National Organization of Gay & Lesbian Scientists & Technical Professionals
Report: Diversity in the Tech Field

Gay Mathematician Alan Turing


After over 60 years, British mathematician, Alan Turning, was finally pardoned by Queen Elizabeth II for the crime of being gay.


Alan Turing was among the most important Britons of the 20th century.  A developer of the modern computer, the renowned mathematician helped shape the future of technology.  He was also a World War II code breaker who helped crack the most impenetrable Nazi tool of secret communications, the famed Enigma code.



None of that seemed to matter, however.  In 1952, Turing was convicted of "gross indecency" for homosexuality, then a crime in England.  As part of his sentence, he was chemically castrated and subjected to estrogen treatments.  Two years later, he committed suicide.  He was 41 years old.


On December 24, 2013, Alan Turing finally received a posthumous royal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II.  Back in 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued a formal apology on behalf of the nation.


The story of his life was made into a major motion picture, The Imitation Game.



Astronaut Sally Ride Comes Out Posthumously


Pioneering astronaut Sally Ride, died on July 23, 2012 from pancreatic cancer, at the age of 61.  Ride, who relished privacy as much as she did adventure, chose an appropriately discreet manner of coming out. At the end of an obituary that she co-wrote with her partner, Tam O'Shaughnessy, they disclosed to the world their relationship of 27 years. That was it.  As details trickled out after Ride's death, it became clear that a circle of family, friends and co-workers had long known of the same-sex relationship and embraced it. For many millions of others, who admired Ride as the first American woman in space, it was a revelation.  And it sparked a spirited discussion about privacy vs. public candor in regard to sexual orientation.



Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican world, noted that both he and Ride were baby boomers who grew up "in a time when coming out was almost unthinkable."  Robinson is 65. Ride was 61 when she died of pancreatic cancer.  "For girls who had an interest in science and wanted to go places women had not been allowed to go, she was a tremendous role model," Robinson said Wednesday. "The fact that she chose to keep her identity as a lesbian private, I honor that choice."  However, Robinson said he had a different standard for younger gays, to the point of insisting that his own clergy in New Hampshire be open about their sexuality if they are gay or lesbian.  "While there is still discrimination and coming out will still have repercussions, the effect of those repercussions are vastly reduced now," Robinson said. "I believe that times have changed."


There's no question that gays and lesbians overall are coming out now at a higher rate and an earlier age than those of previous generations. According to the LGBTQ Movement Advancement Project, adults aged 30-54 are 16 times more likely to be closeted than those under 30.  Fred Sainz, the Human Rights Campaign's vice president for communications, said his initial reaction to the revelation about Sally Ride was, "What a shame that we didn't learn this while she was alive."   "However, the fact it was acknowledged in death will be an incredibly powerful message to all Americans about the contributions of their LGBTQ counterparts," Sainz said. "The completeness of her life will be honored correctly."



Remembering Sally Ride


Sally Kristen Ride (May 26, 1951 July 23, 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut.  Ride joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became famous as the first American woman to enter space, part of the crew of the space shuttle Challenger.  As of 2012, Ride also remains the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space at the age of 32. In 1987, she left NASA to work at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control.


Sally Ride, America's first lady in space, will be remembered as a reluctant celebrity who cared deeply about the nation's space program and devoted her post-NASA career to keeping middle-school kids (especially girls) hooked on science, math, technology and engineering.  Ride, 61, died after a 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Her death came 29 years and a month after she broke a gender barrier by launching into space aboard shuttle Challenger.



She is also remembered as a loving partner to Tam O'Shaughnessy, with her for 27 years.  Ride is survived by her partner of more than two decades, Tam O'Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; her sister, Bear; her niece, Caitlin; and nephew, Whitney; as well as her staff of 40 at Sally Ride Science.  O'Shaughnessy, at Ride's side during the astronaut's lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer, co-authored four books with Ride and is a professor emerita of school psychology at San Diego State University, and chief operating officer and executive vice president of Ride's foundation, Sally Ride Science.


 In Ride's death, many are asking: Who is Tam O'Shaughnessy? The answer is someone who closely shared Ride's passion for science and space.  According to sallyridescience.com, O'Shaughnessy "helped found Sally Ride Science because of her long-standing commitment to science education and her recognition of the importance of supporting girls' interests in science. She finds her work with Sally Ride Science irresistible." 


