SIAM News Blog

Introducing Spectra: The Association for LGBTQ+ Mathematicians

By Alexander Hoover and Ron Buckmire

Spectra, the Association for LGBTQ+ Mathematicians, aims to support and encourage LGBTQ+ individuals in mathematics by creating an inclusive and affirming environment.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, a group of LGBTQ+ individuals in New York City fought back against homophobic, transphobic, and racist police violence in what has since become known as the Stonewall Uprising. These actions—in which trans women of color played a central, if often overlooked and marginalized role—marked a crucial turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the U.S. and beyond. In honor and remembrance of the Stonewall Uprising as well as the struggles and successes of all LGBTQ+ people, June is commonly known as LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the U.S., Canada, and multiple other countries. This June, we highlight the recent work of Spectra—the Association for LGBTQ+ Mathematicians—and describe ways in which SIAM members can get involved.

Spectra was founded in 2015 as a volunteer-run, professional society for LGBTQ+ mathematicians [2]. The society has a regular presence at the Joint Mathematics Meetings (JMM), where it organizes panels, holds board meetings with volunteers, and hosts a reception for LGBTQ+ mathematicians. Spectra has also coordinated and sponsored more than a dozen events, including the first biannual Spectra LGBTQ+ in Mathematics Conference, which took place virtually through the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics in August 2021. In addition, it launched several initiatives to increase the visibility of LGBTQ+ mathematicians and works with various mathematical societies and publishers to adopt policies that are more inclusive to mathematicians who are trans and nonbinary. Spectra has even held sessions and smaller outreach events at previous SIAM meetings, though the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the growth of a physical presence at SIAM conferences.

Recently, Spectra has taken steps to raise its profile as an organization. By adopting a new set of bylaws, a formal board of officers, and official membership status, the association intends to better serve and support the LGBTQ+ math community. We hope that these changes will make it easier for people to become involved with and shape the future of Spectra, and allow Spectra to undertake larger and wider-reaching initiatives that will ultimately make mathematics a more inclusive space. As our new mission states, Spectra’s goal is “to support and encourage LGBTQ+ individuals in mathematics by working to create an inclusive and affirming environment that supports the well-being and professional development of LGBTQ+ mathematicians. Spectra strives for a time when LGBTQ+ mathematicians are able to bring their whole selves to the mathematical community.”

Spectra hosted a joint panel with the Association for Women in Mathematics on “Queer Families and Mathematical Careers” at the 2020 Joint Mathematics Meetings, which took place in January 2020 in Denver, Colo. From left to right: Moderator Alice Mark and panelists May Mei, Chikako Mese, Dylan Thurston, Amanda Folsom, and Matt Voigt, with co-organizer Corrin Clarkson seated in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Alexander Hoover.
Next month, we hope to mirror Spectra’s JMM presence at the 2022 SIAM Annual Meeting, which will take place from July 11-15 in a hybrid format in Pittsburgh, Pa. We invite any interested parties to attend our two-part minisymposium, entitled “Presentations by LGBTQ Mathematicians.” In the future, we hope to offer travel grants for LGBTQ+ students, awards that help LGBTQ+ individuals with graduate school fees, funds to support transgender and nonbinary mathematicians with some of the professional costs of transitioning, research opportunities for LGBTQ+ undergraduates, and research groups for LGBTQ+ mathematicians who are seeking support and community.

In addition to these future goals, there are more timely and concrete ways for readers to get involved with Spectra:

  • Donate: To jumpstart the aforementioned programs, we created the Queer Foundations fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $30,000 to place Spectra on solid ground for future growth. Additional information about the campaign is available online (most donations are tax deductible).
  • Serve: If you are passionate about supporting the LGBTQ+ community and interested in making mathematics more inclusive, we would love for you to volunteer your time. Committees are dedicated to a range of issues—from outreach and research to politics and equity, diversity, and inclusion—so there are many opportunities for involvement. Members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as allies are all welcome to join committees. Check out our website for more information. 
  • Join: Spectra offers both individual and institutional memberships. Visit us on the web to learn more.

As the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow and evolve, so too must our efforts to make mathematics a welcoming and inclusive space. Please join us if you are interested in helping Spectra grow as an organization that strives to create a more vibrant and prideful mathematical community. Happy Pride!

Article adapted with permission from “A Word From... Spectra” by Juliette Bruce, which will appear in the June/July 2022 edition of Notices of the American Mathematical Society [1].

[1] Bruce, J. (2022). A word from…Spectra. Notices Am. Math. Soc. To appear.
[2] Bryant, R., Buckmire, R., Khadjavi, L.S., & Lind, D.W. (2019). The origins of Spectra, an organization for LGBT mathematicians. Notices Am. Math. Soc., 66(6), 875-882.

Alexander Hoover is an assistant professor of mathematics at Cleveland State University and a board member of Spectra. His research areas are in mathematical biology and fluid dynamics, and he is firmly committed to increasing equity and representation within mathematics. Ron Buckmire is a professor of mathematics and Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs at Occidental College. He publishes research in numerical analysis, mathematics education, and data science. Buckmire is also the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at SIAM.

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