When We Rise

March 6, 2017

What do Sir Francis Bacon, Florence Nightingale, Margaret Mead, Alan Turing, and Leonardo da Vinci all have in common besides all being scientists? They were all homosexual.

I had the pleasure of attending a NOGLSTP (National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals) conference over the weekend, where two brilliant women that I love were Keynote Speakers and panelists: my cousin Dr. Victoria Orphan and her wife Dr. Shana Goffredi. A pamphlet I picked up entitled Queer Scientists of Historical Note listed 14 leaders of their scientific fields and their CVs. I can’t imagine the difficulties Bacon and da Vinci had being gay in the 16th century. Or, come to think of it, some people in the 21st. Shana spoke of the interaction in a panel discussion where an attending young scientist felt he had to sing his own praises, not because of the academic pressures in a competitive field, but because his father didn’t approve of his homosexuality. We do this to our children?

They say a rising tide lifts all boats. It’s time to support those whose contributions benefit all society regardless of their sexual orientation.

Victoria’s Keynote Speech was, thankfully, dumbed down for those of us who are not Geobiologists. There were aha! moments in her presentation; such as what is grown in Petrie dishes makes up only 1% of that which was sampled – she compared them to weeds – which would be like basing our knowledge of all plant life on only dandelions. And that half of the oxygen we breathe is from 2 microorganisms in the ocean, and they can be seen from space. Or that less is known about the earth’s deep oceans than is known about the moon. And that after 22 years of exploratory dives less than 1% of the sea floor has been explored. Victoria was putting the call out for scientists to join her field of study, as there is so much more to know. C’mon in, the water’s fine.

Dr. Victoria Orphan

But scientific funding is being cut in the current administration. What would be a miniscule amount of military spending is a tremendous amount for science, so we need pressure from the public to continue to fund science. It’s about the air we breathe.

And speaking of pressuring government, if anyone hasn’t seen the ABC docudrama miniseries When We Rise I highly recommend catching it on-demand. It chronicles the struggles, both personal and political, of a diverse group of LGBT individuals, the pioneers of the Gay Rights Movement. Based on Cleve Jones’ memoir called When We Rise, My Life in the Movement, it begins just after the Stonewall riots in 1969 and ends just after the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same sex marriage. Our LGBT brothers and sisters continue their struggle for acceptance, both public and familial. This series puts faces to those brothers and sisters, and only the coldest hearted won’t feel for their plight.

So thank you Victoria and Shana for inviting me into your conference and for the amazing and important work that you do.

One struggle. One fight. In this and so much more.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Anne Girard March 6, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Thanks for sharing this. What worries me about the current administration is that not only are they cutting funding for science, but the religious zealots will start to look at the personal lives of scientists and base decisions of such things as gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. Nothing this Adminstration does or will do is beyond the pale! Scary times for the country.


Octavia March 6, 2017 at 5:04 pm

Beautiful Post, and we thank you!


Rose Marie Rocha March 7, 2017 at 4:06 am

Thanks so much for this info about the scientific community and also for the mention of the
miniseries of “When We Rise”. I watched it and it brought tears to my eyes. The struggle those before me went through and the thought of the threat that our struggle is not over. Because of the fight of those before me Sue and I are able to enjoy the benefits of a married couple but with this administration that could all be reversed. These are frightening times for the LGBTQ community but because of the support of people like you we can still have hope. Again my friend I THANK YOU.


Deborah March 7, 2017 at 8:34 am

Rose, my dear friend, you have been a guiding presence in my life from a very young age. I will always stand with you and with all the other LGBT people I love against the hate.


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