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It's an unfortunate fact of life that gay people generally have it harder. But I was surprised to find that this was even true for the graduate school application process. Being an openly gay applicant presented its own unique set of challenges. My research proposal centers on gay/queer studies, and I found myself thinking things like "Will my professor, who I know is a proud member of the GOP, refuse to write my LOR when he finds out my proposed topic?" and "how detailed should I be about my proposal when my undergrad professors show in interest? Will they take me seriously? Will it change how they view me in their class?"

I, of course, have only applied to programs / professors that have a strong focus on queer / gay studies, so I'm not worried about being accepted at grad school, but I still wonder if the larger academic world is going to take my work seriously.

Have other queer applicants come across any similar trepidations or worries during / after the application process?

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hmm, there's another thread on this somewhere...

In any case, maybe it's my liberal arts education, but I find that professors are generally a bit keener than this.

As far as "the larger academic world"... Yes, there are some complainers, but women's/gender/sexuality/queer theory, methodology, and studies have been established as real disciplines and also as important areas of studies within many other disciplines (eg, geography, where I'm at). Certainly much work remains to be done...

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I wasn't really out in undergrad or my master's program, but profs from both didn't seem in the least deterred by my queer research proposal when I asked them to write LORs. I was slightly hesitant to use my queerness as my claim to diversity for the UC schools that require a diversity statement, but since that was my only real card to play (other than my age), I went with it. It would've been obvious from my SOP anyway. I guess I'll find out in the next few months if that was a good call or not.

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I mentioned it in my UC diversity statement too. It's pretty unrelated to my research, but I tried to play it as something that will help me be more understanding of future students, and so on. I'm not sure about it, but I thought the essay overall turned out well enough. Still, other than being female, that's the only "underrepresented group" I'm a member of. (And don't women students outnumber men in universities now, or is that only for undergrads?)

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Wow, I knew (openly) gay people were quite a rarity among the educated, but I didn't know I was this alone!

I don't think the silence here necessarily means that there are barely any openly gay folks here, and frankly, I would hazard a guess (of course based on my own highly anecdotal and individual experience) that openly gay people are not "quite a rarity among the educated." I am a bisexual woman and openly so, but as my sexuality has no bearing on my work, I have not had any experiences that are relevant to the question you asked, which was:

Have other queer applicants come across any similar trepidations or worries during / after the application process?

In fact, I don't think my sexuality came up once in any of my applications. Similarly, my only mentions of my minority race was checking boxes on the "ethnicity" sections of the generic demographic-related pages.

This is not to say that I think the world is gay-friendly (dear God, it isn't) or minority-friendly in general (ditto), and I most certainly have faced trepidation and worry about both things in other areas of my life. The application process, however, was not one of them.

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I mentioned it in my UC diversity statement too. It's pretty unrelated to my research, but I tried to play it as something that will help me be more understanding of future students, and so on. I'm not sure about it, but I thought the essay overall turned out well enough. Still, other than being female, that's the only "underrepresented group" I'm a member of. (And don't women students outnumber men in universities now, or is that only for undergrads?)

Off-topic, but wow, I totally thought you were a guy. (Then again, there are probably people here who think I am as well.) Don't you love the Internet? * laughs *

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Off-topic, but wow, I totally thought you were a guy. (Then again, there are probably people here who think I am as well.) Don't you love the Internet? * laughs *

Hah! I thought you were a guy too, actually, but thinking back, last year there was someone with a name similar to yours (Phonologist, perhaps?) who mentioned being bearded, and I think I must've carried that over to you as well, somehow. I think I often assign incorrect genders to people online without even noticing it. :(

[edit:] Also, I must ask, was it my manly, manly user picture that did it? :D

Edited by pangor-ban
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Hah! I thought you were a guy too, actually, but thinking back, last year there was someone with a name similar to yours (Phonologist, perhaps?) who mentioned being bearded, and I think I must've carried that over to you as well, somehow. I think I often assign incorrect genders to people online without even noticing it. :(

[edit:] Also, I must ask, was it my manly, manly user picture that did it? :D

* laughs * Yeah, Phonologist was a confirmed guy. Heh. I have no idea where my impression came from, though. (It may well have been the picture!)

