fusion research. So I am a transgender man who is biromantic and demisexual. I’m also disabled, so I have severe anxiety and depression, which I’ve struggled with for a number of years. Within the last year or so. I was diagnosed with autism. I mention all this because I always feel it’s important to acknowledge my intersecting identities because none of them exist in a vacuum. They all impact my experiences, including around gender. Outside of my studies, I do a lot of work around diversity in STEM, mainly with an LGBTQ in STEM focus, holding positions such as director of student membership for oSTEM, vice chair of the Institute of Materials, Minerals & Mining Pride Network, and diversity for the Nuclear Institute, Midlands Branch to name a few.
00:02:40 Craig Excellent. Just to begin, I feel like both of you have such a wide perspective, is that what I want to say? Yeah. A wide perspective on like your experiences. Because of course like one of the things that I talk about a lot is this idea of intersectionality. And you can’t just see it as intersections—like gender identity and that’s it. Because we are aware that it all kind of like intersects into like, different aspects, both within the LGBTQ+ community, but also other identities in the examples, for example, like disability, race, and this case, sexuality and gender. So I guess to kind of like begin this discussion—nd it’ll be interesting to kind of hear both of your perspectives on this. Because I feel like you are going to address this question in different ways. What do you think are the key barriers for gender minorities in STEM? And I’ve asked this question in a very vague way. But if you want to make it more specific to the audience then feel free to go. So Avery, do you want to kick start?
00:03:43 Avery Some of the kind of key barriers I’ve always found while going through my studies is kind of the lack of role models. I always kind of try and when I do things like this hammer home, how hard it is to see yourself succeed in STEM if you can’t see people around you. So I’m from like a—I always really did like STEM, but I always struggled to see people like me succeeding. I’m from quite a—I’m from quite a poor area just outside of Birmingham. Which is—means that there wasn’t a lot of STEM people to look up for around me and then throwing in all the other identities, it was really hard to see myself succeed. And if there’s no one like me, especially somebody who’s like a transgender man, even finding other transgender men has been something difficult for me in my community. It means you also have to be a trailblazer a lot of the time, which is really hard. It’s really draining to have to be like the first trans man that a lot of people have in a kind of scene. And so when you also then having to do that education alongside while also doing all your other barriers to STEM, like STEM is difficult. And so when you’re always fighting. It’s just a huge barrier.
00:04:55 Craig And Shubhangi what are your thoughts on that?
00:04:58 Shubhangi I suppose I see STEM in a very interesting way having done lab work in my masters as well as obviously working as a clinician now and then doing a lot of qualitative research. I think when I started doing other community work for a long time I did some activism around healthcare and reproductive rights in Ireland, I used to feel like visibility was this really important thing. And you know, that it was actually going to gain tangible returns. But I found visibility, at least in my experience—and this is definitely coloured by my experience of race—as something that’s incredibly reductive, like in terms of how people visualize other people. Usually see my skin colour and my race characterize me as that and all the stereotypes that come with it first. And then, you know, maybe they’ll see—like even when I was describing myself there, I forgot to even like think of it. The fact that my biggest challenge in my work is probably my physical and my mental disabilities. 00:05:55 But you know, if they come—if they overcome the race barrier, then they’re like, “Oh yeah, you’re disabled. And that’s why you can’t do stuff.” And then eventually when it gets to gender identity, it’s like nobody even—like nobody even thinks to talk about it. Like the only times I’ve ever ended up talking about it is incredibly instinctively when somebody’s, you know, asked me a straight question and I’ve given them a straight answer [laughing] without thinking about it and without thinking about what the implications are. But yeah, like, I don’t know. I’ve—for me, I think visibility can be—like the way that people frame your visibility can be really reductive. And I suppose like that experience is going to exist as a person who is not binary and trans, but is trans and you know, gender ambivalent or whatever. And you know, even the intersection of that and being queer and/or bi and poly. What people very much see of that, what they want to see, you know, they see me as a brown, Indian person more than anything else. 00:06:66 When I talk about my partners, even if I’m talking about