We are here; you have an ally

Submitted by Diana Knight on
Pride flag on campus

On campus, the Pride flag was raised on June 1 at the War Memorial Flagpole near Odegaard Undergraduate Library and Kane Hall and will be up for most of the month of June. Here in the Department of Chemistry, the flags you spy on office doors and behind desks might be smaller, but this Pride Month, Chemistry faculty and staff want our LGBTQIA2S+ students and postdocs to know that “We are here,” and “you have an ally.”

Larry Goldman

Larry Goldman, Associate Teaching Professor

I’m delighted to work in such a welcoming department in such a welcoming city. When I was an undergraduate, my STEM classes were taught in a very matter of fact way. None of my professors spoke much about themselves. And so I had no idea whether there were any other LGBT faculty or students in the department. While I was successful academically, it was somewhat isolating socially. When I started graduate school, I made a personal commitment to be more open about who I was. I was one of the first of my chemistry grad student cohort to come out as gay. I started dating in grad school and my boyfriend was welcomed into our research group social events which made me feel validated.

As a chemistry faculty member, I can see first-hand that the department is accepting. Groups like oSTEM provide a safe space for LGBT students and faculty alike. And I have tried to bring that into my teaching, at least in small ways. For example, in a recent organic chemistry class on carbohydrates, I included a section on how blood types are biochemically determined by different carbohydrates present on the exterior of red blood cells. And that led me to talk briefly talk about the current restrictions on gay men like myself donating blood. It is my hope that in a small way, these peeks into the personalities of faculty members can make their classes more welcoming.

Xiaosong Li and his husband Joe in Cinque Terre, Italy

Xiaosong Li, Professor

My husband and I have been married for 10 years. Among the many things that hold us together, perhaps our shared love of travel and exploration is the most binding factor. Over the years, we have traveled the world, exploring diverse cultures from rural villages in tropical jungles to cosmopolitan urban centers. Through these journeys, we have the opportunity to learn more about the world around us and in turn more about who we are. Sometimes, the world comes to us. I have the greatest fortune of working in a world-class chemistry department that brings in people, who continuously inspire me, from all over the globe. I am proud to be a member of this big family that thrives to create a supportive environment for all.

I am incredibly grateful to be able to live and work in a place that allows me to be my authentic self.

Diana Knight and husband Mike in Anacortes, WA

Diana Knight, Advancement & Communications Manager

I am a cis woman married to a man, so I have the privilege of never needing to out myself unless I want to. There are two reasons why I don’t want to “hide in plain sight”: I benefit personally by living as my whole self, which includes my bisexuality, and although my experiences and situation may be different from theirs, I want our students and postdocs to know that I am here to support them.

After I came out as a teenager, I didn’t know what kind of support to ask for and I perceived any adult counseling as an attempt to “fix” something in me that I didn’t feel was broken. I experienced my share of derogatory language, intolerance, and bisexual erasure, both in the conservative suburb of my upbringing and then later when I was a college student in Chicago. However, as a Christian, I didn’t know how to find my place among gay culture (Queer had not yet been reclaimed).

My husband Mike and I met and were married in a Catholic church. It was a difficult decision for me as a bisexual person to have a Catholic wedding. If my fiancé happened to be a fiancée, then I would not be allowed to get married in the one place I spend the most time besides home and work. Ultimately, I decided to accept the love and support of my local Catholic community and get married there, with the determination not to end my discernment of my association with the Catholic church and the knowledge that I can’t rock the boat unless I’m in it.

As I’ve gotten older, I have become more comfortable with not fitting into the mold of Queer or Catholic or wife, Disney fan, bass player, or any other one of my identities. I don’t need to make sense of how my identities meld or intersect; I can be Diana. As with any demographic, those of us under the Queer umbrella are not a monolith. If I can be a positive presence in Bagley Hall for our LGBTQ+ students and postdocs, whether I listen to them, I provide a safe space for them to rest in, we share stories, or just that they know I’m here and have been through the “do I belong?” routine myself, I will be a proud contributor to the Department of Chemistry’s welcoming environment.

Queer on campus

Huskies can stay connected to “LGBTQ-mmunities” at the University of Washington such as oSTEM (right here in the Department of Chemistry!), the Q Center and their affiliates, and the Queer Faculty and Staff & Allies Affinity (QFSA) group.