Ep. 6: We’ve Got an Ace (or Four) Up Our Sleeves!
In the first episode of the season, R and Bri welcome four ace scientists, Austin Lawrence, Kira McEntire, Kassandra Ford, and Mackenzie Carter, who share their stories of being ace within STEM and queer communities. In this panel-style episode, we talk more about the problems with equating arousal with sexual identity, and discuss the Split Attraction Model and how complex attraction really is!
Follow Austin on Instagram (@humanaustinology), and Twitter (@Anthro_Austin).
Follow Kira on Instagram (@kdmcentire) or Twitter (@ProfessorKira).
Follow Kassandra on Instagram and Twitter (@kassthefish).
Follow Mackenzie on Instagram (@squishyseathing)
Transcript (click to show/hide)
Bri: Hi everyone. My name is Bri,
R: And my name is R. Welcome to the first episode of the second season of Queer Science!
Bri: That’s right, we’re back to explore more about the intersection of science, society and queerness.
R: For new listeners and returning fans, Bri and I created this podcast in 2020 to address LGBTQ visibility in STEM. We met many years ago as university students and quickly realized we shared similar interests of increasing diversity in science, as well as similar feelings of being alone in the classroom.
R: I really struggled because I didn’t see myself represented anywhere. The researchers we studied were primarily white, straight cisgender males, and I am certainly not any of those things. I felt like my identity as a scientist and as a queer non-binary person of color were at odds. Then came Bri, and their idea for a podcast.
Bri: I had this idea to create a podcast that discusses how institutionalized science has benefited, as well as harmed, queer and marginalized communities, and doing so in a way where we give others a platform to share their research, knowledge and experiences. A podcast lets people literally tell their own story through audio storytelling. And it’s a free, accessible learning format for many.
Bri: Then the pandemic started, and since we were both staying home, it was a great time to record. Our first season was a success, so now we’re at it again in 2021.
R: We’ll be releasing episodes monthly through the end of the year and into the beginning of 2022. So don’t forget to follow Queer Science! on social media to stay updated.
Bri: Also subscribe to our Patreon for fun stuff between the episodes. Get to know the hosts, behind-the-scenes videos, drawings from our resident artist, R, maybe even merch giveaways. For just a few bucks a month, you can help keep Queer Science! online and free for all.
R: Now that we’ve introduced the show, let’s get started with today’s episode. This is a special one. We’ve got four guests this time, and they’re going to lead us through a discussion about asexuality. Asexuality isn’t about genetics or reproduction, but it’s just as natural and valid. This is all about human attraction and it’s surprisingly complex.
Bri: This episode is going to be a little bit different to some of our previous ones. Our four guests, Austin, Kira, Cassandra, and McKinsey, all identify as ACE, which is short for asexual. And for most of this episode, you’ll be hearing from them. Now let’s learn a little bit more about them.
Austin: My name is Austin Lawrence. I am a… I use he/him pronouns. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri in the integrative anatomy program in the department of pathology and anatomical sciences. Um, it’s a bunch of words that mean basically nothing. Uh, I am a paleoanthropologist. I studied the fossil record of human evolution. In particular, the hip and pelvis and how our hip and pelvis have changed over evolutionary history and form function relationships, and trying to test what we think fossil bones can tell us about the animals they came from. And I identify as queer and asexual, which is, I guess, also important since that’s kind of why we’re here having this conversation.
MacKenzie: Hi, I’m MacKenzie Carter. Uh, I use she/her pronouns and I identify as biromantic asexual. Um, and I am currently working as a fermentation researcher for an agriculture biocontrol company. Um, so I have more of the industry side of things, um, in regards to science. So. I’ll leave it to somebody else.
Kassandra: I guess I’ll go. Um, I’m Kassandra Ford. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and I identify as asexual and gray aromantic. Um, I am studying how skull shape evolution has occurred in two different groups of electric fish. One from South America and the other from Africa.