different ones, their brain will just retcon that to mean like you’re referring to one person. And yeah, I think there’s a big barrier in terms of how reductively you can be read. But then I guess what’s very different for me in the medical setting, compared to the lab setting is obviously the fact that you have to put yourself very much out there and interact with so many people all the time. And you’re never quite ready for how people are going to react to you. Like, you know, working in psych, hoping to work in psychiatry and everything, it’s been like a lifetime of learning. I’ve worked in a lot of crisis mental health care. It’s been a lifetime of learning that the way people approach you is a lot more about them. It’s a lot more about their medical state or their emotional state, but it still means that, you know, you’re never quite prepared for the next slur that’s going to hit you. Or you’re never quite prepared for like, when people will just randomly, but very loudly object to who you are when they hear about it? 00:07:55 That can be a real challenge sometimes. I think like that—not fear, but that never quite knowing, I think is a very big barrier. Because I suppose as a nonbinary trans person, who’s, you know, definitely not avowed to 00:08:12 any particular gender or changing of appearance, it can be really hard to just live as a nonbinary person without having to assert to people that you are in fact nonbinary. And in medicine, that’s a losing battle. Like your day to day, that’s always a losing battle. Like I remember the first time I felt just like, something was very, very wrong was when it was like a colleague of mine is super queer friendly, whom like, I’d been debating coming out to like, just this one person, just for some safety in work. I’d been debating mentally coming out to them for like the first few weeks of my job. 00:08:55 And for some reason I decided to say no to myself. And then we were just doing some clinical jobs and they turn around and they, you know, offhandedly go, “Ah, yeah, good woman.” And it just felt… so wrong. Like it just felt so not me but I’d never really thought about it. Like I’d never really thought about the impact of being misgendered all the time until it was in that one moment. And yeah, that can just be really hard. Like it’s really difficult sometimes. And particularly different, difficult in Ireland where people just do not—they do not ask about diversity. They do not document diversity, like particularly for competitive jobs like mine. Like I have one of twenty-four jobs in the country doing academic medical work. They do not ask for any disability status or offer any accommodations. They do not chronicle the ethnicity or like, you know, identities of the applicants, because it’s designed to be a really exclusionary program. 00:09:57 And in those spaces, it can just be really hard to exist and be all of yourself. But you also then kind of don’t really have an option, you know? Because if you’re unsupported then you just have to make the most of life for yourself and you can say like, you know, sometimes it is useful. I hope in some ways it can model that there is opportunity for other people there in the future. But most days I’m just trying to keep my head above water. And whatever about pioneering or whatever you want to call it, it is really just keeping your head above water.
00:10:32 Craig I think it’s in the—so for both the points, so you both make some really valid points. Avery’s point about representation, especially as you get further throughout your career is something that I definitely relate to as one of the few Black British atmospheric scientists that I’m aware of. And then when you add queerness into that then that kind of makes you kind of stick out like a sore thumb in a way. And it’s weird because whenever people ask me about what do I think about queer representation, I always make the argument to say that people don’t see my queerness, they seem my Blackness. And I think in a way, part—like this probably relates back to what Avery was also saying as well. Because also depending on people’s stage of transitioning as well, there’s that stage where people are always consistently misgendering you. 00:11:35 And I also think that is due to the fact that there is this weird thing where—there is this thing in society where like gender identity isn’t accounted for. Gender identity isn’t spoken about. Gender identity is still seen as this kind of like second thought. And it’s very transphobic in these spaces as well. And especially for the work that you do Shubhangi like you are one of X amount of people that do that type of job. And the fact that they don’t even account for different identities within that space, it’s already setting you up for failure at that point. So you are always feeling like you have to be the trailblazers in these spaces. And that’s a problem. And that’s kind of leading on to my next question I guess. Both of you’ve kind of touched upon it but how do you feel that the lack of representation has affected your journey within your respective careers so far?
