#YouAreWelcomeHere – A Safe Space For All

“The College of Science celebrates the diversity of our community, and we are committed to promoting a culture of respect and belonging. We honor the irreplaceable past and present contributions of our transgender colleagues to science, and we stand in solidarity with them to oppose hate and discrimination,” says Randall Hughes, associate dean of equity and marine and environmental sciences professor.

March 31 is Transgender Day of Visibility. To honor this day, three members of the #YouAreWelcomeHere Campaign at Northeastern, Tara Duffy, PhD (she/her), associate teaching professor and faculty head of the Three Seas Program, Dylan Titmuss (they/them), a queer and trans researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Savannah Swinea (she/her/hers), a marine and environmental sciences PhD student, gave us an exclusive look at the initiative that displays acceptance and support for LGBTQIA+ members of the Marine and Environmental Sciences community.

What is the You Are Welcome Here campaign?

Savannah (she/her/hers): The You Are Welcome Here (YAWH) campaign is an initiative to display acceptance and support for LGBTQIA+ members of the Marine and Environmental Sciences (MES)  community.  Dr. Katie Castagno brought YAWH to Northeastern in 2020 after drawing inspiration from MIT’s initiative of the same name. Since her departure, Dr. Torrance Hanley, Dylan Titmuss, and myself have run the initiative.  The campaign started with a simple aim to identify safe spaces within departmental labs, offices, and classes for everyone to exist and thrive.

How can students and faculty get involved in the campaign?

Savannah (she/her/hers): We host an annual department-wide workshop designed to surface assumptions and privileges taken for granted, practice vocabulary, and immerse ourselves into real-life scenarios so we are prepared to protect ourselves and hold others accountable. 

Tara(she/her): We host a yearly workshop,  but folks can display the YAWH logo (we offer stickers and pins), which affirms their support and advocacy for and commitment to LGBTQIA+ members of our community.

Dylan (they/them): Along with creating stickers that department members can display to indicate their support, we’ve also held a series of workshops aiming to guide members of the department to develop the language and understanding they need to become active supporters of their LGBTQIA+ colleagues, students, and collaborators It’s been an encouraging and rewarding initiative to be involved in, and I hope other groups might be able to make use of similar approaches within their communities going forward!

In what ways does the program shape the participants and create an open and safe space for all?

Tara (she/her): This workshop involves discussions and activities designed to help LGBTQIA+ members of the MES community feel welcome and supported. It is a safe space for every community member to learn more about the LGBTQIA+ community and practice ways to best support colleagues and friends. We also hope it serves as a reminder that we are a supportive community where personal identities belong and enhance scientific practice.

Dylan (they/them): In my opinion, one of the greatest things the STEM community can do to foster an accepting environment is to develop a norm of explicitly supporting community members of all identities and encouraging—beyond just “allowing”—all community members to exist as and share their whole selves. In practice, that can look like modeling the inclusive behaviors and attitudes we want to cultivate, as well as speaking up in instances of prejudice or disrespect. We sometimes talk about the difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance” when it comes to building inclusive environments, and to me, a crucial piece of inclusivity-focused work lies in developing folks’ willingness and ability to provide outward support when needed – to stand up on behalf of LGBTQIA+ (or other historically marginalized) people, and in doing so, to alleviate some of the burdens they may feel.

The You Are Welcome Here campaign runs year-round and is always accepting people to join their community. To get involved, please reach out to Tara Duffy – [email protected]

In addition to the You Are Welcome Here campaign, additional resources can be found at lgbtqa.northeastern.edu, in their extensive guide for Trans, Non-Binary, Gender Diverse, and Two-Spirits students, and on their Instagram.

College of Science
Marine and Environmental Sciences
Three Seas