Kira: I’m Kira McEntire, and I am the assistant professor of biology at Queens University of Charlotte, in Charlotte, North Carolina, and I use she/her/her pronouns. And, I identify as queer and asexual and bi/gray romantic slash WTF romantic. Um, cause sometimes that one is really hard to define for me. I am an ecologist and a herpetologist, so I’m really interested in studying reptiles and amphibians. And I like to ask questions about why we have a maintenance of variations, specifically color variation within a species, as well as how physiology and behavior, um, sort of work together to change population and landscape dynamics.
R: You know, I’m really glad we have several people here to talk about asexuality. Having different voices explain what asexuality means to them is really important. There’s not one right way to define it.
Bri: You’re absolutely right. Asexuality, just like any sexuality, can be experienced in so many unique ways. That’s why I appreciate hearing the perspectives of more than just one ACE person in STEM.
Austin: One of the things we were talking about is maybe trying to talk a little bit about what asexuality is and, how different people experience asexuality and also aromanticism and all of these complex spectra that are not very well understood. Kara got into that really well I think with her introduction, um, because it’s, it’s complicated and it’s hard to describe, and it’s hard to find the language.
Mackenzie: It does seem like, um, everybody who I have met that is, that identifies as asexual or, um, aromantic has a little bit different experience and way that they talk about it. Um, and there just seems to be a lot of variation, which is why I think it’s cool that we’re all contributing to this together.
Kassandra: I think there’s also a lot of confusion, especially for people who are not within the LGBTQ plus community as to what it actually could potentially mean. So, I mean, we’re talking that there’s a whole lot of different, kind of, ways that we each identify and there’s a whole lot of variation because it’s kind of a spectrum. But there are kind of some baseline similarities in our identities, but a lot of people don’t really know what it means when we might say that we’re asexual. Um, and I think that kind of boils down to trying to explain it with, uh, a variation of the split attraction model, which I know that we’re – I think we’re going to dive into that a little bit later, but trying to explain it to people can be a little complicated. And I think Kara has an awesome way of explaining it. I don’t know if we want to dive into that right now.
Kira: So first, I just want to say that I also echo what Mackenzie said that definitely everyone who I know who is asexual has a very different experience and a very different way in which they feel that identity and experience that identity. I also find it kind of amazing just how many of my friends are asexual, considering it is supposedly 1% of the population is the most quoted, um, percentage…
Kassandra: It has to be higher than that.
Kira: Well, there are other studies. Um, so there, there are newer studies that suggest it’s anywhere from half a percent to 6%. Um, there was one university study that suggested it was about 5% of that university’s population. So, it’s definitely a variable number. Um, but that most quoted 1% I feel like is just not an accurate considering how many people I personally know who are also asexual. Um, but I think what they were talking about with the split attraction model is this idea that you- there are different types of attraction and most commonly it is split into four. Um, so you’ll see sexual, romantic, sensual, anesthetic, um, and those are generally pretty easy for people to understand that sometimes people have a really hard time splitting up romantic and sexual attraction, especially if those things have always been intertwined for them. And so I think one of the things that asexuality brings from a scientific perspective is this, you know, ability to kind of see the world as, “Oh, hey, wait. Those two don’t always have to go together.” In fact, they frequently don’t. Um, and it can be really comforting to some people who don’t identify as queer, but may have romantic feelings towards say a friend of the same gender, or, you know, it feels more intense than a friendship, but they don’t necessarily have the language to deal with that. Um, coming back to that idea of language. I also like to include platonic attraction and then something called altruist attraction, which is becoming more common, especially among the asexual community. And, I tend to describe it as something as the, with the intensity of romantic feelings, um, but not romantic feelings. Um, some people describe it as being between romantic and platonic. Um, it’s frequently used in association with quasi platonic or queer platonic relationships, which is what a lot of people in asexual community feel comfortable with, but outside of the asexual community as well, there are definitely people that use those terms and, and find that that resonates with them. Um, I have a friend who I was explaining this to, and they were like, “this is, this is what I’ve been feeling! Like I feel like I’m in love with my best friend, but not really. And it’s just, it’s just this really intense attachment and emotional feelings.” And, um, so it’s, it’s all about language and, and people are creating the language to talk about these things. I think some people with the split attraction model find it fairly easy to split apart things like aesthetic attraction and sexual attraction, but a really good example, if you are having hard time with it is you can look at a sunset and think it’s pretty, but that doesn’t mean you want to touch the sun. So, I’ve seen that one given as an example a lot. Um, it doesn’t mean you want to go have sex with the sun or go on a date with the sun. You can still just appreciate its beauty. Um, people talk about that with paintings as well, but I like the sunset one because I just think it’s a little more dramatic *giggling*. Um, but the variation on the split attraction model that I think you guys were alluding to a little bit earlier was also that some sexual attraction is not the only thing that people tend to, kind of, push together. So, sexual attraction, sexual drive, and activities, and also arousal are all different things. And so, many asexual people experience either sexual drive or desire or, um, arousal, which is a physiological response. Um, many people experience this even when they don’t want to engage in sexual activities, regardless of their orientation. And, um, McKenzie can talk about that if you want to. I know that you like to refer to that example, um, about the discordance.