00:12:29 Shubhangi Yeah, so I think the biggest impact lack of representation inside of my careers and, you know, and not just including medicine and including journalism and activism and a lot of the other things I do is very much feeling like I had to represent myself in the mould of other people. And that’s been a thing professionally, but even personally, you know. Like we talk about identity and I always have to ask myself like, am I, you know, visibly queer enough? Am I visibly trans enough to be in this space of like you know what, I probably am one of the most like, out and proud trans people in this hospital. Whether people read me as that or not is not actually my problem. But the only way I would be unhappy trans person would be if I had to pretend to be somebody else’s idea. And I feel like I was doing something very similar in my other professional fields and stuff for a while too. Where you know, I was presenting my work as if a, you know, cishet white dude had presented it, or I was writing in lifestyle journalism, appealing to the voice of a cishet white middle-class able-bodied woman. 00:13:42 And I feel like that’s kind of a real challenge. And I mean, at the moment I’m doing that, I try and tackle it in academia like medicine, by doing peer mentoring for people who are underrepresented, where I will mentor them. But I’ll also actually match them to a mentor who is a cishet guy. Because I feel like they’re the best of both worlds to be had, where you learn your lack of reticence. Where you learn your confidence in yourself from privileged people, but you match it with developing your own voices in an underrepresented person. So I try to do that kind of bridge mentoring. I also, at the moment am developing a slow journalism project, which will be run by myself and a partner client who is also trans. So they’ve been a newspaper editor for years. 00:14:34 I’ve been an academic research editor for years and alongside all the other journalistic work we do, the work I do in the British Journal now where we know we are making steps in improving language around gender and sex. We’re also creating our own space and filling it with editors, so that underrepresented people don’t always just have to solicit, you know, and curry favour and make the right friends with privileged people. Like they can be edited I suppose, by a group of their peers and provide peer editing in a group of their peers. So that you can put your own voice first, you don’t have to be a trailblazer relative to other privileged people or relative to other people who are already visible. You can just hone a community where being yourself is enough. And being yourself should allow you to have the same audacity, the same creative flare, the same courage, and the same integrity as anybody else. 00:15:32 And I think that’s like—out of the challenges I’ve seen constantly having to grovel for the approval of people who have no idea about my life and what it takes to live it, but very much know how they want the frame it for profit. I think a lot of it has been about learning how to bring all the experience we have. Because yeah, there are fewer trans people in everything I do, but bring all the experience I have, the experiences we’ve had targeted against us with like the virulent transphobia in journalism we find in the UK and Ireland 00:16:03, and using that to create a space where we can collect and build on our own experience and narratives and like really strengthen them.
00:16:15 Craig Yeah. No, that makes sense. And actually to kind of speak about this, I just want to pick up a point about—that you said about the whole mentorship thing. So for our audience who are listening to this, a lot of mentorship programs sometimes still have this dependency of minority groups looking after minority groups. And then there is an advantage to that. But the problem with that is that you find that the emotional labour that people who are further in their career, who also fall into a minority group by definition, tend to mean that they’re still dealing with the emotional labour. And unfortunately that then means that there can be a scenario whereby when they’re trying to progress their own careers, they don’t have that energy to put into the career because they’re focusing on EDI work. And this is something that if you are listening to this, and you have the, like, I guess the power or know the people in power to actually count for this when it comes to the dealing with like promotional criteria, just think about it. So that’s sort of like my only kind of like point on that.
00:17:23 Shubhangi Yeah, and just really briefly as well, so one of the other things that I recently started doing is I’m on the race and ethnicity advisory group to the National Institute of Health Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre. It’s a very long title to effectively say that, yes I guess somewhat mitigate this question of emotional labour. Like we are a group of volunteers of people of all ethnicities who have come together to basically act as a pool of reference for researchers or community people who want to start community projects on how they can make their work—how they can make their language inclusive, but also their actions inclusive. And how they can make their work more rooted in and led by their communities. And I feel like certainly a lot to do with like the career fatigue is realizing what the relative reimbursement and what the relative validation of the work we do is. Because a lot of our mentoring minorities is often either like started off our own backs, started off our own initiative and it’s often informal and is often unpaid. 00:18:25 Which means—yeah, you know, we’re not applying for grants in the time we’re mentoring people. We’re not applying for I guess these markers of formal validation that are required or you know the citations that are required to progress in your career. Even though we probably put in more into like making, not just a community more inclusive for us but a community that’s more representative for all of our co-workers. And you know, that applies to race as much as disability, as much as queerness and gender identity.
