I don't know if MO is the right place to ask such a question, but anyway it's my only hope to get an answer, and it's very important for me (not to say 'vital'); so let's try.

I'm at this time a Ph.D. student, and I plan to defend in the spring of 2018. I'm currently looking for a postdoc position for next year. I am, at this time, known as a man in the mathematical community, but I'm actually a trans woman, beginning my gender transition. I have two problems. Firstly, I will have to come out as transgender, in at most a few years, in the mathematical community, and I'm quite fearful about the consequences (for example, for my career). Secondly, I have to ensure before applying for a postdoc that in the country where I apply, I will be able to pursue my transition, I will be accepted as I am at the university, and that there won't be any major threat to my security (because of the policy of the country regarding trans people, for instance). For this reason, having contacts in these countries who are reaserchers in maths and are familiar with transidentity questions would be very helpful for me, as I have no other means to get the info I need.

So my first question is: are there, here, trans mathematicians who would be willing to talk with me, in private, about how they came out (if they had to) in the mathematical community, how it was accepted, what has been the consequences for their career, and more generally what was their experience as trans mathematicians? (I also have other specific questions like, for instance, how to deal with a change of your first name when you already have published under your former name?) Even if you're not trans, if you have information about all of this (if you know a trans mathematician for example), I would be interested.

My second question is: in the countries where I am interested in applying for a postdoc, that is Spain, the Czech Republic, Canada, the US, and Brazil, do you have any contacts, in the academic world, who are familiar with LGBT questions, and who could give me an idea about the situation of trans people in their country, and especially at the university? (In order for me to know if it's safe to apply there or not?)

If some of you are yourselves why I don't ask these questions directly to researchers of the universities where I want to apply: that's simply because it's not safe. Trans people have to face a lot of discrimination and you never know if speaking about your transidentity with someone you don't know is safe or not - that's the reason why I choosed to ask it anonymously here, first.

(You can contact me in private at rdm.v[at]yahoo[dot]com.)

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    $\begingroup$ I am aware of some trans (women) users on academia.SE, in math(s)-related areas, but I am hesitant to name names. I do think that academia.SE would be both a more appropriate place for this question, and would give a better chance of reaching users who can give either lived or observed advice $\endgroup$
    – Yemon Choi
    Nov 26, 2017 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ OP is a professional mathematician asking for career advice from professional mathematicians, so her question is most appropriate for MO rather than academia.SE. Similar career-related questions have not been closed in the past. This question should be re-opened (and probably made community wiki). $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2017 at 1:05
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    $\begingroup$ Voting to reopen as well. Community Wiki is also a good idea. Good luck and remember that you will find a lot of helpful and supportive people even among "white male chauvinists" (by the modern liberal classification) like myself if you stay friendly and reasonable with them. Of course, you may still face problems but at least in the USA there are quite strong laws on your side and a lot of official LGBT organizations you can contact for support. $\endgroup$
    – fedja
    Nov 26, 2017 at 1:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Rdmv I'm a trans woman working in math in the US. I'm sending you a message. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2017 at 3:51
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    $\begingroup$ I think we should be wise enough to sometimes make exceptions for important questions that might technically be off-topic, and I think this question is one of those cases. Closing it doesn't really do much, and leaving it open might really help some people. Voting to reopen. $\endgroup$ Nov 26, 2017 at 17:42

2 Answers 2


Spectra is an organization for LGBT mathematicians. I hope that you can find people to safely discuss your questions with there.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm on the board (or whatever we are) of Spectra. I'll write to you offline to facilitate contact if you'd like to ask your question to our mailing list. I'm also posting this here in case there is anyone else who would like to get in touch with Spectra anonymously via a proxy: feel free to email me at "eriehl at math dot jhu dot edu". $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2017 at 15:58

If you will be at the Joint Math Meetings in San Diego, there will be a Spectra-sponsored MAA panel on Out in Mathematics: Professional Issues Facing LGBTQ Mathematicians, Thursday, January 11th, 1pm - 2:20pm, Room 1A, Upper Level, San Diego Convention Center. It will be moderated by Lily Khadjavi (Loyola Marymount University), with panelists Shelly Bouchat (Indiana University of Pennsylvania), Juliette Bruce (University of Wisconsin Madison), Ron Buckmire (NSF), Frank Farris (Santa Clara University), and Emily Riehl (Johns Hopkins University).