McKenzie: Oh yeah. So, there’s a pretty well-known Ted talk, um, about arousal and nonconcordance, and it’s just the idea that, um, you can have a physical reaction to a stimulus, but that doesn’t mean that you want to be participating. Um, and so, I think the important takeaway from the Ted talk is that you really have to trust your partner, um, and believe them when they say they want certain things versus others. Um, and like that is something that happens probably with all couples, not, not just, um, you know, people who are in a relationship with asexual folks. So, um, but yeah, it’s just a really fascinating thing. I think one of the things about being in science, um, that helped shaped my thinking about my identity is, um, the idea that things don’t have to be black and white, that variation is actually quite natural, um, and happens all the time. And I think when you’re, um, exposed to like scientific ideas and scientific ways of thinking, thinking it’s sometimes a lot easier to pick up, um, that you can have a lot of variations. And so the idea that, you know, some people have some types of attractions, some people have others, some people experience more or less intensity of particular types of attraction. That came really naturally to me. Um, and like once I heard about it, I was like, “oh, that, that makes total sense.” So, um, I think, yeah, having that inquisitive, um, you know, curiosity driven kind of way of thinking about things helped, help me um, like accept that like once I had heard of the idea that that was really what I was experiencing.
Kira: And the drive to go do research because whenever you learned about something new and you’re a scientist, you’re like, oh, I’m going to go do more research and find out more about this and see if this fits with what I think I know.
Kassandra: I had some experience with a friend coming out publicly about their identity and, wanting to be a good ally, I was like, I should look at that because I’m not quite sure what that is. And the more that I dove into it and did the research for it, I was like, “ohhhhh, wow”. Like my mind was completely blown and it totally made sense that yes, there is going to be variation and there is a spectrum in terms of sexuality, there’s a spectrum in terms of gender. And so it makes sense, that there can be a spectrum in terms of how people experience all of those things. Uh, and recognizing that was a huge wake-up call in terms of learning about myself and learning about my identity and really helped shape my understanding, I guess, of myself. And so, I’m very glad that that person actually, you know, was public about it, and, was, you know, courageous enough and brave enough to put that in a public place and be proud of their identity, because that allowed me to also understand more about my identity. Uh, and so that’s one of the reasons why I’ve tried to be more public about, you know, learning about myself and figuring out what my identity is, is that I hope it brings other people, a little tiny bit of inspiration. If they feel comfortable and safe and want to come out to me, come out to friends, whatever there’s a safe space for them to do that.
Austin: My experience is pretty similar to Cassandra’s in that regard, and what she’s describing. Um, and I think the, the way that we use these different sorts of labels and being open about, figuring out labels and the process, the fact that the process is never really done, I think that’s really important. Um, for me, I didn’t figure out that I was asexual until I was like 23 and I think that’s pretty common. Um, because asexuality is just discussed so little. And, when it is discussed, it’s often discussed in a way that is very misleading at best. Um, so it’s hard to figure out, and there’s just not a lot of good information out there. Um, so since I’ve started to figure this out, I’ve tried to be more open about this as well. Um, and I think the labels also, are interesting, and for me personally, and sort of tying the split attraction model and the things back in here too, I experienced different types of attraction differently and with different intensities to people of different gender identities and expressions. And it’s really hard to try and explain that and say, okay, I’m asexual, but I experienced some degree of romantic attraction, and aesthetic attraction, and altruist attraction I think is something I’m super, just trying to figure out, but I really like it as a concept because I think it can explain a lot. Um, but that’s kind of the beauty for me of queer as a label because, it is sort of encompasses all of this and it sort of gives space to say, I don’t have it all figured out, and that’s okay.
