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Gay in the sciences - notably Physics

  1. Jul 19, 2007 #1

    I thought about whether or not to post this thread as I wasn't sure if I would get flack for it. However, I noticed a thread involving the discussion of men and women dating. So, here's my post.

    I was wondering if anyone in this forum is also gay and in the sciences, notably physics. In my time as a student of physics and mathematics, I've only met one other person who is in physics and gay. Well, he's more in astrophysics than physics, but he was studying physics at the time too. We dated for a year and half and are just friends now. Every guy that I've dated has thus far been lawyers, doctors, bankers, or has a career in something other than science. And all my gay friends are in the non-sciences. I have a few straight friends in the sciences. So, why should that matter? Honestly, it would be really nice to date a guy or even have gay friends who are also in the sciences (really shooting for someone in physics/astronomy or related). I'd be open to someone who is an engineer, but my preference is more for the pure sciences.

    Being a gay guy doesn't mean that we only talk about the hot guy walking down the street, fashion, and all things campy. My gay friends and I will engage in discussions about politics, culture, law, music, art, and everything in between. However, the only thing I cannot seem to discuss with most of them is science, because they lack the background. I try to bring in a science topic and they cringe, even when I keep it to laymen terms.

    Thus far I only know of another guy who is gay and a physicist (ahem, astrophysicist). As far as I know, I'm the only one in the program at my school (University of Illinois at Chicago - a very ethnically diverse school). I don't like the thought of being an anomaly. I suspect there must be others. I don't know if any straight people understand how lonely it really feels being gay and in the sciences, especially in physics. It's tough enough proving myself to my peers that I can work through a physics program.

    I'm not asking anyone to out themselves on here. If you want to remain anonymous but still chat you can send me a private message. I'd be happy to hear from you. And I'd like to hear everyone's thoughts about this thread - gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, or straight. You all have a voice.

    Thanks for reading through this long thread. I can get very passionate about the things on my mind - especially politics and science (the latter being my favorite).
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2007 #2


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    I am a straight mathematician and for a long time I did not realize that several of my math friends were gay. We just did not discuss sexual preference, just math. Now that I know several are, I think I have noticed the happiest ones are possibly those who just said they were gay and let it hang out there. This is aparently much more feasible today than in the past. They may still be lonely socially but they do not seem to be. My feeling though is you will meet more friends by coming out at your own department than here.

    Of course this is pretty ignorant speculation. good luck.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2007
  4. Jul 19, 2007 #3


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    We do have a few members here who have openly discussed that they are gay or bisexual, and I'm sure they will chime in here if they wish to revisit that issue, so you're not alone by any means.

    However, I have to wonder why you need to discuss science with gay friends? What does someone's sexual orientation have to do with your ability to talk science with them? Or is it more that you mean in terms of finding someone who shares your interests/enthusiasm for physics for a relationship beyond that of just friendship?

    You may find yourself feeling less lonely if you just appreciate what different people have to bring to the table in terms of interests and conversations, and not require everything of everyone. It may also be the case that there are other gay men in your acquaintance, but they are not yet "out" about it, so you are not aware of their sexual preference.

    I think you'll find that there is a very small percentage of the overall population with an aptitude for and interest in physics, so ANYONE is going to be a representation of a small group within the field if you start breaking it down by sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, race, etc. Afterall, if you wander down to the local mall, how many other physicists do you bump into of any orientation?
  5. Jul 19, 2007 #4


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    I'm sorry, I just find this impossible to believe.

    Most of my friends are gay and this doesn't sound true, unless you aren't doing well in school.

    Perhaps you aren't in a country (western world) where gay people are mostly judged on their abilities.
  6. Jul 19, 2007 #5
    Oh, so you believe in those kind of sad lies? I didn't know that.

    Anyway, why do you (OP) insist to intermingle sexuality and profession? As far as I'm concerned one shouldn't speak of sexual matters in a work environment; all for the sake of transparency.

