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Spectra on the Recent Efforts Supporting LGBTQ+ Mathematicians

The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of the Notices or the AMS.

Introduction

The goal of this article is twofold: (1) to motivate and recap the current efforts by the LGBTQ+ mathematics community, and (2) to offer ideas for how you can help support LGBTQ+ mathematicians.

June is Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQ+ people. We have seen incredible progress in the last couple of decades, with significant wins like same-sex marriage and the resulting family support and an increase in acceptance and legal protection for all LGBTQ+ people. This increasingly supportive atmosphere is reflected in the percentage of Americans who identify as LGBT, with a 2021 Gallup poll showing that 7% of all Americans so identify and 20% of Gen Z Americans 5. This means that our classrooms, our conferences, and our community will see more and more LGBTQ+ people.

It is important to remember that Pride first arose as a celebration of the anniversary of the Stonewall riot. This was not the first such uprising: LGBTQ+ people have consistently fought back against oppressive laws and systems. The recent spate of anti-LGBTQ+ laws passed shows that the work for equality continues. This past year was especially challenging, with over 75 anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed, prompting the Human Rights Campaign to issue a “State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans” 7.

These laws directly impact our community. Florida’s recent bills led to pointed discussions about safety and conferences, spurred in part by MAA’s MathFest being held in Tampa, FL. Conversations about this took place in articles in MAA Focus 8 and in discussion with AMS leadership. The issue is a difficult one. On one hand, mathematicians are asked to possibly risk their safety for professional opportunities, and this calculus disproportionately impacts early-career mathematicians since attending these conferences is especially important for building their networks. Furthermore, early-career mathematicians don’t have the job security to take certain professional risks. On the other hand, there are mathematicans (including queer and trans ones) all over the US, and our national organizations should meet and support them where they work. The AMS has formed the Holding Meetings in Localities with Discriminatory Practices or Laws Subcommittee, chaired by Raphael Rouquier at UCLA, to work on this exact issue.

Creating welcoming environments where all mathematicians can be themselves is impossible without ally support. We encourage you to do whatever you can to help. This help can be as simple as joining the Spectra mailing list and forwarding along information to your department or as reaching out to a campus LGBTQ+ resource center to learn more about allyship. It can also look like joining the Allylist or Outlist on Spectra’s website 9 or volunteering to help run some of the amazing ongoing events and efforts.

Recent Activities by Spectra

This year’s Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM24) in San Francisco saw the largest number of Spectra-sponsored events. The first Spectra event at JMM24 was the Lavender Lecture; the invited speaker was Professor Julie Blackwood (Williams College). They were recognized with Spectra’s first-ever award at a JMM awards ceremony. Spectra also hosted a workshop on building inclusive undergraduate curricula, as well as two special sessions highlighting research by LGBTQ+ mathematicians. Finally, there were on- and off-site receptions, with the on-site reception receiving one of its highest ever attendances. These receptions have been a tradition since the 1995 JMM and have come to be one of Spectra’s most anticipated annual events. For the first time, this year’s reception was partially sponsored by a major publishing house, Elsevier.

In addition to its growing presence at the JMM, Spectra hit a major milestone this past year: the creation of Spectra student chapters. Any group of students can now apply to start a Spectra student chapter at their institution, whether within the United States or overseas. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and as of January there were seven chapters, with many more on the way! As the number of Spectra students chapters increases, we strive to strengthen community at the student level. This includes the possibility of Spectra student chapter events at the JMM and similar conferences, and inter-chapter collaborations and sharing of ideas.

The last major Spectra activity that we want to highlight is the recurring Spectra Conference, set to be in-person in 2025. We typically run this conference every other year, and its attendance is rapidly increasing, with roughly 150 attendees in 2023. We hope to see many LGBTQ+ mathematicians in attendance! Previous and ongoing works and activities by Spectra and the LGBTQ+ mathematics community at large are discussed in 12346.

Upcoming Events and Getting Involved

One question we are frequently asked is “How can I get involved with Spectra and the LGBTQ+ mathematics community?” We suggest three ways to get involved: stay up-to-date with and attend meetings with an LGBTQ+ presence, start a Spectra student chapter, and volunteer for Spectra committees.

Conferences and meetings

The easiest way to get involved with the community is by attending and organizing conferences to get to know other LGBTQ+ mathematicians. Even if you are not necessarily organizing an event, these connections can lead to fantastic volunteering opportunities. Meet the people organizing these events, inquire about how to get involved at the next event, and ask other mathematicians how they got involved. Go to these conferences with the goal of meeting and befriending other LGBTQ+ mathematicians; opportunities will follow naturally. Here are a few upcoming LGBTQ+ mathematics conferences and workshops that offer an example of what people are doing.

Queer and Trans in Mathematical Analysis (QuMA) Conference, hosted in a hybrid format, June 12–14, 2024.

, hosted by The Fields Institute, June 18–21, 2024.

Queer in Computational and Applied Mathematics (QCAM) Workshop, hosted by ICERM, June 24–28, 2024.

LGBTQ+ in Math Alliance Conference, hosted by the Spectra student chapter at The Ohio State University, July 6–7, 2024.

As you can see, conferences and workshops are being organized at the student, societal, and institutional levels. Although we are experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of LGBTQ+ mathematics conferences, the community should not stop here! We encourage everyone to stay up-to-date with scheduled LGBTQ+ mathematics conferences and workshops. Previously held conferences that might reoccur are discussed in 6; Spectra always has a presence at the JMM. You can also join the Spectra mailing list or become a Spectra member to receive our newsletter on upcoming events.