Kira: I think one of the most helpful things, um, this split attraction model can bring is this idea that, um, it creates the possibility for healthier relationships, um, because you’re no longer just relying, like thinking that you have to have all of your attractions for one person and one person alone, which is kind of what we’re sold in the media, and, a lot of times. Um, and I think that that ends up being a really unhealthy relationship for a lot of people. And I think recognizing that you can have things like platonic attraction and just really, really want to be friends with someone and have these really deep, lovely relationships with people. And that doesn’t take away from, if you do choose to have, you know, a monogamous relationship and this, you know, partner, whatever your orientation. And I think it sort of, allows for just like, recognition that, oh, like I’m not cheating on my partner, just because I experienced attraction in this different way towards this person. Um, which I think some people have a really hard time with, and maybe that’s a whole ‘nother podcast and maybe I should stop there. Um, but I think in general it can be helpful just thinking about like, it’s okay to, you know, when we’re trying to understand how you’re experiencing the world, to recognize that you can experience it in a different way for different people. And that doesn’t mean that you love someone less. Um, you may just love them differently.
Bri: Now you may remember last season during our episode titled ‘Dear Science, Bisexual Men Exist’, R and I were having a discussion about the problems with equating sexuality to arousal. In that instance, we were talking about a research study that measured whether or not a man was bisexual based on his arousal patterns, which R and I argued was not a valid way of measuring someone’s sexuality. If sexuality even is something you can mathematically measure or quantify. Unfortunately, this equation happens often, but our guests were able to provide some valuable insight on the complexities around arousal and sexual identity and how that relates to asexuality.
MacKenzie or Kara: So when we were talking about the different, um, how arousal can be different than someone’s sexual identity. Um, I think it’s really fascinating that a lot of studies use arousal as like, a way to tell what someone’s sexual identity is. Um, so one of the episodes you guys had actually in the first season about bisexual men is they used this as the parameter of like, well, you know, there was arousal, um, happening, so clearly they exist, which, you know, has its own problems. But like the fact that they were using arousal is not really that helpful. I also remember reading a study that just in general, women are more responsive to any kind of, um, media, as far as like arousal goes. And I could see that being like a protective mechanism in general of just like, you know, protecting the body, type of situation. Um, so I find it really fascinating that scientific studies use arousal as a way of measuring sexual identity. When those are two, can be two very different things.
McKenzie: I mean…
Austin: Ah, oh go ahead McKenzie
McKenzie: I was going to say, that brings up the idea of, in science, um, having diversity, like somebody who is asexual and knows that those two things aren’t the same, you know, might be able to weigh in on that and help design a better study that actually gets to attraction rather than just arousal. But go ahead.
Austin: I was just going to say, these are such separate things in ways that are really hard to tease out, which is kind of weird and counterintuitive, but they don’t even use the same pair of pathways. They’re actually like separate neurological things. And arousal was a specific physiological response driven by the parasympathetic nervous system, which the, sorry, I’m going anatomy world, but. It’s like, they’re different and they’re both influenced by socialization in different ways, but also no one really can explain sexual attraction. And that’s, I think one of the issues for asexuality in general too, is if asexuality is not experiencing sexual attraction or experiencing little or no sexual attraction, it’s really hard to figure out that you’re not experiencing sexual attraction, when no one can actually describe what sexual attraction is.
Cassandra: One of the reasons why a lot of people who are asexual don’t realize it until, you know, later in their lives than a lot of people who might experience sexual attraction, especially to other genders, if that’s something that, might not be, you know, as publicly discussed in places that you grew up, how do you figure out that you lack something? When you don’t know what it is, and you have never experienced it, you just don’t know what you don’t know.
