It is a worrying observation that there is an apparent deficiency of queer individuals in the scientific profession. They are almost certainly there, but they are not as vocal as one would expect. There is further cause for concern when we consider that there is no national association for queer scientists in Australia. The tacit nature of queer scientists is problematic, and that the lack of formal organizations for these scientists is a very germane issue.
My concern is that the practitioners of science, distinct from their field, are being prevented from taking part in queer activism, for fears of losing tenure or having grant proposals rejected. This is why solidarity is required: just as a trade union protects employees, an association of queer scientists and allies would be a strong protective force against discrimination.
For the same reasons that we need women and minority ethnic groups to be represented in science, we need queer scientists to be recognised. The issue is not one of minor importance. A more conspicuous representation of queer scientists is necessary to empower young people to fight for their dreams, and persuade them that these dreams are achievable. Apart from the hope that this more visible representation would impart, we also require queer scientists to be acknowledged in order to convince the general public that the queer community provides an invaluable contribution to all aspects of society.
To be silent is to be secure, but wars are not won by security. The fight for queer rights is an issue that transcends the importance of the individual. I would say that the queer scientist has an obligation to be an activist because there are people who depend on them to set an example. Young people need heroes and heroines, and the rest of the world needs to understand that queer people can do remarkable things.
I believe that the establishment of a national union for queer scientists is an idea that should be realised sooner rather than later. We need a strong, unified body of queer scientists to stand collectively against discrimination in the scientific profession, to combat the pseudoscientific arguments being used to attack the queer community, and to foster a new paradigm of inclusiveness and acceptance.
In 1975, 186 prominent scientists signed a document entitled declaring their objections to the pseudoscience of astrology. These scientists were appealing to natural law and scientific fact to, as they put it, “caution the public against the unquestioning acceptance of the predictions and advice given privately and publicly by astrologers”. I would like to see a similar statement issued on the topic of queer rights. At moment, we are coming under a barrage of completely outlandish, pseudoscientific claims, which are being accepted, quite remarkably, by members of parliament and a part of the general public. Scientists can be vocal and rebut these arguments, if they so choose. Scientists are, in one sense, the seekers of truth, and knowing the truth, they would be mistaken to remain silent. They must find the resolve to help turn the tide.
In the same vein as those 186 scientists against astrology, I believe that “the time has come to challenge directly, and forcefully” the prejudiced claims of our adversaries.