Yeah, me too. But it's really fascinating getting to interact with people in a meaningful way without necessarily having any idea as to their genders. I'm not very girly (part geek, part tomboy, part anti-materialist) so I like it when unconventionality and gender mix.

Edited by psycholinguist
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But it's really fascinating getting to interact with people in a meaningful way without necessarily having any idea as to their genders.

It is! That was a huge part of the appeal when I first started using the internet, back in the day. I was pretty annoyed that the first thing people would ask in a chatroom (even one with a specified topic) was "a/s/l?", which totally destroyed that freedom from identity (except that it was easy to lie). I'm glad most of the internet has moved past that, or I've found better places to hang out online, or something.

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It is! That was a huge part of the appeal when I first started using the internet, back in the day. I was pretty annoyed that the first thing people would ask in a chatroom (even one with a specified topic) was "a/s/l?", which totally destroyed that freedom from identity (except that it was easy to lie). I'm glad most of the internet has moved past that, or I've found better places to hang out online, or something.

Oh, I know, eh? * laughs * I think a lot of that was just the novelty of talking to random strangers in real-time, and wanting to know who and where they were. Now that interacting with people from around the world is so commonplace online, people's basic statistics aren't inherently interesting.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I moved to Sweden because my girlfriend is Swedish, so I debated how to put that in my statements. Eventually I think I went with "my partner" from Sweden, because fiancée and girlfriend both seemed wrong. I really dislike 'partner' though-- it has such a middle-aged tone to it. In Swedish there's a very useful term that is gender-neutral and means 'partner you live with'. It's called sambo, short for sammanboende (roughly: samman = together, boende = home). It's convenient because you don't have to decide whether to out yourself or not. But there's no need to be in the closet around here, anyway.

... plus I'd have to propose in order for her to be my fiance... not to mention the complications/impossibility of being a gay, bi-national married couple in the US.

Edited by eikko
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For me, there was a relationship between being queer and the application process. I am a prospective M.Div. student, which explains most of that relationship. It impacted my decisions about where I applied and also was a constant conversation in my head as I wrote my statement of purpose. My first draft statement of purpose contained evidence of the internal debate, using a hodgepodge mix of terms ranging from "my partner" (a term I very rarely use in real life) to "my wife" (what I usually call the person with whom I had a marriage ceremony and the "other mother" of my children). My sister read through my statement and gently suggested that I'd want to use a consistent term throughout, something that I had simply not straightened out because I was still feeling mixed up about what term to use for the statement.

Then there was the school that I was at first most nervous about, as they are the most conservative of the four schools to which I am applying. At their open house, the admissions department actually underscored that they were looking for a diverse student body (and included in their diversity "list" sexual/affectional orientation), and explicitly stated that we each should make clear in our statement of purpose how we would contribute to that body. WELL! That through me for a loop and I went through an incredible debate about whether to make my statement more inclusive of that aspect of my experiences to date. In the end, I did not go down that route, and I am not sure whether that was a good or bad decision on my part. If someone reads my name before reading my statement, my diversity will be clear. If they don't, they are likely to assume I am a male.

Still, in the limited space of a statement of purpose, I had too much else to say.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Does anybody have experience asking schools about the LGBTQ community/culture? I didn't bring up the subject in my personal statement or anywhere in my application, and am unsure how to bring up the subject now. Unfortunately, profs. in my subfield tend to be quite conservative and I don't know who/how to ask....

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Graddamn,

How about asking current students via email? That way you don't have to face the intimidation factor of communicating with professors, and you don't have to "out" yourself to future professors/advisors if you don't wish to.

Asking current students about campus LGBT climate has been very helpful in my experience.

If you don't want to do this, you can always look into the websites of other schools at the university for LGBT-related groups. For example, if the university has a law school, go to its website and make sure it has a chapter club of OUTLAW (any good law school that claims to have an ounce of diversity will have one). You can do the same for a business school, med school, etc. even if you are attending the graduate school. That way you at least have an idea of the LGBT climate on the campus as a whole.

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Gay people are certainly not a rarity amongst grad students. It's just that they either prefer to keep that part of their life separate (very easy to do if you are in sciences and engineering like me) or keep it under wraps.

I have realized that as long as you do not have any problems acknowledging yourself, usually others do not too. My current adviser found I was, when I brought my boyfriend to his grad student home party. I introduced my boyfriend just as any other straight person would and no one batted an eyelid. My professor is always very cordial and makes sure to inquire about my boyfriend in social contexts.

