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A lack of LGBTQIA+ representation in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) has prompted the establishment of queer-centered resources, such as 500 Queer Scientists and the International Society of Nonbinary Scientists. Despite what may seem like blossoming LGBTQIA+ visibility, there are a wide array of disparities that affect queer scientists at all career stages. LGBTQIA+ students who enter STEM majors in college are 11% more likely than their cisgendered and heterosexual counterparts to change majors. Similarly, self-reported LGBTQIA+ early career professionals are at increased risk of leaving STEM fields once they join. Some of the key issues affecting openly LGBTQIA+ individuals in STEM include a lack of opportunities for career advancement, insufficient career, and personal resources, increased social and professional exclusion, increased harassment, and increased physical and mental health concerns due to wwork-relatedconflicts and stress. A key factor in understanding and addressing the extent of these disparities lies in the collection of critical demographic data. Currently, demographic information within STEM is gathered by national organizations and major funding institutions however no sexual orientation or gender-specific questions are included in funding applications. Thus, data on LGBTQIA+ people in STEM is almost non-existent, and what data does exist is collected on an institutional or private level, leaving major gaps in our understanding of the retention and support of queer scientists.
This lack of data collection is due in part to the exclusion of LGBTQIA+ people from minority-specific funding and educational opportunities supported by major organizations like the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. By not recognizing LGBTQIA+ people as a minority community, we risk losing unique perspectives that have historically contributed to the progress of science and plant pathology. This lack of recognition of LGBTQIA+ people also ignores queer intersectionality, the intersection of queer identities with multiple marginalized identities, and the often-overlooked intersectional discrimination these individuals face. Therefore, our session will center the voices of the diverse LGBTQIA+ community in STEM. This special session panel discussion will explore topics such as LGBTQIA+ experiences in plant pathology, community disparities, how demographic data will help APS and other national organizations support LGBTQIA+ scientists at different stages of their careers, contributions of APS LGBTQIA+ members, and what the future of APS looks like through a queer-inclusive lens.