So on a dare, I picked paleontology.
July 10, 2019 12:28 PM   Subscribe

Queer voices in palaeontology (Nature magazine) - "Riley Black, who came out as transgender and non-binary this year, describes the challenges of cultivating diversity in a discipline with an ‘Indiana Jones’ image.".

Following in the noble footsteps of gay 19th century palaeontologist Baron Franz Nopcsa von Felso-Szilvas, "A wild genius with a flair for the dandyish and the dramatic, he was an explorer, spy, polyglot and master of disguise. He crossed the Albanian Alps on foot and befriended local mountain men, sometimes involving himself in their tribal feuds. Once, he was nearly crowned King of Albania."
Further discussion of homophobia in the paleontological community at icthyoconodon.
More on the challenges of field work for lgbtq people at Research in Progress.
posted by thatwhichfalls (5 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
There's something that rubs me the wrong way about the first article and I think it's the way it fits nicely into this presumption that trans-ness is perpetually "new". The author is describing what are, for them, new experiences. But a cis reader must understand that we've always been there, weighing whether to wait until after tenure to come out, wondering just how our advisor is going to respond, wondering how many of the handful of jobs in our field in the world will be somewhere we can find medical care, trying to bet just how little time it takes to recover from surgery, worrying how the department will respond to teaching evaluations with a mix of pronouns, what to say when the professor you're TAing for wonders whether one of your students has ever attended class because of the pronoun they used for you, trying to figure out just how much of a problem controlled substance laws are going to be in the state where you need to spend the summer, etc.

Don't act like we're new. We've always been here. You just weren't looking or listening.
posted by hoyland at 3:22 PM on July 10 [18 favorites]

I read both this article and Black's previous one, which Black referenced in the Nature piece. I found it interesting that Black chose to write about the problems with the Indiana Jones trope in archeology as their first piece after coming out professionally. It may just be me (I tend to be a people pleaser who tries to fit in), but I can't imagine picking on people in a field I was working to change until I had spent more time in it after coming out.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 4:02 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]

In my extremely limited capacity to effect change as a trans research repository librarian, the first thing I did when I started my new job was ensure that trans grads faced no barriers to retroactive name changes on theses and dissertations. I faced no resistance in putting this proposal forward, and for that I am grateful. Screw that aspect of "the scholarly record must not be changed", as people not being able to take credit for their own work is worse.

The fact that I can continue to use the name I was given at birth has been the biggest privilege through my transition.
posted by avocet at 7:48 PM on July 10 [7 favorites]

I don't know; there's a definite.... Well, okay, put it like this: if you are willing to be the person who is going to put their necks out by being visibly nb/trans, if you're going to take the aggro that comes with being open... you might as well use that increased attention to demand some increased positive attention, too. I know several people who are taking that tack with their careers, and more power to them. Sometimes, being loud can be a defense against attacks, and being particularly visible can be a form of protection if you can recruit enough people who think of themselves as accepting to make you a shield.

Good on Riley for being willing to take that tack. It's on the rest of us to shove our fields, especially faculty, to make room for them.
posted by sciatrix at 8:00 PM on July 10 [7 favorites]

Indiana Jones was an archaeologist. I am a little surprised that Black, as a paleontologist, implies that they're similar. I was a bit disappointed when I realized the article wouldn't be substantially different if it was about someone who was a firefighter, a Marine, or a member of the math faculty at Yale. But, I guess if you want to write about your life you have to write about the one you have...
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 12:01 PM on July 11

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