00:18:52 Craig Oh, definitely.
00:18:53 Shubhangi And like, certainly, like spaces like spaces like the READ Group 00:18:55—and the READ Group is hopefully going to expand over the next few years to specifically address issues around disability representation on queerness and representation. So like, you know, even in that space, I’m a minority within minority within a minority, as a queer disabled trans person of colour. But I think one of the things that’s really important is that those places are funded. Now, the funding is optional. Like there are some people I know who are at a stage in their career where they’ve said, “I don’t need this reimbursement. I’m more than happy to donate my share of the reimbursement to whatever.” But there’s certainly people at the start of their careers to whom it’s really beneficial to be able to state, you know, “I provided mentorship to a National Research Centre,” or, “I provided advice to a National Research Centre which was reimbursed.” Like, I know it’s only like three more words. But in the capitalistic society we live in people give you more esteem if they know that you were paid for the work that you did.
00:19:52 Craig Oh yeah, definitely for sure.
00:19:53 Shubhangi And it’s so important and you know, like, look, if we’re not getting like grants of thousands to run projects because we are putting our time into building our communities, then the least we can do is be reimbursed in alternative ways or be reimbursed by title. Like as an academic editor, obviously everything I do for the integrity of the science is unpaid. But the fact that, you know, there’s a significant commitment to developing and training with skills and like to have a functional title of an academic editor before I’m twenty-five for, like, two international journals, those things actually matter. And I think not just seeking mentorship, not just seeking amplification, but really making sure that the people who are being amplified have enough, you know, tangible resources, tangible supports to cover their emotional labour and are safe in a world where the eye of the media is very unsafe for us. Like I’ve been doxxed many, many, many times. Just making sure that people are safe to be visible and are supported to be visible is really important.
00:20:58 Craig Definitely. Avery, do you have any following up comments on that? So like, how has the lack of representation impacted your journey to STEM? And do you have any like, expanding thoughts on that?
00:21:12 Avery Yeah. So I’ve already kind of mentioned, it’s kind of not having visible role models has always kind of been an issue. Like I’m not alone, I think a lot of us in like science have experienced imposter syndrome at times. It’s a big part of my anxiety, I’m not good enough to be here, not good enough to seek in 00:21:30 science. So if there are times I’m looking around, I don’t see anyone else like me, it gives power to that little voice in my brain saying, “I don’t belong there because no one else like me is succeeding. So what makes me think that I’m special and different enough to succeed in STEM?” But additionally, it plays into like part of being, I don’t think sometimes gets talked about is being transgender can be really, really lonely at certain times. There’s a wonderful supportive LGBTQ community, but if you don’t—have not got 00:21:59 that support of people who are also experiencing the same things as you, it can be difficult. For example, being transgender in the UK, it’s really, really hard when you are looking at the news every day, coming for you and saying you are awful people. That is also taxing when you are also just trying to get on and do your science. 00:22:18 When you’re on multi-year waiting lists, like I am, waiting for medical treatment and then you are having to explain to people like your supervisors, what you’re doing, where you’re going. Like I’ve had to push back starting my PhD because I’ve waited so long to get top surgery, which I did finally get this summer. But it also meant that I had to like, again, put what I was doing on hold to get it done. And because I couldn’t get it done many, many years ago when I really wanted it done. And I had to be that educator explaining why I was going away for the summer, what I was doing, had to explain top surgery to them, what it was going to entail, what it was going to be. So it’s doing that education and that they’ve not been aware of anyone doing this. You’re again being that draining educator. And you are often explaining to people around you, even, your supportive people who are trying to support your journey in STEM. I have a wonderful supportive partner, but as a cis person, she doesn’t always quite get what I’m doing at all times, and doesn’t quite understand what I am going through. 00:23:15 And I feel like a support network in the difficult—you’ve got two difficult things happening at the same time. So it’s really difficult and very difficult to keep going like that. It also means that you have to rely a lot on, I think on like especially cis allies to ensure that your wellbeing is being kept. So when I was like looking for PhDs, I was having to look for, I was getting tips from people thankfully about looking to search. Because they weren’t—people were helping me because they weren’t convinced all of the supervisors would exactly have my best interests around my identity known to them. For example, I mean the university I go to has a Dubai campus for example. I had to make sure that I wasn’t going to be expected as part of my—whatever PhD program I accepted that I wasn’t going to be sent abroad to somewhere that would be unsafe to me if there wasn’t that expectation of going to anything like that. Then I have to be the one to keep that in mind all the time, to make sure that those allies are actually being my allies. It’s 7ust an extra step to think of when doing any kind of applications when you’re trying to do all these things. So….
