Christine Bland is a contract engineer led Lockheed Martin’s team in developing the electronic hardware on NASA’s Orion spacecraft, as well as working on Juno and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. In early November of 2014, she was named the 2014 LGBT Engineer of the Year by the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) for her hard work and good role model as a transgender woman.
Besides leading the development of electronic hardware for NASA, she has also worked on as Lockheed’s deep space exploration groups such as Stardust, Spitzer Infrared Space Scope, Genesis Odyssey Orbiter, and GRAIL.
Graduating from the University of Colorado in Denver in 1986, Bland had originally entered the STEM fields before she transitioned. She waited to transition at work until she was a senior engineer and well known in the industry. Lockheed had a brief meeting about her transition.
“It was a very big deal,” she said, “And everyone has been very, very accepting and positive from day one…. And I’ve gained a lot from my journey… It’s made me a better person.”
Currently, Bland is an LGBT leader at Lockheed Martin, works as a mental and STEM education advocate, and founded the Lockheed Martin Transgender Council to assist with legal and insurance issues and to provide support to other transgender employees. She is also the first aerospace and defense company to recruit candidates at a transgender career fairs.
Throughout her transition, she’s maintained a good relationship with her two adult children and speaks at seminars all across the country.
“You can be your true, authentic self and go after the things you want to do. Just be honest with yourself and everyone else, and let other people worry about their issues.”
-Staff: Max 219
Sofia Kovalevskaya was a Russian mathematician who was born on January 15th, 1850. She made huge advances in partial differential equations. Her groundbreaking work and advocacy for women’s rights combined helped make her male coworkers reconsider their views on gender equality. It is unknown whether or not Kovalevskaya identified with an LGBTQ+ label, but she was openly in a romantic relationship with the actress and feminist playwright Anne-Charlotte Edgren-Leffler.
Her interest in mathematics started at an early age. She would often study her father’s old calculus notes that were pasted on the wall of her nursery in lieu of proper wallpaper, and her uncle Peter often took time to explain complicated mathematical concepts to her. At the age of 14, she taught herself trigonometry for the sake of understanding optics, which she was reading about in a physics textbook.
In 1868, she was determined to continue pursuing education at a university. However, in order to study abroad, she needed to travel with a male relative, so she entered a marriage of convenience with Vladimir Kovalevsky.
Kovalevskaya graduated from the University of Gottingen with a Ph.D. in 1874. She had difficulty finding work, as did her husband, and they decided to temporarily move back together. During this time, the pair had one daughter who was raised by Kovalevskaya’s sister Anne Jaclard.
However, money continued to be an issue, and Kovalevsky committed suicide in 1883. Shortly thereafter, Kovavlevskaya entered a romantic relationship with Anne-Charlotte Edgren-Leffler. She then met Edgren-Leffler’s brother Gösta Mittag-Leffler, from whom she received an invitation to lecture at the University of Stockholm.
In 1888, she received the Prix Bordin of the French Academy of Sciences for her work “On the Problem of the Rotation of a Solid Body about a Fixed Point”. She became ill with pneumonia and died on February 10th, 1891.
Marguerite Radclyffe Hall is a lesbian British author who lived from 1880 to 1943.
Hall went to King’s College in London and then moved to school in Germany. Her writing career began with poems and then moved onto novels.
Hall was a lesbian, and as such these themes carry through her personal life and her writing. She said she had never been attracted to men, and her romantic attachments to women began early when she began to develop feelings for multiple women in her youth and young adult life. Most of the women she fancied were artists like herself, and her first long-term relationship was with Mabel Batten, a married amateur singer. The two formed a home together after Batten’s husband died, and Hall’s poetry continued to develop with newfound lesbian themes, such as her poem Ode to Sappho.
She also began an affair with another married woman in 1915, Una Troubridge, and this relationship lasted the rest of Hall’s life. She carried on the affair with Troubridge and Batten until Batten’s death, and then she and Troubridge moved in together after Troubridge separated from her husband legally.
Hall’s most famous and controversial literary work was The Well of Loneliness, about a lesbian attachment between two women. It spoke of the troubles of being a lesbian in society, and Hall did intensive research for the book. Shortly after publication, it was damned as immoral.
“I would rather give a healthy boy or a healthy girl a phial of prussic acid than this novel. Poison kills the body, but moral poison kills the soul.”
– Sunday Express, August 19th, 1928
Publication and distribution of the book was made to cease in Britain and in the US, and was declared obscene in court. It continued to sell well in France, however.
She continued writing despite this failure, focussing more on Catholic themes. She also picked up another affair with a russian woman, Evgenia Souline. This affair lasted until just before Hall’s death, and she remained with Troubridge throughout.
Hall died in 1943 due to colon cancer and left behind a legacy of groundbreaking lesbian literature and poetry, and remains a staple in LGBTQ+ reading even today.
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Ben Barres, formerly known as Barbara Barres, is a neurobiologist and a professor at Stanford University.
