Rainbow Research: A Colour Prism

The Rainbow Research series returns to the British Ecological Society to celebrate Pride Month 2022! These special posts promote visibility and share stories from STEM researchers who belong to the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Each post is connected to one or more of the themes represented by the colours in the Progress Pride flag (Daniel Quasar 2018).

In this post, Luiz Felipe Cordeiro Serigheli shares their story on a prism of themes of the Progress Pride flag.

Progress Flag

About Me

Since childhood, I was different from the people around me.

First, it was mostly because of the colour of my skin. Second, it was because of how I expressed myself or because of the things I enjoyed doing; like dancing or embroidery. Then after, it was because of the people I felt attracted to that was/is (in general) independent of their gender. All these characteristics that made me a misfit in society and reality made me develop interest in the world surrounding me – nature and all the different kinds of possibilities of life on our planet.

This is how I started to get curious about life and its studies, taking courses in environmental and conservation biology, then in agriculture, before moving forwards to biological sciences and ultimately to ecology.

Besides ecology, during my life, my curiosity took me to a lot of places. I enjoy learning and every hobby turns out to be an obsession for a little time. Art in its most diverse ways has been present in my life since childhood. I love to be in touch with it.

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Picture of me performing for an art project entitled: “Fragmentos de diversidade: uma fotoperformance” – Florianópolis-SC, Brazil, 2022. Produced by © Chrislen

The movies where I can see different stories and possibilities, the songs that touch my feelings and body, demanding consciousness and movement, the games where I could be the person calling my own way. So growing up, I started to have more contact with art and even producing it; dancing, acting, writing, painting and also doing research – because to me, arts and science go hand in hand.

My research

During my technician course in agriculture, I participated in research that evaluated the difference between stinging and stingless bees in honey production. Bees have since become a group that gives me a special feeling, my “plush group”, and I continued to work with bee taxonomy for my college degree.

In my current research, I’m still looking for bees in the wild but with a very different approach; now totally focusing on ecology and using bees only as a model group. I’m developing a project in which I study biological invasions and ecological interactions using networks of plant and bee species. I’m trying to see how the network composed of interactions between bees (either native and non native) and native plants is impacted by an invasive plant, Carpobrotus acinaciformis. I’ll also remove the invasive plant to see how the network of interactions between plants and bees will be affected then.

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Me doing field work for my current research, collecting bees and the plants that they’re visiting in a coastal ecosystem locally known as “restinga” in Florianópolis-SC, Brazil

I hope that my study will be helpful for understanding the impacts of invasive species in ecological interactions as well as to provide information to decision makers and public policy makers.

Being Proud in Brazil

Talking about public policies, they are not only important for the environment and conservation of our planet, but also for the existence and progress of humanity in general.

As a young researcher in ecology that identifies themselves as non-binary, bisexual/pansexual and a person of colour, it would be a huge loss of context not to talk about the public policies, and the social and political moments in Brazil that affect my life and career.

In Brazil, research scholarships for Masters and PhD students haven’t been readjusted by the government since 2013. As a consequence, we researchers can’t follow the scientific career paths with tranquillity or security. In addition, the life expectancy for a trans person in my country is only 35 years and for more than a decade, our country has been the one killing the most number of trans people in the world.

Furthermore, we currently only have one trans person in the whole country hired as a professor at a public university – the type of institution where most research in Brazil is produced. So to me, as a non-binary trans person, to not have financial security, a role model in the research sector and enduring a constant threat to my life every time I step outside my house means waking up every day to an uphill battle. It is living in an eternal fight, a war, inside the white, straight, cis-normative structural system.

Connecting the nodes

That said, my identity is mostly about not having a place to feel connected or comfortable. Not identifying as a man or a woman, not being white or black (because of colourism and my lighter-skin), not being straight or homosexual. Constantly feeling non-belonging, but also trying to understand how I can belong and connect with the world surrounding me, transforming it.

Maybe that’s why studying ecology networks seems so interesting to me. I try to understand how the things out in the world connect and interact so I can use some of this knowledge to connect the nodes, understand a little more about myself as a non-binary trans, bissexual/panssexual person of colour.

Besides the adversities, I happily have built a beautiful, strong and warm network of relationships with people around me that appreciate and celebrate my efforts and my existence. My mums and my friends have been the central nodes in my connection with the world, building a very nested family that gives me strength to continue pursuing my goals.

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Surrounded by the people I love – all of them help me by making existence more gentle for me. Top: With friends at a party, Bottom-left: With my mums in a restaurant, Bottom-right: With my friends in a pub

In this context, I try to convince myself that by being in academia and occupying this place, I’ll be scratching at the structure of the system, to open cracks, to help facilitate the paths for other people that identify the same way:

Red – Life,  and also of blood that runs in our veins;

Yellow – Sunlight, that illuminates my field work and gives colour to my skin;

Purple – Spirit, of all the LGBTQ2S+ people who paved the way for us to exist today;

White/Pink/Blue – Transgender Pride, for all of us who TRANSgress the structures of society;

Black/Brown – LGBTQ2S+ Indigenous Peoples and People of Colour, the fertile land that provides strength to grow a better future for all life on our planet.

You can find out more about Luiz and their research by visiting their Instagram profile.

Want to share your Rainbow Research story? Find out more here.

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