    By the way, are you a member of the forum that does not want to divulge himself as a homosexual and has thus created an umbrella account for this purpose? Just wondering.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2007
  7. Jul 19, 2007 #6


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    I know a few mathematicians who did not realize that their math friends were human :rolleyes:

    Welcome to the new oppressed minority group of the 21st Century - people who underatand and care about science.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2007
  8. Jul 20, 2007 #7


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    Other than the sexual orientation, I'm in the same situation. There are maybe half a dozen people in this entire town that I can discuss scientific matters with, and I haven't seen any of them in several years. As much as I love W, she thinks that everyone on PF is either a terrorist or a golddigger (as if I had any money). Every time that I post a sketch for a hovercraft or a toroid winding machine or a nutcracker, she says "Stop being so stupid. He'll just use that to blow up New York City." The sad thing is, she really believes that. Even sadder is that I occassionally have to disclose my opinion of her intellect in order to shut her up. (On the 'up' side, I got the brightest one in the family. :rolleyes: Most of the rest have the mentality of somewhat backward 10-year-olds.)
  9. Jul 20, 2007 #8
    hahaha, now my hovercraft ll carry a nuclear bomb and destroy the city:))
    remember you have a big role in it. you ll be screwed:rofl::rofl::rofl:
  10. Jul 20, 2007 #9
    Moonbear takes the words right out of my mouth.
  11. Jul 20, 2007 #10
    In graduate school I became friends with a gay guy in astrophysics; the year I finished, another gay astro student arrived. So there are gay scientists out there! (and - good news for rbot - a lot of them seem to be in astro!)

    My friend is now married to a guy with a background in an arts discipline and computer science.... In any relationship - gay or straight - I think that people want their partners to value their interests and (especially in the sciences, where you never really stop thinking about what you're doing at work) understand their motivations and frustrations. I think this is why half of married female physicists are married to other physicists! I also think it's seen as more acceptable for men to keep their work lives out of their marriages, whereas women want their husbands to encourage and support them in their work.

    Since the topic is on the table, I thought I'd share an interesting blog entry by a gay mathematics grad student who discusses the pros and cons of being out to the students he teaches:

    http://www.koschei.net/blog/archives/000881.html#000881 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  12. Jul 20, 2007 #11
    Thank you Oedipas Maas. I think you're the one thus far who understood what I am saying and asking. Also, thank you for the blog link.

    I think you're right. Astro is the way to go. In fact, I love astronomy and all things that deal with space science, so it's a well made match.
  13. Jul 20, 2007 #12
    Thank you for sharing your perspective. The thing is, you probably didn't outright discuss sexual orientation, but it was done indirectly through body language or small comments. One can do that by a look at the opposite sex (or same sex) or just the slight mention of doing something with a girlfriend or boyfriend or having interest in a girl, etc. I have a lot of straight and gay friends who don't discuss anything to do with sex. But they'll put out there whether or not they are interested in a woman or guy just by mentioning someone in their lives, an interest in someone, or just that particular look of interest.

    As for coming out, I'm very much out in my life. I do not hide it if someone asks nor do I tolerate when people make negative comments about the GLBT community while I'm standing around. As for in the department, I don't see this as the way to meet more friends. I'd say have a look at what oedipa maas has posted. This is where I'm coming from. I don't go around advertising that I'm gay at school or work. It is unprofessional and irrelevant. However, I do ask for the same equality that straight people have when they mention their spouse or girlfriend (or boyfriend).
  14. Jul 20, 2007 #13
    I have a suspicion about gay people, call it anecdotal and unscientific, but I have had two people who were friends of mine and gay; one was employed as the departmental mathematician in a medical physics dept, and in a dept of, if not mathematicians but fairly proficient maths types, he was considered to be incredibly good. Another friend of mine studied physics and then did an MSc in thermodynamics of ice flows, before doing a PhD in maths, he's now an assistant lecturer at Cambridge, or was the last time I saw him 7 years ago, I wouldn't be surprised if he wasn't a lecturer by now or even a professor. Is it just me or are gay people suspiciously good at maths?

