“I wish there was a 2SLGBTQ+[1] mixer, that would have been fun,” he said. I was at the CCCE in Calgary last year catching up with my friend Cody. We are both (primarily) synthetic chemists, had attended the Proto Inorganic Division mixer the night before and were looking forward to the Organic Division mixer that evening.

“There was meant to be a mixer for the 2020 conference,[2] but then COVID happened,” I mentioned. “Maybe we should have had the foresight to do something for Calgary, but it’s too late now. It is too late now… right…?”

After 10 seconds of thoughtful silence, I found myself making a proposal:

“Shall we just go to a bar tomorrow night and tell people to meet us there?”

When we found out Calgary’s oldest gay bar, the Backlot Bar, happened to be a five minute walk from the convention centre, we knew we had a venue. We posted about it on social media – Twitter, the conference website, and a few other places[3] – and prepared to just talk to each other all evening.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

By the end of the evening, more than 30 people had come – students, postdocs, faculty and industry professionals. It was a really nice evening, and the diversity of (chemical) interests made conversations pleasantly wide ranging. Perhaps best of all, chemists from Gilead Sciences joined us after the CSC awards dinner and expressed interest in supporting a similar event in Vancouver – what would be the first, official Pride Mixer at our national conference.

It didn’t take much to organize – the Vancouver CSC organizing committee and CIC national team were both immediately supportive. We found a great venue, eleven81, and printed 50 tickets, thinking that would be a fair number to expect with a bit more notice. Again, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Walking through Vancouver airport arrivals on Sunday morning, bleary eyed from an early flight, I got an email asking for the 50th ticket to the event. On Monday, we had to contact the venue to find out its capacity. On Tuesday, we maxed out the capacity of the venue. And on Wednesday…

Look, we’ve all been to mixers before and we know the drill: have some drinks, talk to people, be social, make some connections… So why am I even writing this article?

Because people kept coming up to me, or visiting the Gilead booth – not just to look for tickets, but to thank Gilead for its support; to say how much having an event like this meant to them, to say how meaningful it was for the 2SLGBTQ+ community to be acknowledged at the conference. The event, perhaps unsurprisingly, revealed that there are a larger number of 2SLGBTQ+ chemists in the CSC than you might have thought; visibility matters – and sometimes all it takes is a trip to a bar.

I was one of the co-organizers of LGBTQ+inSTEM in 2019, an initiative led by James Gauld and Tricia Carmichael. There was no set theme, but what emerged from almost every presentation and discussion was the importance of role models, community and especially mentorship.

What events like the Pride Mixer offer is an opportunity to find that community, to forge mentoring relationships and meet some role models.[4] This is especially important for early career scientists and students from smaller institutions or organizations, where it is easy to feel like you’re the only gay in the village.

With that in mind, we are developing a Member Resource Group, Pride in the CIC, to create a permanent support, information and reference point for chemists across Canada. This group is inclusive for all within the 2SLGBTQ+ community and allies, and CIC members interested in joining are encouraged to contact me, Nola Etkin or Tricia Carmichael. We’d love to hear from you!

I’d like to conclude by thanking the CIC for making the Pride mixer part of the official social program, and Gilead Sciences for its support of this initiative. To be included, to be recognised, to be a part of the chemical community as ourselves – well, that gives me Pride in the CIC.

John Hayward is a Senior Research Associate in the Trant group at the University of Windsor. He would like to thank his co-organizers Tricia Carmichael and Curtis Rieder for their assistance organizing the Pride Mixer, and John Trant for his allyship and support of attending the conference.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of CIC, CSC or CSChE.



[1] Throughout this article, the acronym 2SLGBTQ+ is used for Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning and additional sexual orientations and gender identities.

[2] A mixer had been planned to coincide with a symposium at the 2020 CCCE. Organized by Profs Nola Etkin, James Gauld, Tricia Carmichael, Horace Luong and myself, It Gets Better: LGBTQ+ in Chem was subsequently delivered virtually at the 2021 CCCE and World Chemistry Congress.

[3] If you know you know.

[4] Nola Etkin has been an outstanding leader, activist and advocate for the 2SLGBTQ+ community. If you’re looking for role models, I recommend you start with her.