Pride Month And Math

The Philadelphia Pride flag. From top to bottom, its stripes are black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.

The Philadelphia Pride flag design, which includes black and brown stripes to signify queer people of color. Credit: Philadelphia City Council and Tierney (public domain image via Wikimedia CC).

June is Pride Month. June 28, 2019 is also the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots/uprising that marked the beginning of a new era in the fight for rights and freedoms for LGBTQ+ folks in America and around the world.

With the 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality, it might seem to some as if the fight for equal rights for LGBTQ+ individuals in America is finished. Yet there’s still much work to be done.

For instance, on May 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, but the U.S. Senate hasn’t yet ruled on the act, which would protect LGBTQ folks from discrimination in housing, the workplace, public accommodations and more, Vox reported. Specifically for schools receiving federal funding (including all public schools and many private ones, it “codifies protections that the Department of Education has already put in place through case law and guidance, including the right to form Gay-Straight Alliances/Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) and protection from discrimination on the basis of sex stereotyping. The Equality Act prohibits discrimination against any LGBTQ youth…including bullying and harassment by other youth or by teachers and staff,” according to a fact sheet from the Human Rights Campaign.

Whether or not this legislation passes, there are ways to make school in general and math class specifically more inclusive of LGBTQ+ students. The GLSEN blog offers these resources:

“How Do We Make Math Class More Inclusive of Trans and Non-binary Identities?” by Kyle S. Whipple

“Mathematics teachers have a unique role to play in the lives of their students, because understanding algebraic concepts and statistics has become a central focus for creating productive adults, and researchers have determined that LGB high school students are less likely to complete Algebra II than their non-LGB classmates,” wrote Whipple, who offers practical examples of ways to create engaging and inclusive mathematics and statistics lessons.

“Why (and How) STEM Curriculum Needs to Be LGBT Inclusive” by Mary Hoelscher

“An LGBT-inclusive STEM curriculum is also one that acknowledges the lives of LGBT individuals in the field. For instance, Sally Ride was a physicist and astronaut. She was also a lesbian. Let’s talk about the whole lives of LGBT professionals in STEM so that anyone with the skills to go to space wants to get off the launch pad and go to that inclusive party in the sky,” Hoelscher wrote.

One place to find profiles of living LGBTQ+ STEM professionals? The 500 Queer Scientists website, which includes more than 500 profiles.

GLSEN’s website also has an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum guide for educators.

This month, Anthony Bonato posted “On being a gay mathematician redux,” a follow-up to one of his 2017 pieces. This year, Bonato wrote:

“Pride flags and celebrating Pride Month in your offices are lovely, but we need more than a once a year gesture. The voices of LGTBQ+ folks matter, but we make up a relatively small slice of the population. We can’t achieve equality on our own.

We need straight and cis mathematician colleagues to speak out on our behalf. Your voices together with ours could make real change. We need you to stand up for LGTBQ+ mathematicians at work and beyond.

I don’t have all the answers or even a tangible list of recommendations. But to effect real change, we need those in power to be accountable.”

He ended his piece with this question: ” What can you do, today, to support your LGTBQ+ colleagues and co-workers?”

Juliettte Bruce offered interesting insights on creating a mathematical community that cherishes and supports people from all backgrounds and identities in “See, Accept, Affirm,” a 2016 piece for the AMS’s inclusion/exclusion blog about writing a community statement of commitment to inclusivity.

“Creating a inclusive, supportive, and safe community takes dedicated, deliberate, and thoughtful action; writing a statement of commitment is just a first step,” Bruce wrote.

Earlier this year, I was also excited to learn about LG&TBQ, a conference taking place this week with the goal of fostering “ongoing community and collaboration among LGBTQ+ mathematicians working in geometry, topology and dynamical systems.” If you’re attending the conference, I would love to hear about your experience! As always, you can reach me in the comments or on Twitter (@writesRCrowell)!

I’ll end with this quote from Bruce’s piece: “I see you, I accept you, and I affirm you.”

This entry was posted in Current Events, Events, Math Education, people in math and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.