00:24:26 Craig And on the topic of allies as well. So just for transparency in this discussion, I identify as a cis male. And our jobs as allies isn’t to always feel comfortable and feel like our feelings need to be coddled when somebody is discussing the hardship that they’re going through. I particularly talk about it from the perspective of race. As an ally, one of the things that I do is I listen, I know when it’s my place to basically shut up and listen. And I also ensure that I use my privilege as somebody who is a cis to ensure that I can give a platform to people who don’t have access to spaces that they need to have access to. Even if that means, I know that if, so I know somebody who is trans, who is applying for a PhD, but I’m aware that the group that they’re applying for has had a history of transphobia, for example, I would say to them, “For your safety, I would not make you or suggest that you apply to that group,” for example. And I always say this because I think that when it comes to allyship, a lot of the times, a lot of people feel as though that they want their feelings to be kind of like coddled or they want to be at the centre of that discussion. That’s not your space to do that. And you’ll definitely right, the UK is so transphobic in the way in which they do their rhetoric. It’s in the media all the time. And Shubhangi I suspect that in Ireland as well, it’s even more frightening as well.
00:25:55 Shubhangi Yeah. I mean like having been on the national paper of record in Ireland, yeah. They’ve—I’ve had to directly experience Irish transphobia and then swiftly after a racially and well, queerness-motivated doxxing. So yeah. It’s not great. And it’s certainly whatever the opposite of the good thing is.
00:26:14 Craig Yeah. You’ve also kind of brought us up a—
00:26:17 Shubhangi [chuckles] I’m sorry, I’m not being facetious. It’s just, all you can do is laugh sometimes. Yeah. Because this stuff kills your friends. It pushes you to the edge, sometimes so you know.
00:26:29 Craig Avery.
00:26:30 Shubhangi I’m not trying to be facetious. [chuckles]
00:26:33 Avery Yeah. Yeah. I was just—you kind of brought up another kind of barrier is that we have to kind of rely on these whisper networks to be safe as LGBT people instead. Like you have to kind of seek out your community to try and find these kind of safe people. If you are somebody who doesn’t kind of have that LGBT community, you can end up in very unsafe situations, unsafe routes very easily. Because you have to—and we have to rely a lot on our peers telling us that, “Maybe don’t work with that person. They’re not very good. They won’t respect you. They’re not very safe.” Because especially when people can, when you look them up, they can look like they do great work for EDI. They can be on all committees. They can be saying the right things on Twitter. But it doesn’t mean that when you’re actually working with them, they are nice and respectful. And so it’s kind of another barrier that other people who aren’t in this group don’t have to think of. They don’t to worry or ask around their friends, ask around their peers, trying to figure out if this person is actually as nice as they say they are to work with.
00:27:30 Craig Definitely, for sure. I think something that, especially I’m thankful for spaces like Twitter that have allowed me to find these communities. But I know that prior to that it was… difficult. I mean, like through Twitter I met both you and Shubhangi and I’m very grateful for that space to be able to just be myself, I guess.
00:27:51 Shubhangi Yeah. Yeah. I mean—
00:27:54 Craig Sorry, carry on.
