The future of the LGBTQ+ STEMinar (and a brief pause)

This is typically the time of the year when LGBTQ+ STEM opens to expressions of interest for hosting the next LGBTQ+ STEMinar event. Whilst we are extremely excited about the upcoming 7th LGBTQ+ STEMinar, in Glasgow on 14 January 2022, we have decided to pause the STEMinar series after this event. 

When we started the STEMinar series in Sheffield in 2016 it was the only safe platform, to our knowledge, where LGBTQ+ colleagues in diverse STEM disciplines could stand and speak about their work and be their authentic selves. Over the past few years, LGBTQ+ inclusion and visibility in STEM workplaces have grown immensely, along with the number of conferences, media platforms, networking events and organisations that champion our rights and experiences in this space. The LGBTQ+ STEMinar itself has grown from a small gathering of 20 colleagues to one attended by nearly 200, either virtually or in person. For many of us, it has been the first introduction to the LGBTQ+ community in STEM, particularly in the UK. We are immensely proud of this achievement.

With the evolution of the STEMinar over the past few years, we have discovered some new challenges, particularly when it comes to keeping this event and its purpose relevant to the ongoing bottlenecks in inclusion and equity. Some of these issues include the white-centric and ableist nature of the LGBTQ+ community in academic STEM (and how the STEMinar, in its current format sustains this), the structurally biased and self-selecting practices that determine platforming at academic conferences, and the immunity that is afforded to sponsoring organisations from scrutiny over their roles in LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion. We will be penning our combined thoughts on these in a more detailed report over the coming months. 

In a nutshell, we would like the LGBTQ+ STEMinar to be a forum that fosters inclusion and equity in its truest form. We would also like the STEMinar series, in whatever format it is re-imagined, to be relevant to the contemporary issues of our LGBTQ+ community in STEM(M). These issues include overcoming the anti-Blackness in the LGBTQ+ community, transphobia that continues to flourish in academic spaces, and ableist, cis- and heteronormative practices that we continue to normalise in STEM. 

The Glasgow STEMinar goes some distance to addressing these issues, and we are proud of the organising team for working with us to be mindful of these issues under fairly restrictive circumstances. This event, in many ways, will be seen as a cornerstone of LGBTQ+ STEM for some years to come. Hence, our excitement for the 14th of January can barely be contained.

In the meantime, we intend to go away, review and re-imagine the LGBTQ+ STEMinar, perhaps for 2024. In short, it would be unfair to all involved to try to implement the sort of changes we think might be necessary while trying to run an event. And so, a pause. We will remain open to any parties or organisations that are interested in hosting a future LGBTQ+ STEMinar, or would like to provide input into this review process. Please get in touch via stemlgbt@gmail.com. We look forward to seeing you all in January in Glasgow.

Alex Bond & Izzy Jayasinghe

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