Science class is a great place to explore diversity in the animal kingdom, discuss human chromosomes, and highlight some amazing scientists. LGBTQ+ scientists shaped our understanding of our modern world.  It is important to remember that LGBTQ+ identities should never be up for debate, and exploring the science behind sex and gender should promote an expanded understanding of human biology. 

Rachel Carson

The famous author of Silent Spring (1962), whose work was the basis of creating the EPA, was in a decades-long intimate and romantic relationship with Dorothy Freeman.  Potentially to keep their relationship private, Rachel burned thousands of their letters after Dorothy’s death.  Neither woman admitted to a sexual relationship, nor used the word lesbian.  However, the romantic and intimate nature of their relationship is undisputed. (Maine connection: Rachel and Dorothy met on Southport Island, Maine!) 

Dr. Ruth Gates

Director of the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology and the first woman to be President of the International Society for Reef StudiesShe was married to a woman. The Netflix show Chasing Coral is based on Dr. Gates’ life and work. 

Male-female flexibility in animals

Many animals can change sex during their life, including more than 50 species of coral-reef fish, several types of birds, and the bearded dragon.  The 1999 book Biological Exuberance covers many more. 

Same-sex mating in animals

Same-sex mating behavior has been observed in over 1,500 animal species, including primates, sea stars, snakes, and damselflies.  

Alan Hart

Hart pioneered using x-rays for tuberculosis detection and helped develop TB screening programs.  He was a transgender man- and the first man to undergo a hysterectomy in the U.S. 

Isaac Newton

Newton never discussed his sexuality publicly- but never appeared to have any romantic relationships.  A friend attempted to set him up with a woman, which seemed to cause him extreme stress, and possibly caused his nervous breakdown in 1693. 

Alexander von Humboldt

One of the most famous men in Europe during his life, von Humboldt was a scientist, philosopher, and explorer. Never married, he had many relationships with men.  

Ben Barres

A neuroscientist whose lab discovered new types of neurons and made significant contributions to many areas of neuroscience throughout the 80s and 90s.   In 2013, Barres was elected to the US National Academy of Sciences — the first openly transgender member.

Chromosomal variation in humans

Genomic studies of the past ten years show that determining sex is much more complicated than XY and XX chromosomes.  “I think there’s much greater diversity within male or female, and there is certainly an area of overlap where some people can’t easily define themselves within the binary structure,” says John Achermann. He studies sex development and endocrinology at University College London’s Institute of Child Health.