Transgendered Scientist on Institutional Bias

One of the topics I most enjoy discussing with transgendered people is sexism, because they have such a unique perspective on the subject. So it was with interest I read about Dr. Ben Barras’ article for Nature. Dr. Barras began transitioning in 1997 at age 42, after spending most of his academic career as a woman.

“I've lived in the shoes of a woman and I've lived in the shoes of a man. It's caused me to reflect on the barriers women face.''

…”I feel like I have a responsibility to speak out,'' he said. “Anyone who has changed sex has done probably the hardest thing they can do. It's freeing, in a way, because it makes me more fearless about other things.''

In his article, Barres offers several personal anecdotes from both sides of the gender divide to prove his own hypothesis that prejudice plays a much bigger role than genes in preventing women from reaching their potential on university campuses and in government laboratories.

The one that rankles him most dates from his undergraduate days at MIT, where as a young woman in a class dominated by men he was the only student to solve a complicated math problem. The professor responded that a boyfriend must have done the work for her, according to Barres.
There’s more at the link, and a great summary of the sub-only Nature piece here, which includes this rather amazing snippet regarding what Barres calls “the main difference he has noticed since changing sex”: "People who do not know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect," he says. "I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."

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