International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

Posted on May 17, 2023   by Microbiology Society

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia is an annual awareness day which takes place on 17 May to draw attention to the violence and discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ communities around the world. This year, our members organised an LGBTQ+ Networking Event during Annual Conference 2023 and so, to celebrate this important day, one of Champions has written a review of their experience at the networking event.

LGBTQ+ Networking Event organisers from left to right: Rebee Penrice-Randal [she/they], Daniel Gonçalves-Carneiro [he/him/his], Bruno Francesco Rodrigues de Oliveira [he/him], I'ah Donovan-Banfield [she/her] and Ffion Lane [she/her].

The Microbiology Society hosted an LGBTQ+ event during this year’s Annual Conference, and I’m writing this in an attempt to express how important it was. I’ve been a member of the Society for way over a decade but I only decided to join the Champions Scheme when I realised the commitment of the Microbiology Society to changing culture. It might not seem like much, but hosting this type of event during a conference that invites researchers from all over the world can really make a significant impact.

I signed up to the event slightly hesitant about actually turning up. I thought I would decide based on how I felt during the conference. I regularly attend LGBTQ+ events, which always make me feel very welcome and seen, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from an event organised by a professional society with international reach. At the moment of writing it is still unfortunately unsafe for me to publicly 'come out', or as my therapist would say, 'invite others in' in a public forum. I felt anxious about safety and the possible consequences of exposing part of myself that I keep away from my professional life. You might think that in this day and age being queer is not something people should fear embracing in a learned environment. Unfortunately, we still experience different types of bullying and discrimination, sometimes in the form of inappropriate comments, ostracising, and other damaging behaviours. If we also add the fact that we all have different characteristics, backgrounds, and lived experiences that drift from heteronormativity, exposing one more layer of the cake of intersectionality beings we are can feel very daunting.

I did feel anxious in anticipation. But that feeling was quickly replaced by excitement as I started to engage with colleagues during the conference. It was clear to me that the Society was providing a wonderful opportunity by empowering us to connect, build our network, and have our own safe space; without being exclusive towards our ally friends, having queer spaces creates a completely different dynamic in which we can feel safer and (more) comfortable being ourselves.

I made my decision and walked to the event, still slightly worried, but with the conviction that I was taking an important step in merging my two worlds.

The event itself was really fun! It was in a little colourful café (with delicious food!). I could chat with old friends and met new colleagues that I hope I will get a chance to collaborate with in the future. There were introductions from the organisers and a suggestion for a fun ice-breaking activity, but the truth is that everyone was happily chatting to each other as if we were old friends catching up after a long time. It felt like the welcoming environment I’ve known from other non-professional LGBTQ+ events.

I was happily surprised to meet people in different career paths and stages. It’s not easy to find examples of queer people in STEM that have leadership roles, and I certainly didn’t personally know anyone in microbiology. Hosting events like this one can widen our view and open doors. I had conversations with colleagues that I wouldn’t have been able to have in any other setting, which gave me a feeling that somehow I could have a future doing what I love.

I’m hoping one day we won’t need safe spaces, but until then, I’m proud of my colleagues and to be a Champion of the Microbiology Society. I can’t wait for the next one!

If you are interested in finding out more about the equality, diversity and inclusion inititiaves of the Society, or writing a blog for an awareness day, more information is available via our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion webpages.