00:27:55 Shubhangi Yeah, [inaudible 00:27:55] to say, as well. Like whisper networks can be really challenging. Because, you know, not only is it that you have to rely on certain groups. And like, you know, the issue is also, you can have in groups and out groups. And that doesn’t make either of them, you know, better or worse than the other. Both can have some seriously good, some seriously problematic people. If you can inadvertently fall into an in or out group that just will like set you up for shit for the rest of like, your life or at least the next five years, professionally speaking. You won’t even realize. Because you didn’t even know anybody. And in some ways, I suppose it’s like the same with—it echoes, I guess, whisper groups of other minorities like I—as, as a little baby neurodivergent person trying to figure stuff out, I was like, “Oh yeah, I’ll go work in neurogenomics of autism and ADHD.” Because obviously. [laughs] Fuck going to a doctor to get treated myself. That doesn’t happen in Ireland. [chuckles] You just go and become an eminent researcher in that field and it’s fine. I remember going—like I remember when I was eleven or twelve being like, very naively being like, “One day I want to work with Simon Baron Cohen.” And I look back at that now. And I’m like, “Holy fuck, No.” [laughs]
00:29:09 Craig No, there are so—
00:29:09 Shubhangi And then like, yeah, like I see it so much in research. I see it even like with disability and stuff. You know, I’ve recently come to a working diagnosis of hypermobility and query Ehlers-Danlos, and that doesn’t mean that I have not had the condition all my life, but it’s certainly getting worse. And you know, knowing exactly which consultant I have to speak to, even on my team or you know, which person I can really quietly beg to slip away for an hour, whereas the others will make me stay in like three more as punishment. It’s so hard. You are always taking a risk to exist as a minority. And the more you rely on informality and whispers and goodwill, the riskier it gets.
00:29:51 Avery Yeah. Yeah. Because you do have the thing of the—you also have to trust the person has all your intersecting identities in mind 00:29:56. It’s actually important. Like just because they’re nice to LGBT people or LGBT themselves doesn’t mean they’re not going to be incredibly ableist towards you. You have to kind of trust that they also have all of your identities in their mind when they’re thinking of these things.
00:30:10 Craig And that’s something that I definitely relate to in the sense that for me is when I know people who will account for gender identity, but at the same time not acknowledge that being Black is very difficult in a lot of spaces. And not having that awareness is something that I think can be very problematic when it comes to whisper networks. But I’m going to have to be that person and actually kind of say, we are going to have to stop that the question we are coming to the end of the discussion. We’ve made some—it’s been a really interesting chat. So I’ve really enjoyed having both of you here on the podcast here, thank you. We’re going to just round it up for the audience. So as a sort of like final point, if you could provide one solution to improve awareness of gender identity, whether that is through more visible role models, through better networking, or through like a more kind of like formal structure, what would it be? Avery, would you like to go first?
00:31:17 Avery I’m always big on platforming minorities in STEM and not just always in events like this. It’s great that we do events that set focus just on EDI and platform people in STEM. But also—and making sure that we raise the voices of minorities in STEM, not speaking for them. But it’s also about embedding it in everything you do. Like making sure your conferences, your seminars, your panels are all diverse. I often hear that they can’t find people out there, but I can assure you if you look, you can make it happen. But also making sure you’re not doing it as a tick box exercise. If there’s something that I can’t stand in EDI work, it’s doing tick box kind of, “Oh we solved identities.” I’ll often rant about Athena SWAN because although it does good work, I feel a lot of EDI work is done just to succeed for Athena SWAN. And being like, “Well, we’ve done a woman, excellent.” Don’t do it like that. Just make it part of the kind of natural thing. Like we’re just doing, for example, we’re doing a nice panel about nuclear energy and just trying to make sure that you do actually have a diverse kind of panel.
00:32:16 Craig Definitely, for sure. Shubhangi how about you?
