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Is this personal statement too personal?

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If I'm applying for gender studies to a department that has a focus on queer lit, is it too personal to mention somewhere in the SOP that I identify as queer? It's kind of showing my interest and why it's related to a strength of the department, not just one of those "hey look at my minority status! accept me!"

I want to be very positive and think that no one would discriminate against me based on that but I'm sure that it can and does happen, especially with some older faculty. Opinions?

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I think it poses more downside problems than upside.

Funny though 1Q84, this is one of the few posts of yours I have read - the other being about school choice and relocating where you mentioned locating close to your "partner". This seemed to signal your possible sexual preference to me when I read it. So it's funny how even without explicit statements, ad comms may infer your status from other clues in how we write. (Perhaps wrongly).

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It seems like people in heterosexual relationships will commonly refer to their partners by gender (e.g. boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife), while people in same-sex relationships will tend more neutral terms like "partner". So while it's not logically true to infer "partner" = "same-sex partner", I think people will now think if you are not revealing the other person's gender, then you are potentially in a same sex relationship.

However, this is not always the case -- I know sometimes it feels weird to say "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", especially if it's a long term relationship (or if you are like in your 30s). Also, to me, those words don't always have the connotation of a committed long term relationship. I also know that many people in heterosexual relationships (including me sometimes) will use terms like "partner" just to reduce the connotation of same sex relationship with that word.

Although it's interesting to note that some gender-neutral terms, such as "spouse" or "significant other" do not have same-sex partnership connotations. I find it a bit strange that words such as "partner", which also seems to imply a lesser degree of commitment than "spouse", are the ones that are connected to same-sex relationships.

As for your actual question, I think this is definitely a case where you need to determine what the department is looking for in terms of "fit". So this might be something you vary for each school as you find out how the department feel towards people who identify as queer. I'm not sure what's a good way to do this though -- maybe you can make up a fake persona and fake email address and just randomly email a bunch of grad students asking what they think. I guess the danger here is that if they respond in a way that makes you feel comfortable about mentioning it in your SOP, and you are the only applicant who identifies as queer, then it will be obvious that you were the random emailer.

In an ideal world, this would be like a person with Chinese ancestry applying to programs that study Chinese History or something. Ideally, Chinese History scholars should be people from all backgrounds, including but not limited to people with Chinese ancestry. So, ideally, no one would discriminate against you for identifying as queer, but similarly, you would not gain any advantages than someone who doesn't identify as queer either. So I personally would not mention it unless I was sure there was an advantage.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I am applying for programs for the fall too, so my advice doesn't really come from experience with admissions, but I know that my application will make it pretty obvious that I am queer. If you are interested applying to a gender studies department with a focus on queer lit, I am going to guess that your identity as a queer person would be less of an issue than some other programs might be. And I think there are ways to explain how your experiences and your identity really do influence your decision to apply to those programs specifically, without seeming like you are asking them to accept you because you are queer, or you're just really aching to tell them you are queer (for a number of other reasons).

I'm applying to social work programs/maybe a few sociology programs so it is probably quite different, but as I start writing my SOP, I'm trying to ask myself: why am I telling them this about myself? Is it really because it makes me a more competitive candidate or truly explains how I got to this place of realizing that social work and THEIR program is right for me? If not, then maybe you should consider taking that out or rewording it.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm wrestling with this type of issue myself. I'm applying to do research on multiracial populations and I found myself writing my SOP and explaining how being multiracial has lead me to this line of research. I'm wondering if it's too personal and the ad comms will find that my personal experiences are irrelevant and that I should list more empirical facts like research skills. While I think I mention my academic strengths as an applicant, I can't help but find myself back to why I want to study this and why I'm a good fit, there seems no right way to say it without making it somewhat personal.

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