By Louis Chase
One of Reed’s newest student organizations, the Queer and Trans STEM Collective (qtSTEM), held its inaugural meeting on Friday, September 22. Club founder Alister Orozco ‘25, a biology major and sociology minor, started the qtSTEM collective as an initiative of the Biology Department’s Belongingness Intern Recognizing Diversity (BIRD) fellowship. The Biology Department website describes the BIRD fellowship as, “an opportunity for Reed students within the Biology Department to engage in a paid summer fellowship centered around student belongingness,” although with the inauguration of the qtSTEM Collective, BIRD projects may now extend to the academic year as well.
As Orozco explained in remarks at the beginning of the meeting, part of their motivation for starting qtSTEM was doing academic research away from Reed and realizing that the mainstream STEM community is still predominantly cisheteronormative and not accommodating of queer and trans people. The qtSTEM Collective aims to serve as a networking and community-building space for queer and trans STEM students at Reed and thus draws members from all of Reed’s STEM departments, not just biology. Attendees at the first meeting were asked to introduce themselves and came from STEM majors including but not limited to biology, computer science, chemistry, physics, math/stats, and neuroscience; a handful of non-STEM majors were also present. A large portion of the attendees were first-year students, but all class years were represented.
Following introductions, the meeting moved to a series of reflection and community-building exercises. Attendees were given coloring sheets and encouraged to sketch something they do to relax, a source of joy or calm, a favorite science item, and anything of interest outside of their intended careers. The circle then opened up to a discussion of community norms for future meetings, before the meeting dissolved and attendees left with their coloring sheets and complimentary snacks.
The qtSTEM Collective hopes to eventually start an Out in STEM (oSTEM) chapter at Reed and is currently recruiting volunteers who would be interested in eventually becoming oSTEM officers. oSTEM is a national organization of queer STEM students and professionals. An immediate-term priority for qtSTEM is getting Reedies to the oSTEM conference in Anaheim, California, from November 9 -12. The oSTEM conference brings together more than a thousand queer STEM students and professionals, and according to an interest form “is designed for attendees to share their professional and personal experiences and learn from one another in an authentic and vulnerable way,” as well as providing networking and professional development opportunities. Two separate Google Forms are available for qtSTEM members interested in qtSTEM/oSTEM leadership positions and in attending the oSTEM conference.
Anyone interested in qtSTEM can review the club’s contact information on its page on the Office for Student Engagement website. After joining, members communicate via Slack and a Google Group.