In November 2018, I went to the oSTEM conference hosted in Houston, where I was able to participate in several panels and conversations surrounding the topics of being out and how that affects being in and working in STEM, and intersectionality in general. I was also able to speak to different employers who were open minded LGBT friendly and speak to representatives from those companies who were also LGBT+.
Not long before the conference, I began coming out as trans. I was still discovering what being trans meant to me, and what the impact of that was going to be on my career. At the conference, I was able to talk to other trans people in STEM, and I obtained a lot of information and resources for being out as trans while still being able to work in a lab.
This experience focused on my personal experience, rather than my academic studies. However, my academic studies allowed me to be a panel participant where I was able to speak to working in STEM. As an asexual agender person, I was able to contribute a different viewpoint to conversations, as the intersection between my sexuality and gender provides me with a different experience to share. At the employer expo, I got the opportunity to speak with a few representatives about the research their companies are involved in, and was able to obtain a few job opportunities with big companies that I would not have otherwise gotten the opportunity to apply for.
The conversations I had while at the conference are ones that will stay with me for a lifetime. I learned ways to make being my authentic self in my work place easier and safer for me, and was inspired to come out to my parents as agender. I was able to form connections with people from various cultures, making me more open minded about people who are not necessarily exactly like me and whose experiences differ greatly from my own. My post-graduation plans were affected because I am now applying to more companies than I would have applied to before, and those companies are located all across the country, and are doing a wide variety of important research. This experience also helped me by giving me the resolve to be my authentic self in everything I do. I would not have had the courage to come out to my parents if it weren’t for the conference, and I am a better person for going. It also encouraged me to start speaking up more for my own rights, but also for others. I know these things don’t seem quite as big to some people, but to me, and other LGBT students, meeting people like me, and gaining the courage to be myself, means a lot to me. After the conference, I feel like I’m allowed to be myself.