Starting a Spectra student chapter

By starting a student chapter, you are building a local safe space and community for LGBTQ+ mathematicians. Your chapter can host social events, educate people on supporting LGBTQ+ people, and hopefully connect with other Spectra student chapters. To apply, please follow the instruction on Spectra’s website under the “Join” tab.

Spectra committees

As part of Spectra’s efforts to expand and formalize its support of the LGBTQ+ mathematics community, it has formed volunteer subcommittees. These are led by a committee chair on the Spectra board of directors and are formed as needed, e.g., for a particular event or activity. Anyone can sign up on Spectra’s website to volunteer for these committees. In order to provide more opportunities for volunteers, we are continuously configuring committees for our ongoing and future goals. As Spectra continues to increase its membership and activity, we anticipate several committees forming in the coming months.

Conclusion

At the 2015 JMM, Spectra organized its first official event, a panel discussion for LGBTQ+ mathematicians. At the 2024 JMM, Spectra was an official partner and presented an award at the joint prize session. Student chapters are forming across the country, and Spectra has been working hard to support LGBTQ+ mathematicians worldwide.

Mathematicians join Spectra in search of a safe and welcoming community where they can bring their whole selves to their mathematical lives. However, many more mathematicians, in the US and around the world, do not share this experience. Much more work is still needed. We hope that members of our large mathematics community, including professional mathematicians in academia and industry, math educators, and students, will join us in working to build a community even more welcoming for all of its members.

References

[1]
Anthony Bonato, Juliette Bruce, and Ron Buckmire, Spaces for all: the rise of LGBTQ+ mathematics conferences, Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 68 (2021), no. 6, 998–1003, DOI 10.1090/noti. MR4270414,
Show rawAMSref \bib{SpecNotices21}{article}{ author={Bonato, Anthony}, author={Bruce, Juliette}, author={Buckmire, Ron}, title={Spaces for all: the rise of LGBTQ+ mathematics conferences}, journal={Notices Amer. Math. Soc.}, volume={68}, date={2021}, number={6}, pages={998--1003}, issn={0002-9920}, review={\MR {4270414}}, doi={10.1090/noti}, }
[2]
Robert Bryant, Ron Buckmire, Lily Khadjavi, and Douglas Lind, The origins of spectra, an organization for LGBT mathematicians, Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 66 (2019), no. 6, 875–882. MR3929579,
Show rawAMSref \bib{SpecH}{article}{ author={Bryant, Robert}, author={Buckmire, Ron}, author={Khadjavi, Lily}, author={Lind, Douglas}, title={The origins of spectra, an organization for LGBT mathematicians}, journal={Notices Amer. Math. Soc.}, volume={66}, date={2019}, number={6}, pages={875--882}, issn={0002-9920}, review={\MR {3929579}}, }
[3]
Ron Buckmire, Amanda Folsom, Christopher Goff, Alexander Hoover, Joseph Nakao, and Keri Ann Sather-Wagstaff, On best practices for the recruitment, retention, and flourishing of LGBTQ+ mathematicians, Notices Amer. Math. Soc. 70 (2023), no. 6, 979–985.,
Show rawAMSref \bib{SpecNotices23}{article}{ author={Buckmire, Ron}, author={Folsom, Amanda}, author={Goff, Christopher}, author={Hoover, Alexander}, author={Nakao, Joseph}, author={Sather-Wagstaff, Keri Ann}, title={On best practices for the recruitment, retention, and flourishing of LGBTQ+ mathematicians}, journal={Notices Amer. Math. Soc.}, volume={70}, number={6}, date={2023}, pages={979--985}, url={https://www.ams.org/journals/notices/202306/rnoti-p979.pdf}, }
[4]
Alexander Hoover and Alexander Wiedemann, A Word From…, Notices of the American Mathematical Society v.67, no.6, June/July 2020, 762–764. Available at https://www.ams.org/journals/notices/202006/rnoti-p762.pdf.
[5]
Jeffrey M. Jones, LGBT Identification in US Ticks Up to 7.1%, https://news.gallup.com/poll/389792/lgbt-identification-ticks-up.aspx.
[6]
Joseph Nakao, Recent Activities and Progress by Spectra and the LGBTQ+ Mathematics Community, MAA FOCUS v.43, no.6, December/January 2023/2024, 10–13. Available at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/publication/?m=7656&i=809747&p=10&ver=html5.
[7]
“National State of Emergency for LGBTQ+ Americans - Human Rights Campaign.” https://www.hrc.org/campaigns/national-state-of-emergency-for-lgbtq-americans
[8]
Keri Ann Sather-Wagstaff, Alicia Prieto-Langarica, Spencer Bagley, and Hortensia Soto, MAA MathFest in Tampa: a Discussion, MAA Focus, June/July 2023. Available at http://digitaleditions.walsworthprintgroup.com/publication/?m=7656&i=793202&view=articleBrowser&article_id=4588328&ver=html5
[9]
Spectra website, http://lgbtmath.org/.

David Crombecque

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Michael A. Hill

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Joseph Nakao

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Credits

Photo of David Crombecque is courtesy of David Crombecque.

Photo of Michael A. Hill is courtesy of Idriss Njike.

Photo of Joseph Nakao is courtesy of Richard Egan.