Kira: Yeah. There’s a really great essay. Um, ‘if you can see the invisible elephant, please describe it’. Um, which goes across this idea that, you know, at a certain age, everyone gets an elephant and you know, they start talking about it and they do all kinds of crazy things to make their elephants happy. And you’re over here, like, “do I not know what an elephant looks like? Like, is it, is it really small? Is it just like, does it look really different than what I think an elephant is?” like, and that’s kind of what the essay is talking about is, yeah.
Cassandra: Have I just not found the right, elephant?
Kira: Is it hiding? Like is it behind me?
Kassandra: Am I just supposed to wait for it, to show up?
Kira: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Um, so yes, this is the same idea of just like, do I not, like do I not… It’s very hard to understand something that you don’t experience. Um, it is, yeah. I, I find it entertaining to talk to my allosexual friends and I’m like, “so like, what does sexual attraction feel like? Can you give me some context?” And like, they’ll tell me like what they experienced and what they feel, and I’m just like, yeah, I have no, like I have no like reference point for that.
Austin: Yeah, I think for a really long time, I assumed that when I was experiencing what I think I would now recognize as combination of romantic and aesthetic attraction. I thought that was sexual attraction. And now that I am aware of the split attraction model and can tease these things out a little bit more, I’m like, oh no, that’s, that’s not it.
MacKenzie: I think that also brings up, um, the point that like, the way we talk about asexuality is a lack of sexuality. Um, and, I don’t know if anyone else wants to talk about basically the pathologizing of asexuality. Um, I think Kara and I have both had experiences. You know, or you go to a doctor and they’re like, “oh, do you want us to adjust your hormones? We can like fix that.” And we’re like, its not, I don’t need help in this area. I’m just telling you, that this is how I am. Don’t, don’t escalate.
Kassandra: And that kind of goes into the point that a lot of, um, and I mean, you mentioned it, Bri, that like a lot of people who are trans are wrongly equated with being considered mentally ill as well, or that there’s something wrong with them. Um, and I think that’s also kind of a misconception about asexuality as well. Um, and I do wonder if part of it has to do with the term asexuality and I mean the general public, when they think of asexuality, go to like, fundamental, like basic sixth-grade science that you’re taught, which just like plants are asexual. And in their head, they’re just like, “what? Huh?” Uh, and I’ve gotten that kind of response a lot. Like, “uh, could you explain that to me? Cause I don’t, I can’t, figure out how to merge those two different terms together.” And I do think that, um, asexuality is probably still the best term to use, I guess, to describe what, how we identify. But I think there’s kind of a misconception and a little bit of just unfamiliarity with the general public in terms of what that term means for people versus general science and that it’s, it’s different.
Mackenzie: So do you bud to reproduce?
Cassandra: Yeah… Yeah…
Mc or Kara: Yes, yes I can clone myself. Thank you for asking. And I think that just gets to the whole, like, is it an identity or is it a form of reproduction? Which people do get mixed up, for sure.
R: As queer people, we understand how our experiences differ drastically from those who are heterosexual and cisgender, just as those who are ACE have different experiences from those who are allosexual, which is just the fancy word for anyone who isn’t ACE. However, sometimes ACE people face exclusion or erasure and discrimination even from within the queer community. The rainbow is supposed to shine on everyone. Remember, the ‘A’ in LGBTQIA stands for asexual. They’re just as valid and worthy of respect in queer spaces as anyone else.
Kassandra: I think that there’s a lot of misconception among people of the general public who don’t really understand what we’re trying to talk about. And that there still might be prejudice against people who are ace. Um, and I mean, I think, um, a few more prominent people in the ace community have, you know, gone public and talked about how to be a better ally to people who are ace or aromantic and just gotten a lot of, bullying, I would say, from people who don’t understand it or don’t think that it really, there, there should be like, they just don’t understand and feel like it’s attention-grabbing and that there are so many other bigger problems that, why are you worried about that one aspect of your identity? Um, and I wonder if that doesn’t, sometimes, fall back on, as members of the LGBTQ plus community, I recognize that a lot of people have had to fight tooth and nail for the right to outwardly display their sexuality. And as somebody who’s ACE, I’m trying to come and say, could you also recognize me for not doing that? And it might be a little counterintuitive, but there are still biases against people of the ACE or aromantic community as well. And so that’s why. Yeah. Oh, go ahead.
