International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia: Charlotte Roughton
Posted on May 17, 2022 by Microbiology Society
“I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and networking with fellow queer microbiologists at all different stages of their careers and felt safe and comfortable being my entire authentic self.” Charlotte Roughton, Newcastle University, UK
This year was my first time attending an in-person conference – specifically, the Microbiology Society’s Annual Conference. I was invited to come and speak about my public engagement work, so was feeling a mixture of nerves and excitement at the opportunity to network in-person. As has been the case for many people, the pandemic was a time of self-discovery and acceptance for me, and I came out as bisexual in June 2021. I’ve been open and proud about my queerness ever since, and was absolutely delighted to see the Microbiology Society was offering an LGBTQ+ networking social at their conference.
It was by far my favourite event of the conference – it had a welcoming atmosphere and I immediately felt at home. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and networking with fellow queer microbiologists at all different stages of their careers and felt safe and comfortable being my entire authentic self. There was a note at the start of the event to avoid taking and distributing photographs without permission, which was a considerate touch for those who may not necessarily be out to all of their colleagues. Overall, I enjoyed the event, and appreciated the Society’s acknowledgement of its queer members – I hope to see more like it in the future.
Having spent so many years of my life wrestling with internalised shame and self-hatred relating to my sexuality, brought on largely by attending a school in a small town that was rampantly homophobic and having a whole host of homophobic slurs flung my way, it took until recently to feel comfortable coming out and engaging with the queer community. I have a need to “catch-up”, in a way, and I often feel sadness thinking of the many wasted years I have spent in the closet, missing out on chances to meet people just like me. Now, I enthusiastically get involved in LGBTQ+ events whenever I can, and this networking event was no exception.
I’m in an incredibly fortunate position where I can now safely be out in my professional life as well as my personal life, and have received nothing but love and acceptance for it. I have wonderful in-person and online networks of allies and fellow queer people who I can comfortably be myself around, including a supportive supervisor who provides a platform for me to be my authentic self. I only wish this were a universal experience – it’s important to note that I’m in an incredibly privileged position, and not every queer person in STEM can safely be themselves. While improvements are being made, and events like this which celebrate LGBTQ+ scientists are a step in the right direction, there’s still so much more to be done. I hope that talking openly about my own experiences to raise awareness can help play a small role in moving us that little bit closer towards universal equality.
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