You belong here because you are here.
Recently, a tech company had a female employee depicted in one of the advertisements for their company. There was sexist backlash, folks suggesting that the woman in the ad must have been an actress or part of some kind of ploy, because she didn’t look like an engineer.
What does an engineer look like then, if not like all of the people who are engineers?
Rightfully, there has been a fantastic twitter response, with lots of women who are engineers posting photos of themselves with the hashtag #ilooklikeanengineer.
They are not engineers because they look like engineers.
They look like engineers because they are engineers.
Still, for those of us who are less represented in a field or community, it can be easy to internalize that idea – that we are alone and therefore don’t belong.
I have spent a lot of time feeling out of place and somehow wrong as a queer and trans person in science. I look around and feel surrounded by straight cis people in a world that suggests that I should be straight and cis, and I feel like I don’t belong. I don’t fit the profile, and what am I even doing here?
But that calculation is backwards. If the people who make up an environment are the ones who define that environment, and I am one of the people here, then I am part of the definition of that environment, no matter what anyone else says.
I have a science background. I spend most of my days reading and doing science. I am a scientist. I am queer and trans, and I am what a scientist looks like. It doesn’t matter if I don’t fit the profile, or if other people think I shouldn’t exist. I do exist, and I am here.
This mindset has made a huge difference for me. Instead of feeling like I don’t really belong anywhere in this world that tells me I shouldn’t, I can take a deep breath in and remember that no one can tell me I don’t belong, because I am here.
No one can tell you that you don’t belong, either, because you are also here. Or there, wherever you are. You are part of the very definition of the communities you participate in, no matter how different or ‘other’ you feel.