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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2019026085
pages 261-282


Katelyn M. Cooper
The Department of Biology at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
Sara E. Brownell
The Biology Education Research Lab, Research in Inclusive STEM Education Center, School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona
Cara Gormally
Gallaudet University, Department of Science, Mathematics, and Technology, Washington, DC


The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) identity is an understudied yet potentially important identity for individuals in an undergraduate biology classroom. Although the choice to "come out" or reveal one's LGBTQ identity is a personal decision, LGBTQ college instructors may positively impact students when they reveal their identity in the classroom. We conducted a national survey of LGBTQ biology instructors about their experiences as members of the LGBTQ community teaching college biology. We found that over half of the biology instructors that we surveyed are out to their work colleagues, but less than 20% are out to their students. Additionally, we conducted semistructured interviews with 11 LGBQ college biology instructors and applied the expectancy value theory to understand what influences instructors' decisions about whether to reveal their LGBQ identities to students in their college biology classrooms. From the interviews, we identified a suite of potential costs and benefits associated with instructors coming out to their classes. Costs included wasted class time that could be spent teaching biology content, the instructor potentially losing their job, and students developing a negative view of the instructor. Benefits included the instructor living more authentically, students feeling more comfortable in the classroom, students knowing a supporter of the LGBTQ community in the classroom, and students having an LGBQ role model in science. Based on these findings, we highlight how perceiving high value and low cost to coming out is relevant for instructors' decisions to reveal their LGBQ identities in their college classrooms.


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