Researchers met for the second-annual LGBTQIA+ Research Panel to discuss their careers coming from a marginalized community.
This past Thursday, an LGBTQIA+ Research Panel was held in the Binghamton University Union, organized by the External Scholarship and Undergraduate Research Center. Four panelists were invited to share their experiences as queer researchers, including two faculty members, one graduate student and one undergraduate student. The conversation focused heavily on why queer research is important, as well as on affinity groups and feeling comfortable with expressing one’s identity.
Abby Gifeisman, an undergraduate research ambassador at the Undergraduate Research Center and a sophomore majoring in economics, hosted the event. Gifesiman guided the conversation by directing a series of prompts to the panelists, leaving time at the end for audience questions. Panelists cited both their research and personal experiences in their responses.
One panelist was Casey Adrian, a research assistant for the Human Sexualities Lab and a first-year graduate student pursuing a master of social work. Adrian commented on the significance of queer research and the influence it has had on his life.
“I feel this sort of responsibility almost to share the stories of the men that lived through the AIDS crisis, but also to help end the epidemic because it is completely possible to end the epidemic,” Adrian said. “I want to fight for the people that died before me, that were just like me, and were my age that didn’t get to see this era where we would be able to have a panel about these things.”
Tina Chronopoulos, another panelist, is an associate professor of Ancient Mediterranean studies and co-undergraduate director of Middle Eastern and Ancient Mediterranean studies. Chronopoulos illustrated the importance of queer research in her retelling of a past conversation she had with a friend.
“The way that I came to my work was super random,” Chronopoulos said. “You know, I just happened to be really good at this topic and I carried on doing it. ‘Who else is going to study it? Who else is going to study this topic? Straight people aren’t going to.’ That’s when I really realized how important this all is.”
Chronopoulos said that while her research does not have a queer focus, other aspects of her profession have allowed her to include her identity, such as teaching. This point prompted a discussion about safe spaces for queer people and areas on campus that might be lacking inclusivity. Chronopoulos expressed concern for students in departments with less of a queer presence, and said she herself has not always felt fully comfortable on campus.
As a result, Chronopoulos plans to create an affinity group for LGBTQIA+ students.
“I’m actually going to have a meeting with the folks at the Q Center to talk about how we can do this in a way that is helpful to the students,” Chronopoulos said. “Having said that, if you’re in a heavy research environment, those identities can come out more than if you were just tootling along. It can manifest in different ways so I think it’s important that, in those high-pressure environments, to have that support.”
The panelists also discussed their generational differences, acknowledging the growing acceptance of queer research. Deborah Elliston, an anthropology professor and researcher, described how conflicts that had in the past prevented her from incorporating queer parts of her research into her work, were not as present today. The research Adrian does with HIV and AIDS has seen a dramatic change in public awareness throughout the course of several decades.
“A lot of the public health and social work research they were doing [in the 1970s] at that agency was not done by trained professionals,” Adrian said. “It was done by people who saw an issue [and] had to jump in and come up with some sort of innovative method to make it work and save their friends.”
The event ended with audience members sharing their own experiences ofbeing queer on campus and working to find a sense of community. One panelist, Briana Lopez-Patino, an undergraduate researcher for the Human Sexualities Lab and senior majoring in philosophy, said these events create the space some students need.
“There’s probably a lot of students that have come out and just don’t know where to find these spaces to interact with people,” Lopez-Patino said. “I think it’s important to have these sessions so people can ask questions.”