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For the queer heroes rising in STEM, my advice is to claim your space, even if it feels like fighting dragons.

Queerspeak 1.0

I have completed my M.Sc By Research in Chemistry, B.Sc in Bioanalytical Sciences, a proud transwoman who began the journey of being in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) with a dream to become a doctor. But soon, it was a rollercoaster with unexpected loops, sharp turns, and the occasional breathtaking climb. As a kid, my dreams danced from becoming a chef to diving into medicine. But the real plot twist hit during 12th grade when my dad left us. Suddenly, dreams felt like distant stars, and I let go for a while. It was my mom, the unsung hero, who nudged me back on track, whispering, "Study and clear entrance exams, darling." During the same time, I was on my journey of discovering my true identity as a trans woman. I initially started attending gay meets, but soon realized that I am not fit for that space; I am more of a woman.

However, I ended up studying at Khalsa College, which was like stepping into a new universe, especially with bio-analytical sciences, and Gurunanak Institute for Research and Development had advanced instrumentations that fascinated me. The teachers weren't just educators; they were mentors, guiding me through projects that felt like treasure hunts for my passion in biotech research. It was a journey of rediscovering myself after the storm.

But academics wasn't all sunshine. My gender identity became a puzzle piece that didn't quite fit during 12th grade and after for everyone around me. Caught in isolation and mental health struggles, it was a test for my resilience. Yet, I held on, fueled by my dad's resilient spirit and my commitment to cracking the academic game I kept going on. Only one friend who was a listener was around me then who I could talk about things I was feeling and going through, lonely but not alone was the state of my mind.

Cue the spotlight on my academic escapades – poster presentations that felt like showbiz. I was fascinated with nutraceuticals research and winning the title of Best Presenter was like an unexpected plot twist that made me believe in myself a little more. My hold on a technique of bio-autographs, a secret code of sorts, became my superpower to connect with peers, and I started training people on it.

Graduating from college to the real world was like stepping onto a new level in a video game. Companies, however, weren't ready for someone like me. I tried working in BPOs; it was not a great experience of being a trans person. It lacked basic amenities such as a washroom for transgender persons.

After many rejections, I got into a genetic laboratory as a front desk assistant; however, knowing my research background, I was inducted as a scientific assistant, then promoted to Scientific Office in operations of the laboratory. The journey there wasn't without challenges – underestimation, COVID-19 chaos, and the silent struggles of proving myself. The industry drama continued with a lack of promotions, inadequate pay, and the feeling of being an unsung hero.

In STEM, the inclusivity script often feels like a poorly written drama. I wish human genetics research had more people like me, but instead, we're deducted for mental health, and support is as rare as a unicorn.

For the queer heroes rising in STEM, my advice is to claim your space, even if it feels like fighting dragons. It's tough, but it's vital, and I hope future generations find a smoother path through the obstacles.

In the end, my STEM tale is one of facing challenges head-on, pushing through the chaos, and dreaming of a more inclusive world where everyone, regardless of their background, finds a place in the spotlight.

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