Tiara's Story (she/her)
While growing up, I remember hearing, “T prolly funny… she never brings boys around the house.” It’s weird to think that a young girl more interested in books than boys would automatically be labeled as “funny” versus smart, interested in other things, or just a girl. That label kept me from exploring my sexual identity for years.
Growing up in the Southern Bible Belt, being gay wasn’t an option—it was a disease, a sin, a one-way ticket to hell. And what girl would want that, especially one who grew up reading fantasy and took villains quite seriously? I was made to believe that anything other than heterosexuality was wrong, and if I didn’t comply, hell would be my home. So, I complied. I buried myself in my work and dated men, and even though there were times when I could feel an attraction to a woman, I would ignore it.
As I grew in my educational journey in the STEM field, I became hyper visible as the only Black person in the room, and I knew my sexual identity had no choice but to be straight. I was struggling simply trying to exist as a Black woman in marine science, a double minority—exploring my sexual identity now was definitely out of the question! So I continued fighting to make spaces for women of color and Black people in my field, fighting for us to be seen and heard, fighting for our seat at the table.
Then one day I realized, no matter how hard I fought, the table was never meant for me. It didn’t matter that I was Dr. Moore, conducted research worldwide, served on scientific executive boards—no, it just mattered that I was Black, woman, other, a tool for tokenization. And that broke my heart. Years of hard work and “earning” my seat at the table only to realize that the table was broken, and the seat left for me had holes in it.
I decided then to become a true advocate for myself and other historically excluded folx. Yes, I had already been seen as the loud voice in the crowd, but I knew personally I had a fear of coming out and being my true self. The thought of being a triple minority in STEM caused me to have anxiety, but since nothing I did in these rooms was making it better for me, I decided I should at least be my full self! I came out on Twitter a year after starting my first real relationship with a woman. I put on a shirt that said “gay” and made a video telling the world I was pansexual, and how it was out of fear that I had never mentioned this before. It was the best day, and I’ve never felt freer.