"Ride lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love," friends wrote in a statement posted on the website of her business, Sally Ride Science. "Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless."  Ride became a household name when she rocketed into orbit on June 18, 1983. But she never was at ease with fame.  "Sally was a very private person who found herself a very public persona. It was a role in which she was never fully comfortable," said fellow US astronaut Steve Hawley, who was married to Ride from 1982 through 1987.



Coming Out in the Sciences (Part 1)
Coming Out in the Sciences (Part 2)
Out in Science
NOGLSTP: Queer Scientists of Historical Note

Fortune: What It's Like to Be a Lesbian in the Tech Field


Famous LGBTQ Scientists, Researchers, Philosophers, Historians


Within the scientific and technical fields, many talented and noteworthy LGBTQ people can be found.  They are well represented among researchers and professors.  Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people have made and continue to make great contributions in the fields of physics, astronomy, biology, anthropology, social and behavioral science, mathematics, engineering, medicine, economics, history, education, philosophy, and more.



Leonardo da Vinci 15th century Italian artist, scientist, and engineer

Sir Francis Bacon 17th century English philosopher of science

Alfred Kinsey  -  Researcher, Father of Sexology (1894-1956)

Magnus Hirschfeld  -  German Physician and Sexologist (1868-1935)

Florence Nightingale 19th century British Nurse

Alexander von Humboldt    - 19th century Prussian naturalist

Sonja Kovalevsky   - 19th century Russian mathematician

Alan Turing  -  British Mathematician (1912-1954)

Margaret Mead 20th century American anthropologist and psychologist

Michael Foucault  -  French Philosopher, Sociologist, and Educator (1926-1984)

Deirdre McCloskey  -  American Economist and Economic Historian

Jim Pollack - American Astrophysicist

Martha May Eliot  -  American Pediatrician & Public Health Specialist

Sally Ride  -  American Physicist and Astronaut (1951-2012)

Lynn Conway  -  American Professor of Engineering & Computer Science

S. Josephine Baker 20th century physician

Allan Cox 20th century American Geophysicist

Neil Divine 20th century American Astrophysicist

Louise Pearce 20th century pathologist 

Jim Pollack 20th century American astrophysicist

Bruce Voeller 20th century American biologist and AIDS researcher

Clyde Wahrhaftig   - 20th century American Geologist and Environmentalist

Dean Hamer - Geneticist, Chief of Gene Structure & Regulation at Natl Institutes of Health

Bruce Bagemihl - Canadian biologist

Simon LeVay British neuroscientist



Queer Science: From Alan Turing to Sally Ride

Coming Out in the Sciences (Part 1)
Coming Out in the Sciences (Part 2)
NOGLSTP: Queer Scientists of Historical Note


Closeted LGBTQ Scientists


Many talented lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) scientists feel they must keep their cover to escape overt and covert discrimination. There is still much homophobia and heterosexism in the technical fields. 


 While there are many openly gay men and women in the sciences, there are many more that choose to remain in the closet in order to keep their place in the laboratory. We may commonly think of academics as a liberal, open-minded lot, but lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer scientists have had as rocky a road to acceptance in the scientific community as they've had in other segments of society.  Even in modern-day academia, LGBT scientists may feel reluctant to come out even to co-workers or superiors, not knowing whether they'll be met with support or scorn.



These issues are being increasingly talked about and exposed by authors and researchers and in settings like the Out to Innovate Career Summit in 2010 held by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists & Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP).


NOGLSTP is an association of scientific and technical professionals who earn their livings in the fields of materials  science, biomedical engineering, geography, archeology, neurobiology, meteorology, oceanography, medical  technology, physics, electrical engineering, biochemistry, zoology, psychobiology, computer science, epidemiology, microbiology, environmental science, linguistics, chemistry, mechanical  engineering, science education, sociology, astronomy, botany, molecular biology, anthropology, law, aerospace engineering, science policy, physiology, ecology, patent law, geology, health professions,  mathematics and more.  Their membership includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer professionals and their allies. They advocate equal employment opportunity, professional networking, role modeling, science education, and scientific freedom and responsibility. They practice science, technology, engineering, and mathematics with pride.



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