Born in 1955, he excelled in math and science at an early age. He attended MIT for his bachelor’s degree in Biology, Dartmouth for his medical degree, and Harvard for his PhD in Neurobiology. He transitioned in 1997. In 1993, he joined the faculty at Stanford. In 2008, he was appointed to the Chair of Neurobiology. His research is on the development and function of glial cells in the central nervous system.
His research and teaching has won him many awards, such as the Life Sciences Research Fellowship, the Klingenstein Fellowship Award, a McKnight Investigator Award, a Searle Scholar Award, and the Kaiser Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has published many articles on his research and sexism in STEM. He is member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
In 2013 he was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences, and was the first openly transgender member .
On April 18, 1981 Audrey Tang, formerly known as Autrijus Tang, was born. From a young age, she showed interest in technology and began learning the programming language Perl at the age of 12. Tang was a high school drop-out, but at the age of 19 she had experience in software companies as well as entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. In 2005 at the age of 24, Tang began her transition (which is when she changed both her Chinese and English names).
With her IQ reportedly being 180, one can see that she is extremely intelligent, though that is quite evident in her accomplishments as listed below.
Ferdinand Karsch was a scientist from Germany that identified as homosexual.
He was born on September 2, 1853 in Münster, Germany. He worked as an entomologist, anthropologist, and an arachnologist. He went to college at the Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin and in 1877 he published a thesis on the gall wasp. He was the curator of the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin for 43 years. He published many articles about the specimens of spiders that the museum had received from explorers and naturalists in Africa, China, Japan, and Australia.
In addition to these, he published many articles and studies on homosexuality in the animal world and in communities that were referred to as “primitive.” He lived as openly homosexual in Berlin until December 20, 1936. Unfortunately, Hitler’s rise to power and the oppression of the LGBT community by Nazi’s led to his work being disregarded for a time.
Vivian Underhill is a chemist at the US Geological Survey where she researching mercury contamination in California. She has a blog called vivianunderhill.wordpress.com that she uses for writing, LGBT+ activism, and general nerdy stuff. Between 2010 and 2012, she wrote the Boulder Frugalista weekly column in the Colorado Weekly. Additionally, she has written articles for New West Magazine, Bitch Magazine Online, Lip Poetry Journal, and Autostraddle.com, where she wrote a series called the “Queered Science.” Underhill graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado with her BA in Environmental Studies.
Leonard Matolovich served in the United States Air Force as a pilot from 1963 to 1975. It was there that he made history for the LGBT community. In 1975, after twelve years of service, three tours of duty and earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, he came out to his officers as homosexual, making him the first person to out themselves in the fight against the military’s ban on gay service members. Before coming out, he’d spent much of his life hiding his identity, even going so far as to mock other homosexuals in an attempt to assimilate. He knew that there were others like him in the military, but the ban kept them closeted in fear of discharge. This was exactly what happened to Matolovich. Only six months following his coming out, a three member panel discharged him from the military because of his refusal to sign an agreement to “never practice homosexuality again”.
Because of the lawsuit, the military’s ban was brought to the media’s attention. Matlovich appeared on the cover of Time magazine, the first openly gay person to be featured on the cover of a US publication. After his discharge, he continued to fight against the military ban and became a public figure in the LGBT community. He helped with fundraising and advocating against anti-gay discrimination, specifically efforts to overturn a gay nondiscrimination ordinance and prevent a ban on gay teachers in California.
Matlovich passed away from AIDS in 1988 when he was only 44. Instead of being inscribed with his name, his tombstone reads “When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” His bravery to come out in unsure circumstances began the fight for equality for servicemen and women in our armed forces. Today, LGBT people are able to serve our country proudly.
Lynn Conway was born in 1938 in Mount Vermon, New York. She received her BS degree in physics from MIT in 1962. Conway received her MSEE degree from Columbia University in 1963. Shortly afterwards, she was hired by IBM where she made huge contributions to computer architecture.
Conway transitioned in 1968, and was unfortunately fired from her job. Ironically, IBM is now considered one of the more trans-friendly companies in America. Five years later in 1973, Conway was hired by Xerox PARC.
Between the time she started working and the 1980’s, she revolutionized the microchip. She later went on to be the Assistant Director for Strategic Computing at DARPA. After that, she went on to accomplish a plethora of other things before finally retiring.
George Takei is the actor who played Sulu in Star Trek. Although that is mostly what he is known for, he is also an Internet personality and social activist. Being a kid during a time of war is always stressful, but for George, the stress was more for him than his peers. During his childhood, the US began putting Japanese Americans in internment camps, and many of his early memories revolve around the great social injustice. As a young kid, Takei felt insecure about his sexual orientation and his ethnicity, but in recent years, especially after the gay pride movement became more accepted, he began to love and accept himself. By 2005, he was ready to come out to the works. At that time, he had already been with his partner, Brad Altman, for 18 years, but he wanted the media to spread his pride. George inspired Asian Americans to join STEM fields but since his coming out, he’s inspiring a lot more people.
About LGBTQ+ of FIRST
LGBTQ+ of FIRST is an organization dedicated to raising awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ+ participants in FIRST Robotics. LGBTQ+ of FIRST was started to spread visibility of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST and help teams become safe spaces for their members.