Spectra is hosting an informal reception later that day, Thursday, January 11th, 2018, 6pm-8pm, Catalina Room, Marriott Marquis, which is a great way to meet people. This event has been held at every JMM since 1995. Here is the story of how it started, and shows how our professional societies took a courageous stand even during the anti-gay political storms of in the 1990s. It continues to have relevance today.

In November, 1992, Colorado residents passed an amendment to their Constitution targeting three local anti-discrimination ordinances, nullifying them and making any further attempts unconstitutional. The 1995 Joint Math Meetings were scheduled for Denver. Two mathematicians wrote to the AMS and MAA boards in late 1992 requesting that the JMM be moved, citing the blatant anti-gay animus of the amendment (so blatant that in 1995 the US Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional). The boards met in a joint session at the 1993 JMM and passed a resolution recommending this move, arguing that the societies have a duty to protect participants from possible discrimination. Shortly afterwards, the Joint Meetings Committee moved the 1995 JMM to San Francisco. The Denver cancellation resulted in a lawsuit from the conference hotels, ultimately settled for $35,000, split evenly between the AMS and MAA. Increased attendance at the San Francisco meeting likely covered most of this cost.

Despite short notice and communication difficulties (this was pre-Facebook!), an informal event at the San Francisco JMM held at a restaurant near the conference hotel drew nearly 100 people. A group of concerned mathematicians felt it would be very useful to have a more visible presence at future JMMs, and formed a steering committee, together with setting up an email group. This group eventually was formalized as Spectra.

Spectra is holding a brainstorming session on Friday, January 12th, 2018, 3pm-5pm, Torrey Pines 2, Marriott Marquis and everyone is welcome to attend and contribute ideas.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Doug, Thanks for providing some history. You mention "The Denver cancellation resulted in a lawsuit..., ultimately settled for $35,000, ... Increased attendance at the San Francisco meeting likely covered most of this cost." I'd say it was well worth it, but I wonder if your guess is accurate. First, San Francisco would have been more expensive for the MAA and AMS. Second, I expect Denver would have been very well attended, since lots of people would use it as a chance to go skiing before or after. So the MAA and AMS made the right decision, but I don't see a need to speculate it was free. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2017 at 20:08
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    $\begingroup$ Given that one of those local anti-discrimination ordinances was Denver's, it is unfortunate that Denver bore the brunt of the boycott. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2017 at 22:27
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    $\begingroup$ @Rdmv Very sorry you will miss the Spectra events this year, but pleased that you know about the organization, and perhaps you can come to a future JMM and participate in Spectra events. $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2017 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeSilverman Hi Joe, I did quite a bit of research about the history of this, including gathering written recollections by some of the people involved, contacting members of the 1993 AMS Council who voted on the move, and getting background information and meeting minutes from AMS Staff. My comment about the cost being compensated for by larger attendance in San Francisco was based on a written recollection by one of the two people who originally proposed the move, but of course this is still speculative, hence the hedge "likely". $\endgroup$ Nov 28, 2017 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Accumulation: Though I'm not informed about the relative costs involved, I certainly realized at the time that Denver was the most enlightened place in Colorado. The protest many of us made was directed instead at the majority vote in Colorado for their constitutional amendment (later struck down by the US Supreme Court). I wrote to the AMS Council and officers requesting the move, so I was then asked to be on the steering committee as were a cross-section of others including Robert Bryant (who later served as AMS president). $\endgroup$ Dec 6, 2017 at 1:52

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