Breaking the binary by coming out as a trans scientist

As my intro slide changed the scene in front of the audience, I felt distant. Following in my footsteps, I introduced myself to my department’s annual ‘Aap ko kho jaata hai’ and networking retreat.

“Hey, some of you may remember me as Liz, but I’m transitioning. My name is Robin! I’m from East Los Angeles and they walk by their / their pronouns. Meet you all It was nice.”

As soon as I gave the microphone back, my words clung to the air like static. After a roll of applause, I felt that my world would settle down.

Coming as a queer and non-binary at the start of my PhD program in 2018 at the University of Washington, Seattle, brought me closer to realizing that my identity as a computational biologist for research in genomics brought me into the professional world. Will be seen and validated in.

I have no regrets, but the decision came with a compromise. In social settings and classrooms, I have often spoken while presenting my ideas, despite spending hours working through coursework. I felt that I had rejected my experiences with something untoward when I brought them along, and it often seemed that my colleagues ignored me in the hallways and social gatherings.

At a social event, I was told that I should tolerate sexism and, if I wanted a successful scientific career, to silence my experiences with microaggression. It was difficult to imagine a future for myself in genomics due to the lack of role models that shared my experiences and thrived as scientists.

As a trans person in science – on top of my intimate identity – one can feel emotionally exhausted due to a misconception. Experiences have empowered me to include and judge science in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Challenging this notion made me reflect on my upbringing in a neighborhood surrounded by other Latin American immigrant families. Here, my family maintained ties to our communities and culture, such as the Pueblos (small town) many of us originate from Colombia and Mexico.

Being a first-generation queer and trans student from a low-income background influenced my ability to find a voice as a scientist, but I was inspired by the support of close friends and mentors who supported my personal and scientific journey. Was able to do this through.

I was asked to be silent about my experiences, but it did not help me but I feel that the experiences of my communities were also silent. Internships and professional-development programs supporting marginal scientists read and funded me for the PhD program, but it felt like the field itself was not ready for me.


To help give others a better experience in STEM, I share my story by writing articles and creating art, and I create community spaces for other places. In 2019, I established the Genome Sciences Association for the inclusion of delimited students with a team of student leaders and financial support from our PhD program.

Our group remains trainee-led and aims to support the scientific and personal aspirations of members by providing community, mentoring and visibility through social programs and professional-development workshops in the genome science department.

We host events featuring diverse speakers and perform at conferences such as Chiconos / Hispanics in Science and the National Diversity Conference organized by the Society for the Advancement of Native Americans, as well as engaging with outside trainees to support minority students. Annual Biomedical Research Conference for. And mentor.

For queer and trans scientists, self-advocacy can end without supportive communities and come at the expense of professional opportunities. Those of us who speak say that when we see tangible change risk as a hassle, nuisance or gratitude is for the opportunities we earn.

Instead of relying on those of us willing to speak up, institutions need to shift the burden of self-advocacy and emotional labor to black, indigenous and latex scientists with defining LGBQ2IA + identity (LGBTQ2IA +). Should appoint experts in racial justice and queuing liberation. As gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, two-sense, intersex, asexual, and other identities that fall outside the cagender and heterosexual paradigms).

We are often asked to lead a discussion on racism, inclusiveness and justice because we only exist in STEM. With experts leading these conversations, better practices can be applied at the institutional level without burden by researchers who are most affected by discrimination and harassment (see how you can help ‘).

Ultimately, accountability, justice, and representation must be included in STEM leadership and pedagogy.

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