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AC 2009-1862: "ENGINEERS WHO HAPPEN TO BE GAY": LESBIAN, GAY, AND BISEXUAL STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES IN ENGINEERING

AC 2009-1862: "ENGINEERS WHO HAPPEN TO BE GAY": LESBIAN, GAY, AND BISEXUAL STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES IN ENGINEERING,Erin Cech,Tom Waidzunas

AC 2009-1862: "ENGINEERS WHO HAPPEN TO BE GAY": LESBIAN, GAY, AND BISEXUAL STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES IN ENGINEERING  
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Abstract While much,is known about the experiences of women and racial/ethnic minority students in engineering education, the experiences of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) identifying students remain unstudied. This paper breaks this silence with a study of the ways LGB students at a major research university in the Western US both experience and navigate the climate of their engineering college. We find that, because of pervasive anti-gay sentiments and dualistic thinking that often conflates homosexuality with technical incompetence, these students do not have access to the same opportunities of success astheir heterosexual peers. Nevertheless, through coping strategies which require immense amounts of additional effort, LGB students bravely navigate this climate with tactics that include “passing” as heterosexual,“covering” or downplaying cultural characteristics associated with LGB identities, and garnering expertise that makes themselves indispensable to others. These additional work burdens are accompanied,by academic and social isolation, often making engineering school a hostile place for LGB
Published in 2009.
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