Last year, I judged a science fair, and the experience made me doubt my own sanity
. I judged the same fair this year, and it to some extent restored my faith in humanity, or at least in middle school science teachers. At the same time, it made me question my own misogyny.
The way this fair works is that all the students have qualified in a local fair so they all get a prize, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd at this fair. There's no limit on the number of students who can get each ranking, and they're not judged against each other; rather, they're judged by their adherence to objective standards. They get 1st if they exceed the standards, 2nd if they met the standards but were no better than that, and 3rd if they really didn't meet the standards. There were five girls and four boys in my morning session of 16-year-olds; the boys all got first, and the girls all got second. There were five girls and five boys in my afternoon session of 13-year-olds; one boy and one girl got first, but the two who got third were both girls. Small number statistics, I know, but something isn't right here, and I'm not comfortable with my role in it. Also, not sure how relevant it is, but the two first place 13-year-olds were the only two in the bunch who clearly hadn't even dipped a toe into puberty. I wonder if being a late bloomer contributed to being a science whiz because I wasn't distracted by sexuality. That being said, I wasn't nearly as far behind my peers as those two were, just very small in general.
I had a nice chat over lunch with a graduating senior who wanted to be a middle school science teacher. He thought I was another contestant but accepted me as male even after knowing my age. I encouraged him and generally felt like a good person.
I expressed so much optimism in therapy. I've been more outgoing at work since coming out. I scheduled a meeting with a speaker to talk about science. Career advice in my field often includes something about initiative, especially the suggestion of making appointments to chat with speakers as a way to be remembered as having come up with some ideas they'll take with them or possibly making a connection with a collaborator. I never did it before because I was shy and felt that I didn't have anything to contribute or that my questions were stupid or because they might remember me as a girl. I didn't let myself worry about that this time. I scheduled the meeting and talked for half an hour back and forth about some crazy ideas for science that could be done with this guy's data, and potential problems with some applications of it, and how we could collaborate in the future. He even told me some of my ideas were really good and that he hadn't heard them before, and I promised to send him the draft of the paper I'm working on when I submit it in a few weeks. So, yeah, lowered inhibitions at work can be a good thing.