I have actively taken part in my university's GLBT center, but I found the atmosphere to be very focused towards the undergraduates and confused freshmen. It gets tiring after a while.

It is very rare for universities to have some focus groups specifically for graduate gay students. However, there are other resources always. I have always found that if you need to socialize in a mature, non-party context, then volunteering at your local PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is always excellent.

Joining gay literary clubs is another way to socialize and mingle around -- the most important thing I can say to someone who is single, gay, and a graduate student is to go out and seek such resources. It is important to be amongst other gay educated people and make friends (just friends... really!).

Or if you're the leader kind, make your own group. :-)

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You're right, gay people are not a rarity among graduate students - that's because gay people are not a rarity ANYWHERE. The issue is, of course, finding other grad students who are OPENLY gay. And as you noted, many grad students prefer to keep their (homo)sexuality "under wraps."

Through the application process I have discovered that gay grad students probably have to search a bit harder to find similarly-minded students, but most universities have great resources for GLBT students. The town/city in which the university is located oftentimes also offers great resources for gay students.

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Yeah thanks for the tip. I've definitely been thinking about talking to grad students, but didn't want to come off as a creeper. Being out is definitely the issue at least in my concentration/research interests. Most of my work has focused on Africa, and so being gay is something that I feel like needs to be kept quiet, esp. since I want to go abroad. It's not a question so much of my advisers but of my research area... Hmm, I may be worrying a bit much. Thanks all!

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The only time I brought up being a lesbian was in a diversity statement. Aside from that, it didn't really make sense to put it in my SOP.

As for LGBT life, I got lucky. For my on-campus visit, I was fortuitously paired with a lesbian who told me lots of useful information. :) Grad students are really much more suited to answer these types of questions. If a grad student isn't available to you, you can also just google "LGBT life (enter city name)" and find things that way.

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I moved to Sweden because my girlfriend is Swedish, so I debated how to put that in my statements. Eventually I think I went with "my partner" from Sweden, because fiancée and girlfriend both seemed wrong. I really dislike 'partner' though-- it has such a middle-aged tone to it. In Swedish there's a very useful term that is gender-neutral and means 'partner you live with'. It's called sambo, short for sammanboende (roughly: samman = together, boende = home). It's convenient because you don't have to decide whether to out yourself or not. But there's no need to be in the closet around here, anyway.

... plus I'd have to propose in order for her to be my fiance... not to mention the complications/impossibility of being a gay, bi-national married couple in the US.

Just a little heads-up before you go slinging that phrase around...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambo_%28racial_term%29

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  • 2 months later...

I think you just have to know your own limitations, be they political or academic, and what you are willing to sacrifice and what you cannot. I've been openly gay for about 17-18 years, but moreso on a political level. I've been an activist for a long time, and understand that many opportunities passed me by in the past because of it. But, the reality is, the people who I saw getting into those opportunities who were gay either (a) got out quick, (B) quit or © changed them to be more inclusive. So, it's a matter of a crap shoot really. I think the best thing is to know wh you are, know who you can trust, and always ALWAYS know what's going on around you, and never put yourself in personal danger.

I think you have to be more descriptive of what you mean as open. I mean, I'm open about being gay if asked. Some people say that they know I'm gay when I walk in the room. But, I'm not flamboyant or expressive or stereotypical. I'm just gay. I'm quite boring really, and have absolutely no sex life--haven't for years and years. So, I'd not be in some periodical or tabloid article. Most of the time, I'm either going to work or in class or studying, and this is after 4 years of undergrad, 3 years of law school, 10 years of a city college turning my life around and getting back on the track I wanted to be, and what I hopefully can contemplate a 3.5 year program that I will love.

Remember, grad school is where you have to go to, to get to where you want to go. It is a means to an ends. It is not the be-all and end-all. You can always get a job afterwards in a more appreciative city or country. But, grad school does open up opportunities for you to get better jobs. It also gives you an opportunity to give OTHER opportunities to other racial, ethnic, religious minorities, women and those who are gay who would never get the opportunity. It also gives you an opportunity to give opportunities to "highly gay supportive" straight men who will further open up opportunities for those who are discriminated against in our society.

The means is grad school, the ends is freedom and equality for everyone.

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