By Jazzy Graham Davis, graduate of Portland State University, 2019 GSA On To the Future (OTF) program participant
My name is Jazzy, and nothing about me is represented by your typical geologist. I am Latinx, disabled, and transgender using gender-neutral pronouns. Though the reason I became a geologist is the same as almost everyone else, because I found what I am passionate about. I grew up in California fascinated by earthquakes and outer space, and I have a supportive family that pushed me into STEM. As a young college student, I quickly saw that geoscience was lacking the diversity that other fields have managed to improve upon, but I only saw that as a challenge.
I applied to GSA’s On To the Future program (OTF) because I have struggled to find people in geology who are similar to myself. I love the diverse people I have met and befriended, but I also recognize that many of the professionals in the field aren’t people I can identify with. Participating in this program has given me newfound resources and hope to improve this. My professional goal is to work my way to a position where I can teach and mentor young geoscientists. I want to support those people, like myself, that haven’t always been represented. I am very open about who I am and what it has taken to become the geologist I am today. The GSA Annual Meeting and OTF program made me feel that I can do all of this and more, and that I have people right now who will help me change the idea of what it takes to be a geoscientist.
At the meeting I learned about the International Association for Geoscience Diversity (IAGD). This is the only resource I have ever found for creating accessible geoscience for those with disabilities. Meeting the people involved with this non-profit organization was one of the most amazing experiences of the entire meeting. For the first time I found other people with disabilities and understanding about how to navigate such an able-bodied industry. They listened to my own frustrations of transitioning from academics where I was given accommodations through the school, to industry where I don’t even know what accommodations are acceptable and useful. They are committed to one of my biggest barriers as a geologist and were ready to listen and support me within minutes of meeting. I could not have asked for a more inclusive discussion and environment.
Inclusiveness can be a battle of a changing society versus personal habits. I was ecstatic to see pronoun ribbons offered at the Annual Meeting, and how many people used gender-neutral pronouns like myself. I personally heard from people who were using the opportunity to display pronouns that they are not safe using at their home institutions. Despite this, I talked to many people who disregarded my pronoun ribbon, not because they are transphobic or disgruntled, but because it isn’t something they are used to thinking about. Since I am masculine presenting I got called “he” more often than I would hope while doing everything in my power to show my preference of gender-neutral wording. I am grateful for the changing tide of gender inclusivity in the geosciences, but there is still work to be done.
Since this was my first GSA Annual Meeting, I was a bit overwhelmed and felt the need to do as much as possible. I made friends that I hope to see at future meetings and connected with people who can help me achieve my goals for the geoscience field and GSA. I know I have the passion for geology, but I also love the community. Any gathering of geoscientists turns into rewarding conversations about our passions, often over beer or drink of choice, because I rarely find anyone who does not love the field they have chosen. Sure, there are less than pleasant jobs, people, and projects, but the passion is always there for the science. This is a community that I am proud to be a part of, and I am so glad that the OTF program gave the opportunity to make the most of attending a large conference such as the GSA Annual Meeting. I want to bring awareness to issues within the geoscience community and change it for the better because everyone deserves the opportunity to feel welcome and participate in geoscience regardless of who they are.
On To the Future is a GSA program that supports students and recent graduates from underrepresented groups to attend their first GSA Annual Meeting. GSA is currently accepting applications for this program through 29 May 2020.