May we put the data we have gathered to beneficial use

Dear President Trump,

My talk earlier today went well and the symposium I was a part of was pretty much a hit. It was kind of amazing since we ranged from an overview of animal models of trauma and alcohol consumption to the epidemiology of trauma, PTSD, and alcohol use disorders among Mexican Americans and American Indians to the results of a clinical trial testing two behavioral interventions for people with PTSD and alcohol use disorders (this last one was mine). It was really cool to see the common threads running through all the studies and to get snapshots of work in this area from such different angles. And, it’s wonderful to have the talk behind me since I get pretty wound up about public speaking.

Really, though, it was the symposium after mine that was most fantastic. The title of the symposium was “Trends in Alcohol and other Substance Use Among Sexual Minorities in the US.” It sounds kind of dry and super academic – and some of it was dry and most of it was very academic – but the speakers were terrific teachers and broke things down well. They made what could have been a very tedious set of talks engaging and relatable. They offered interesting thoughts about the trends they are seeing, but were careful not to speak beyond their data, which is something I really appreciate.

All the talks were really strong, but the third speaker had the most beautiful slides I’ve ever seen and one of the most engaging presentation styles I’ve ever encountered. She is destined to give a TED talk any day now – I’m sure of it! She was speaking about quantitative data she gathered from over 300 women in same-sex relationships and supplemented it with qualitative (interview) data from 8 couples. I’ve never gotten to listen to an academic talk about women’s same-sex relationship dynamics ever before and it was incredibly moving to have something so near and dear to me treated as the main event and not just as an apologetic note at the end of a talk about “families” where they just didn’t have the funding to go beyond “traditional” heterosexual families. Truly, this is how these things usually go and I’d always been like “yeah, you can only do so much, but, hey, at least they know enough not to over-generalize to all families” or some such thing to put a little salve on the proverbial paper cut.

So I wasn’t too surprised when I felt myself tearing up as she closed her talk and I wasn’t too surprised (though a tad embarrassed) when I found myself tearing up as I thanked her afterwards for having women in same-sex relationships front and center in her research. Of course you know from our long one-sided correspondence that I know that dignified visibility and the validation of personhood are both critically important for all of us, but I guess I got to experience this in in an academic setting today far more viscerally than I knew was possible. And I’m grateful.

I’m actually kind of sad that I’m leaving early tomorrow morning and won’t be here for the last half-day of the meeting. It’s been one of the best meetings I’ve ever attended from a scientific standpoint and from a human-being-in-the-real-world standpoint. I feel like I’ve found what could become an intellectual home away from home. And again, I’m grateful.

May we be safe to bring marginalized groups into focus rigorously and compassionately.
May we all be willing to notice how good it feels to be seen and may we want that for everyone.
May we put the data we have gathered to beneficial use for the common good.
May you stop waging war on the Constitution.

Tracy Simpson

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