00:32:19 Shubhangi Yeah, I think—so I really like your point there Avery. I’ve seen, you know, a few high profile instances in both journalism and STEM where people have gone around and again, they’ve made, I guess—they’ve made it less about amplifying people who are diverse or say people are queer in this instance. And made it very much about almost like sourcing cattle for a tick box. Like literally the way they like even approached the language to the queer correspondents I think they were hoping to work with. And these are some very famous people on Twitter. Again, you know, whisper networks, etc, etc. But if you make people feel like you’re like herding cattle, it’s not a great start. To be honest, if I’ve ever felt like that, I know I’m in a very, and now in a very privileged position where I can say no to those things. But frankly, I think every queer person should be able to. Or like every person of any minority should at a minimum feel able to say no to things. 00:33:15 And not feel like they have to be so much of a trailblazer that if they don’t say it’s a no to something that really violates them, they’re letting people down. So yeah, like certainly not doing things for a tick box exercise is really important. And also I think, I really like setting big goals and very much accepting people as who they are. So like the one ally I found in work where I mentioned, you know like I approached them very clearly like, “Look this whole like, referring to me as a woman in passing isn’t really working for me.” And they like—they didn’t really do the whole like asking questions, making it really invasive, particularly in, like the space at the hospital. They just kind of like took as read that if I didn’t like something, I was going to tell them and they were going to honour it, no questions asked. And making, you know, making inclusion intuitive like that is really good. And then, you know, when you have platforms like you’re taking now in the journal and a few other things I’m doing, when you have platforms like think big. Don’t be afraid to think big just because you don’t know about intersecting identities. 00:34:19 Think—like let people who are trans, let people who are disabled, let people who are Black or brown or whatever think big for you, or like you come to you with big ideas that help them fulfil those. Don’t make amplification about, you know, what you can fit into like the back end of a two-day conference, so you can say you’ve done EDI. It’s like some of the most satisfying talks have given has been around like say like everything from psychedelics and their history in psychiatry to being an academic editor and like a lifetime of what that’s been like trying to be just a well-respected academic editor in my own right. Acknowledging of all of my identities, but also kind of, you know, irrespective of them, like not as the minority candidate. All of those are so contingent on spaces being great for bringing really big ideas. Like as you say, where you’re very right, like there’s definitely going to be people there—and those people like to be honest, particularly in spaces that are, you know, cishet or otherwise privileged. 00:35:20 Those people like—frankly, if you ask me to like do eight billion panels on just identity, I will get tired. But if you ask me to do eight billion panels on topics of my own choosing, which are then influenced about my life at an intersection of identities, that’ll make for richer content, richer education, richer engagement; it’ll bring together far more diverse contributors to future events. And all it requires is for somebody to let you think big and not just have you mind your own trauma or your own single story.
00:35:50 Craig Yeah. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I think that it’s something that we need to again, think bigger. And a lot of the time especially like I can think about like around Black Lives Matter, the amount of panels that I got asked to sit on to like talk about my experiences. And I was like, “Yeah, that’s great,” but I want to talk about more than that. Because my intersecting identities is the reason why I do the work that I do. And I do it in this particular way for that reason. And that should be celebrated, as opposed to it being seen as a kind of like tick boxing exercise, which for anybody listening to this do not do tick boxing exercises. That’s a bad idea.
00:36:33 Avery Yeah, I would say it’s also, you get much more water 00:36:36 from you accepting people as that whole person. Like I have mentioned all my identities and I’ve listed them, but that’s not who I am to all my friends and everyone I work with.
00:36:44 Craig Agreed.
00:36:44 Avery I am… I am a scientist. And I do all these things. I’m a massive nerd. I love Dungeons & Dragons. I think these are much more exciting things about me than listing my identities.
00:36:52 Shubhangi Ah yes! Nerd representation. Let’s go!
00:36:58 Craig Yes. I can’t back the Dungeons & Dragons comment, but I am a massive nerd. And so that’s as far as I’m going to say on that comment, because I don’t want to offend anybody. But can I just say that it’s been an absolute pleasure being able to chat with both of you on this podcast? I hope that—I guess I hope that you were able to at least just get the points that you wanted to get across with regards to gender identity within STEM, which we’ve only just scratched the surface. But actually it’s a very multifaceted topic that I think that we could definitely be going on for this for a while. And I’ve learned a lot myself. So again thank you for accepting my invitation to do this. So with that in mind, we are now at the end of the podcast. So again to our listeners, thank you for listening. I’d also like to thank Pride in STEM for providing this platform for us to be able to have these discussions. And I’d also like to thank our wonderful guests, Shubhangi and Avery. So with that in mind that’s goodbye for me.
00:38:05 Avery Thanks. Appreciate it.
00:38:07 Shubhangi Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
00:38:09 Craig And it’s been an absolute pleasure. And I hope to see you on the other side. So take care everyone.