As a queer science writer working in environmental science and conservation, I both recognize and resonate with the profound ideas and inner strength the LGBTQ+ community brings to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Awareness and LGBTQ+ pride in our society has introduced a sense of confidence and joy to the lives of many LGBTQ+ scientists around the world.
I am often hopeful when I see how far we’ve come with inclusivity and human dignity over the last decade. For a long time, and even still today, many LGBTQ+ professionals have worried about coming out in their workplaces. They worry that their ideas will be discounted or their achievements ignored if they find the courage to share who they are with coworkers, peers, and the public.
But as a society, we still a long way to go to fully support and embrace the LGBTQ+ community, including BIPOC, in STEM workplaces and in the general arena of science. Thankfully, as a science writer trained in public communication, I believe sharing knowledge and promoting understanding is the first step in the pursuit of awareness, compassion, and unity. And what better day to share the stories of some incredible LGBTQ+ environmentalists than LGBTQ STEM Day?
Today, I am proud of the amazing LGBTQ+ professionals who have positively impacted environmental science, conservation, restoration, and policy across the globe. Let’s pause for a moment to celebrate and embrace a few of these amazing environmentalists who work so hard to achieve justice for our planet!
California resident Rikki Weber works as Legal Practice Manager and Litigation Assistant II at EarthJustice, a nonprofit that use “the power of law” to protect people and wildlife and fight climate change. As a queer woman of color, Weber has long been involved in racial justice and the LGBTQ+ community. She started an LGBTQ+ group at EarthJustice to provide a welcoming space for herself and her coworkers, a place where LGBTQ+ environmentalists can be recognized. Weber has also been on a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion team at EarthJustice, where she’s advocated for employee engagement.
Lindi von Mutius
Another California resident, Lindi von Mutius is a board member at OUT for Sustainability, a nonprofit that is “dedicated to our social and physical environment, making a difference by its very existence to bridge queer identity and sustainability values.” She says in her bio on the OUT for Sustainability website: “I believe it’s important to bring diversity of all kinds to the environmental movement. I fell in love with OUT4S’s mission to make the planet more fabulous, highlighting intersectionality.” Von Mutius also holds a role as Chief of Staff at the Sierra Club. Her article, The Look We Give, shares a candid experience of what it’s like being a Black, bisexual, outdoorsy environmentalist, and I highly recommend reading it.
Marcario is well known for the twelve years she spent at Patagonia Clothing Co. as their President and CEO. As an LGBTQ+ environmental advocate, Marcario had her hands in many areas of conservation work, including advocating for better policies, fighting climate change, and increasing voter turnout. Patagonia writes that she also “oversaw the company’s strategy to protect millions of acres of land including Bears Ears National Monument (Utah), Jumbo Valley (British Columbia) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (Alaska).” In 2015, Marcario was featured in Fortune for her radical activism, and in 2020, she ranked #1 on Fast Company’s Queer 50 List for her successes in expanding Patagonia’s “social and environmental commitments.”
As I continue my foray into the realm of environmental conservation, I admire these LGBTQ+ professionals for their courage, their ideas, and their passion for the work they do. And with that, I’ll leave you to celebrate LGBTQ STEM Day with a couple of resources!
The first is a great article by Nature that discusses how LGBTQ+ scientists would like to be included and welcomed in STEM workplaces. While we’ve made great progress with inclusivity over the last decade, there is always more work and more awareness that’s needed, understanding that inclusivity is an action, not just a noun.
The second is a short article from Greenpeace that shares the personal stories of two queer environmental activists and how they see STEM and the LGBTQ+ community intersecting across multiple movements (human rights, environmental justice, etc.). Similar stories of LGBTQ+ professionals in STEM careers can be found in this article at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Happy LGBTQ+ STEM Day to all LGBTQ+ professionals. Thank you for the innovative work you do to advance technology, fight climate change, and create better environmental policies for our future!