LGBT+ academics' and PhD students' experiences of visibility in STEM : more than raising the rainbow flag

Reggiani, Marco and Gagnon, Jessica Dawn and Lunn, Rebecca Jane (2023) LGBT+ academics' and PhD students' experiences of visibility in STEM : more than raising the rainbow flag. Higher Education. pp. 1-19. ISSN 0018-1560 (

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The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+) individuals in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are still understudied and, despite some improvements, are still characterised by patterns of exclusion, disadvantage, and discrimination. In this article, we explore how visibility is perceived and navigated by LGBT+ academics and PhD students in STEM, with a focus on the ways that interlocking systems of oppression impact people and groups who are marginalised and historically excluded. This article draws on a broader research project about the experiences of women and LGBT+ people in STEM that was conducted between 2019 and 2020 at a UK university and is framed by intersectionality theory. Based on the thematic analysis of interviews and focus groups with 24 LGBT+ participants, findings suggest that visibility is still a risk for LGBT+ academics and PhD students in STEM. We found that the labour of navigating visibility was perceived as an unfair disadvantage, and that the focus on individuals’ visibility in the absence of meaningful and transformative inclusion initiatives by higher education institutions was regarded as tokenistic. The article argues that addressing LGBT+ visibility should firstly be an institutional responsibility and not an individual burden, and that this work is essential to set the conditions for personal visibility to happen by choice, safely and without retribution.