Kira: And even within the LGBTQ community, yeah
MacKenzie: Um, and I think asexuality or aromanticism is one of the identities that, um, you can quote-unquote hide pretty easily. Um, it’s not always outwardly obvious. And, so there’s a lot of, um, ACE basically erasure, um, just saying. Or, or the other reaction that I have gotten is that it’s just, you’re just choosing like celibacy, which is like a completely different thing. Um, but yeah, the, um, just some, sometimes it’s like a complete refusal to acknowledge that, um, that it’s a thing. And, um, that can be really frustrating cause you, you know, people make assumptions about you and, and they’re not correct. And um, sometimes you have to spend a lot of time explaining and, um, it can be definitely, really exhausting to always be the teacher and always having to stand up for yourself. Um, yeah, just kind of the constant, like, you know, sometimes I hesitate to come out to people publicly because I don’t, you know, maybe I don’t have the energy that day to go into what everything means and, um, talk about all of the different facets. Um, you know, that we talked about the different types of attraction and, um, it can just, it can be very wearing for sure.
Kira: Yeah, going off of that, um, I’ve been relatively hesitant about coming out in the academic community, um, because I am also young, I’m a millennial, and, so there is that risk, I feel like of being called a snowflake because, I am, I do identify as queer, but I’m one of the, less well-known queer identities. And so I, I do worry about that. Um, and I know earlier we, we started to almost talk about it, but we didn’t quite talk about like, how we’ve experienced, like, different things about our identity in the scientific community. And I would actually say the biggest thing that I’ve encountered is ageism. Um, I look very young and so when I go to science conferences, and I talk to people about their research, um, first they’re really surprised at how knowledgeable I am and then they’re like, “oh, so are you in grad school?” I’m like, “no, I’m a professor.” Um, and, or like, “what year are you in grad school?” And so I just, it, it can be really kind of frustrating. And I didn’t realize, um, that I had been being treated this way until I got to go to this really amazing, um, I guess it was a mini conference. NSF held these reintegrating biology workshops, where they had four groups of a hundred people in different places across the country where they had scientists brought in, um, to get together and talk about how biology has become like these disparate different sub-disciplines and like, what are actually the big questions of biology as a field and like, let’s write these ideas papers together. And, that was the first time I had been in an academic setting and immediately people started talking to me as an equal, and wanted to know like what my lab was doing and like, assumed that I, deserve to be there. And, like that really kind of showed me that I was not being treated that way at conferences. Um, so I, I do ask people, “do you think about the way you were talking to other people?” Because I think that also says something about how we treat students, um, as more senior, uh, scientists. And I think that, um, a lot of times senior scientists devalue the ability for students to contribute and be extremely knowledgeable. Um, so don’t talk down to people because they look young, *giggling* is my, my take home point from that.
Austin: I think that’s a really good point. And I appreciate you bringing that up and sharing your experience there, Kara. One of the things that I’ve noticed more and more, and, this is something that I guess also kind of loops back to the first question you asked, way back when we started, um, about how identity is, or my identity has influenced my science and my approach to thinking about science. Um, and others were talking about variation, and the fact that, as biologists, we are interested in variation. That’s the space we work in and we see variation all over the place in the natural world. Why would we not expect there to be variation on all these axes in human experience? Um, and I think, as I was starting to figure things out early in my grad career, um, there were a couple of papers that came out that I think really influenced me in thinking about this. And one was a commentary article and American anthropologist by Stephanie Meredith and Christopher Schmidt called “The outliers are in queer perspectives on investigating variation in biological anthropology”. And, the other was paper by Julia Monk and colleagues. Uh, and nature, ecology and evolution was perspective piece titled “An alternative hypothesis for the evolution of same-sex sexual behavior in animals”. And, I really liked both of these papers because they basically just kind of take things and turn everything over and say, why are the things that we see, common, basically just like trying to turn things on their head and say, okay, what we see as common or what the wild type, whatever phrase you want to use. Why is it that that is the thing that is common, not how do we explain the outliers? And, I think that’s a really valuable perspective. And, when I started thinking about that more and started digging into these ideas a little bit more in my approach to things, I was also kind of embarrassed by how long it took me to figure this out, but also, how obvious it is, and still how much of a problem this is, that the historic perspective in science in general, is a white, straight CIS male view. And, just because that’s the historic perspective and that’s what most of the literature is built around, it doesn’t mean that’s the right, there is not necessarily one ultimate truth from that perspective and having more perspectives and more experiences and the way our experiences influenced the way we think about science is really, really valuable.
