The Gayest Place on Earth

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In the middle of a starry galaxy, the globe of Earth is suspended, and features a trans-inclusive pride flag stuck into the oceans.
Seeing features of ourselves in other parts of nature can help us connect to larger issues. All_CC0_Public_domain via Pixabay and Mohamed_hassan via Pixabay, manipulated by lee lim

Mckenzie Margarethe seminar hosted by 2SLGBTQIA+ in STEM leading to a 2024 conference

On November 17, the local 2SLGBTQIA+ in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) group at the University of Regina (U of R) hosted a public seminar by climate activist and social media celebrity, Mckenzie Margarethe. The event recognized the annual International Day of 2SLGBTQIA+ People in STEM on November 18, a day to celebrate the contributions of queer and trans people to STEM fields and highlight the barriers they continue to face.  

 Margarethe, a marine science communicator with a background in ocean conservation and a queer person in STEM, works to increase minority representation, particularly in climate activism. She incorporated her experiences from all these areas in her seminar titled “The Gayest Place on Earth – And Why We Need to Protect It!” with a focus on why the ocean is queer and why it needs protection.  

The Carillon chatted with folks in STEM at the U of R about why they were motivated to add this event to their busy calendars, what stood out as important, and how they were inspired. Dana Green (she/her) is a Biology and Ecology PhD Candidate, Erin Ennis (she/her) is a U of R alumna and full-time Biology Technician for the Faculty of Science, and Alicia Postuma (she/they) is a Physics PhD Candidate. 

Why were you personally motivated to attend? 

Green: I am in the biology department and the timeslot was for the biology departmental seminar, so I go to those, but even if that had not been a fact, this would have drawn me in because I already follow Mckenzie on different social media platforms. So, it was kind of an opportunity to fan girl a little bit! 

And I am a member of the LGBTQ+ community, so having this type of speaker, this type of talk, and the way that it was framed, especially being on the LGBTQ+ in STEM Day, it was an opportunity to have that level of visibility as a person of the community.  

Ennis: I actually have followed Mckenzie for a few years. I really enjoy her content online and the marine science, and then I saw that she was coming to speak during one of our seminars. […] I was very excited to see Mckenzie from that aspect, from enjoying the content that she produces online, and I was always going to go! 

Postuma: First and foremost, I am a member of the 2SLGBTQ community in physics. That community is quite underrepresented in the field that I am in and so I do enjoy getting to network with other people in the community and getting to see that representation in STEM.  

What aspects of the event stood out to you as important? 

Green: She [Margarethe] wanted it to be fun, she wanted it to be welcoming, and she wanted it to be inclusive for everyone that was in the room, […] so it started off with talking about how ocean systems and different ecosystems within the oceans and saltwater ecosystems, why they’re the gayest place on earth; and arguably, yeah! 

A lot of the examples that she gave were ones that I like to talk about in the classroom too, such as the clown fish. [It] is one of my favorite ones, because clown fish, the mating systems for clown fish is that they have one very large female and many males, and the female will lay the eggs and some of the males will fertilize, but when the female dies, a male, the largest male of the group transitions into a female, and becomes full female. […] So, I always throw in Finding Nemo for that one as technically speaking, Marlin would have become Marla! 

Ennis: So, she started with seeing ourselves, making those little fun connections to the ocean, and then also about queerness in science, just in general, and […] how toxic it can be, even though a lot of progress has been made sometimes there is this sort of veneer of acceptance and understanding, but when it really comes down to brass tacks people are still coming up against a lot of discrimination, lots of silencing, lots of gaslighting, and tokenism as well. She really made these connections from the beginning through her personal experience and then why we should care about the ocean in general. 

I would say, personally, after thinking about her presentation, that she was trying to get people to think about this large web. There’s the ocean, there’s all these people who live in coastal communities, they all have their different experiences and identities, and they are experiencing marginalization in different ways, and it really does add up.  

Postuma: The highlights for me were actually the several meet and greets. […] I do think that’s why we have networks and groups on campus because those discussions are very valuable. For me, I think the main thing that I took away was just the feeling of being surrounded by people who kind of get it. 

How did the event inspire you, and/or is there anything that you think is important to mention? 

Green: It does cause internal reflection, wow! All of these organisms, from fishes to mammals, that have as complex of social systems and relationships arguably that humans do – because there are a lot of marine mammals that have incredibly complex social structures, social interactions, communications. [… I’m] getting too much into the physiology, but the marine mammals’ brains are equally complex as our own.  

So, this whole spread of organisms has this literal rainbow of behaviours [and], if that’s what’s happening across the board and not just in our oceans, but in terrestrial systems too, then why do we have this mentality of what is normal for humans? Wouldn’t it be great if we just let everyone be themselves, and not push these mentalities onto folks? 

Ennis: Something that I was thinking about is how moving forward, […] the visibility, the representation, having those conferences being planned. […] I went to university in my early twenties and came back in my later twenties and I feel like there is such a difference in visibility of different voices and that we have these sorts of conferences, that we are getting speakers flown in to talk about this.  

You never know what the impact will be like for students, and some of that work is not visible, or not as visible. So, even people in different faculties, whether they’re professors or administration, just putting a sign on their door saying that this is a safe space – that can be incredibly welcoming for someone. 

Postuma: I appreciated looking around the room at the seminar and seeing just how many people were there, and how many people looked engaged and were respectful, and all of the Deans were there and were taking notes, the Deans of Science at least. […] I really came out of it feeling a little bit more connected and understood. 

This coming May, the University of Regina is going to be hosting a Canada-wide 2SLGBTQ+ in STEM conference, like this seminar but on a bigger scale – a three-day conference with invited talks, student talks, social events – that celebrates and highlights the same kind of diversity and is pushing for inclusion in the same way as this event was. 

I am going to be the chair of that conference, and Gwen [Dr. Grinyer] is working very closely with me on it, and we have a committee, and this event just really made me extra excited for that. 

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