Keep quiet about homophobia or open up?
I pride myself on coming from a place of “yes.” So it was uncharacteristic that, when my department head asked me to share my experiences of homophobia at a recent virtual diversity town hall for faculty, my first reaction was to decline. He did not know what had happened to me just the week before. I was out for a run when an SUV pulled up next to me. A young man rolled down his window, hung his head out, yelled “faggot”[*] at me, and laughed as the SUV drove away. I said nothing. I wish I had shouted, “This kind of bullying is the reason 20% of gay teens attempt suicide” in the hope that it might help him understand the implications of his actions. But in that moment, I wasn't Dr. Mustanski, leader of an LGBTQ health research institute. I was just the same Brian who had been called “fag” countless times—and had learned in such situations it was safer to keep quiet. > “I put up walls because that feels safer than to risk looking vulnerable.” In my work, it's a different story.
Science lost and lessons learned: A lab plots its comeback
The main door of Sunny Shin's lab is plastered with pictures of happier times: Shin photoshopped onto the cover of a Wheaties box, grad students chomping on corn cobs, a group photo on the lawn of a beach house. “We used to do a yearly retreat to the Jersey Shore,” says Shin, a midcareer microbial immunologist here at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). “Hopefully we can go back in 2022.” When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Shin oversaw 12 people: seven Ph.D. students, three postdocs, an undergrad, and a lab manager. She was thinking about each of them when the memo came down from an administrator in mid-March 2020: All non–COVID-19 work must stop, and most rodents must be culled because few people would be around to care for them. “It was heartbreaking,” Shin said at the time, as her lab manager began the agonizing task of euthanizing 200 mice, some with unique genomes that had taken years to breed. Shin was concerned for the future of her research on Legionnaires' disease—and, more