Kassandra: I also kind of, I guess, expand on that as well as a person of color, that’s kind of another identity, that I also have to recognize that I have, and potentially recognize the biases against me in terms of getting to where I am right now, things that I have to deal with in terms of people having assumptions about me. Um, and, as Austin was saying, just bringing new perspectives into science is one of the most crucial things that we can do. And, it’s one of the reasons why, you know, diversity initiatives, in terms of all people from underrepresented communities, whether it’s people of color, whether it’s people who are in the LGBTQ+ community, people who are, you know, weren’t, didn’t have, you know, huge amounts of money growing up. It, all of those people deserve to have a place at the table in science because they bring new perspectives. They bring new ideas. They come from different backgrounds and different places and think about things differently. Every single person thinks about everything differently. You come at it from different angles and only having that historic view that CIS white male view, isn’t reality. It’s, it’s not actually how anything works in our world. And we need to recognize that, and really put effort towards those initiatives that are trying to bring more voices into science and throughout the entire spectrum of science. So not just, you know, trying to get, people from those underrepresented communities into undergrad and, you know, fingers crossed, maybe they’ll go to grad school if more of them are there. No, there there’s, it’s not even a leaky pipeline that people will claim that it is, the pipeline doesn’t even exist for certain communities to get to college, to get past college, to, get to a post-doc, to get to a professorship position, if that’s what they want to. I mean, I can count on my hand, the number of black women postdocs that I know, and I can’t even fill up a single hand, like I can’t even fill up one hand. That’s insane. Considering that actually black women are, some of the most like, proportionally high- like, I’m not even saying this correctly, but like proportionally, they’re getting some of the most PhDs out of any demographic group. And if they’re not getting those positions after finishing their PhDs, what’s happening? And don’t tell me that they’re all just starting to have families and disappearing. No! There’s something systematically wrong with academia that I think, people coming from these different backgrounds, and as we are starting to fill these positions, we’re going to be vocal in changing. And, it has to do with people who are in the LGBTQ+ community. It has to do with people of color, people who are low-income. It, all of those voices are necessary and we need to do a lot of work to compensate for the lack of that diversity, that’s currently here.
R: As this episode comes to a close, we’d like to thank all of our amazing guests for taking the time to talk with us today and share their experiences. We’ve included links to their social media handles in the show notes, where you can also find resources they’ve mentioned throughout the episode.
Bri: But before we go, let’s hear some closing thoughts from our guests.
Mackenzie: Something, I would like to expand even further on that, um, I like to think about why I’m even interested in science at all. Um, I think my personal motivation and the motivation for a lot of people is basically to help humanity. Um, and if we do not have people from different backgrounds, they are not going to be the voices for those communities. You know, a lot of people go into science to benefit basically the world, you know, to expand our knowledge, to help, uh, make inventions, bring discoveries that can create these amazing technologies. Um, and if we don’t have all of these different voices, those communities are not going to have a voice in the discussion, um, and like who is science for? Science’s for everybody. Um, so we really need to have that participation, that like, active recruitment, getting people there, um, so that we can like really make science, what it, what it’s for, it’s for everyone.
Kira: Well, personally, I got into science because I just like salamanders and I think they’re cool *giggling*, but…
Kassandra: I like fish
Austin: No, I’ll be that weird person and say all dead things are neat.