    OP: I've not heard of the bias towards straightness in the sciences, as far as I was aware the mix of sexuality was pretty much the same as in other academic groups, but I could be wrong?
  15. Jul 20, 2007 #14
    I understand the "being into the physics" part but why are you also asking about the "being gay" topic ? What does that matter if all you want is having scientific discussions ?

    :rofl: Why ? How about an engineer that switched to pure sciences ?

    No seriously, i really don't get the point of this post, sorry.

  16. Jul 20, 2007 #15
    It's you. Just coincidence, nothing more.

    Most people (gay or whatever) don't give a damn about any science.

  17. Jul 20, 2007 #16
    I know I wasn't really serious. :smile:
  18. Jul 20, 2007 #17
    Hrmm... I can understand why gays in the maths and sciences wouldn't exactly want to let people know. Just look at what happened to Alan Turing.
  19. Jul 20, 2007 #18
    Since when does sexual preference have anything to do with pure science. Seriously, who cares if you are gay, straight, or bisexual. That is your own preference. Bringing this kind of stuff up in a work enviroment is a very bad idea.
    Homosexuals are a minority no matter what occupation you are in.
  20. Jul 20, 2007 #19
    If I'm reading it correctly, then the OP is not in a work environment but rather at University? That environment is very liberal and there isn't likely to be any come back from telling people you are gay, at least in my neck of the woods. In fact one notable academic site in the UK makes your sexual preference part of your profile, and I'm pretty sure most people indicate their sexual preference and freely discuss it.

    In the work place as well here, discrimination based on sexuality in any form is illegal, so if some sort of negative impact occurs you can resort to the law. Of course in the real world it's not always that easy, but I'd say in general at least, you are as unlikely to face discrimination in the work place about your sexuality as you are about your sex. And particularly not at University were it's even more frowned upon.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2007
  21. Jul 20, 2007 #20
    No, I think people understand exactly what you're saying--you want an SO who shares your interests in science. The fact is, that's hard to find even if you're straight.
  22. Jul 20, 2007 #21


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    Well, then you probably face the same issues as men in physics who can't find enough women interested in the subject as partners. It's really no different than what anyone else wishes for, a partner who can appreciate and respect their interests. My only advice is don't limit yourself to physicists. Other scientists and professionals can appreciate and understand at least the sort of crazy lifestyle physicists endure (spending all hours of the night in the lab, for example). Wander over to the chemistry department or biology department and meet folks there. If you're looking for a long-term partner who shares an interest in the sciences, life will be a whole lot easier if you're in different fields than the same one anyway.
  23. Jul 20, 2007 #22
    Sexual preference has nothing at all to do with pure science. But pure science is not done in a vacuum - it is done in a work environment in the company of people with whom you share a social relationship. People put pictures of their families on their desks and get phone calls from their spouses. They eat kosher and halal food. They go to the gym in the morning and they go to Bible study on Wednesday afternoons. It's inevitable (and healthy) that your officemates are going to know a little about your personal life.

    Whether to explicitly tell your colleagues that you're homosexual or to just let them figure it out is another debate. I think it's good to let your colleagues know directly (yet casually) that you are gay. I think it makes for a more respectful and trusting atmosphere.
  24. Jul 20, 2007 #23


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    It depends on who you're around. At at nice university type place it would likely be the case, but in other places not as likely. Small town high schools, Catholic schools, and ones "in the hood" tend to be not so good (where "gay bashing" is not metaphorical) and in nice suburbs plenty of people can be openly gay without being beat up everyday after school.
  25. Jul 21, 2007 #24


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    To continue with the anecdotals:
    I'd rather say that we're especially clumsy and technophobes, so that the only gayfolk you'll see in the hard sciences are those with a good theoretical bent. I wouldn't be surprised if there were relatively few gay engineers, although I met a handsome petroleum geologist once..

    Kind of strange, really, when you think of all those engineering terms of nuts, bolts, screws and thrusts..:smile:

    I find the level of interest in the natural sciences among fellow gays to be about the same as among straights. Abysmally low. Face it, having a love and passion for the sciences is considered supremely nerdy among most people..
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2007
  26. Jul 21, 2007 #25
    how true:cry::cry:
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