Kira: Um, so I think being ace, and once I recognize that in myself and as I’ve moved up the academic ladder, if you want to call it that, um, into the ivory tower, so to speak, um, I think one of the things that has allowed me to do is to recognize that people come, students come with hidden identities, um, because asexuality is not easily visible unless I happened to be dating the girl, a girl at the time, no one really knows that I’m queer, unless I tell them. Um, and so, it’s one of the things that, I try to make sure and acknowledge if anyone chooses to share with me, some of their hidden identities is to not dismiss them, and, um, I try to encourage students who maybe don’t do as well with their grades to try research, because maybe that’s where they’ll find their inspiration. And I’ve had great success with that. I have a couple of students from my previous position that, you know, did not, do great in classes because they had test anxiety or just had other stuff going on in life. But with research, they were able to find something to be passionate about, and something to really get excited about and something that they could do successfully. And so I, I try to promote those voices, those hidden identities, I guess, um, in my own way, from an academics perspective. And just acknowledging that I don’t know what someone else is going through, and so if someone’s like, “Hey, I really can’t do this.” I’m like, “okay, let me know when you can.”
Mackenzie: Can I add one thing? There is the question about how allosexual people can be allies. Um, I think the big thing for me is just to, like, when I say that I’m asexual, just to like accept it, like, you know, just, um. If you’re interested in my experience, please ask questions. Like I’m not against, um, talking about it, but, um, having, you know, like I am only me and I can only speak to my experience and like, I don’t have the whole breadth of knowledge on asexuality, and like, if you’re interested in asexuality, definitely go do some independent research. But, um, it’s just, you know, this is me. Um, so have at it.
Kassandra: No, I completely agree. Um, and I found that like, my true friends, like the people who actually really care about me, might listen to my little spiel about like, who I- how I identify, who I am or whatever, and then they’ll go and do their own research too. Um, and that means a lot to me, like when they come back and they’re like, “oh, I like, I read up on it. And I did have like a couple more questions, but like, cool, thanks for letting me know.” Um, and that can mean a lot, just to have those verbal words of like, I do accept you, like yeah.
Kira: Um, it also happens to be the week that we’re recording, this is aromantic awareness week. So, that’s kind of fun. Um, asexual awareness week is sometime in October, usually. Um, so it’s a fun thing, but another thing I guess I would really. Like to say is I, when I started doing research about asexuality and aromanticism and sort of just different ways of living, one of the things that really resonated with me as well is, we live in a heteronormative society, but we also live in a society that’s really governed by something called amatonormativity. So, for those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, it is the idea that everyone’s goal in life is to find a single partner, and that is the ideal. And that is what everyone wants is this romantic partner. Um, and I think that really shapes the way that, I mean, it shapes some, you know, legal things. Um, there are, there’s a lot of couple of privilege that happens and things like that. Um, but it also really kind of leaves out a bunch of people who don’t experience romantic attraction and perhaps that’s not their goal in life. And so, when it’s this sort of expectation that that is what you do, it really kind of, erases again, um, other people’s experiences and how, how we experience, experience the world. So I encourage people to look up more about amatonormativity, because I think it’s another, another thing that really shapes the way that, society is run and can be really harmful to people who are asexual and aromantic and/or anyone who just doesn’t want to be in a relationship for whatever reason.
Austin: I really appreciate you bringing that up. Um, this is something I’ve had conversations with friends about too, and the fact that our government, our legal system, almost everything about our economy, privileges partnered relationship. And that ranges from like tax benefits, legal benefits, health insurance, like all of these things that are really, really critical are built around this structure. And, the idea that this structure is the ultimate goal, and it’s the way that everyone should exist and wants to exist, is harmful.
Bri: That concludes everything for the first episode of season two. For more information regarding what we discussed in this episode, be sure to check out our show notes. A transcript of this episode can be found on our website, at queerscience.show. If you like this episode, you can tell us why by tweeting at us @queer_science, you can find us on Facebook as QueerScience! or follow us on Instagram @queer_sci. The Queer Science team believes that educational content should be accessible to all. And we are a small team of 20-somethings working to bring this podcast to our audiences for free. If you like our work, consider giving the co-host a tip by supporting us at patreon.com/queerscience. You can also donate to our go-fund me, which allows for us to afford microphones, recording software and website upkeep. We also have merch too, featuring the QueerScience! logo and more original designs by our cohost, R. You can find out more by checking out our website at queerscience.show.