Contributed by Rainbow Lorikeets board member Abby Walter.
My earliest memory of participating in the creation of the Rainbow Lorikeets is set in a semi-crowded social hour at the 2019 AOS meeting in Anchorage. It was my first LGBTQIA+ mixer, the first conference I had ever attended, and my first foray into the world of professional ornithology. Eric Tobin was waiting to greet people as they signed in to the social, where he charmingly convinced most of the visitors to sign up to help with a new organization — a yet-to-be-named caucus of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), focused on ornithology.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I signed up for, but a few follow-up emails after the AOS conference had me hooked on wanting to be a part of Queer inclusion in the ornithology world. I started to realize the importance of creating an inclusive and welcoming space at conferences like the AOS meeting, where feeling out of place can be both emotional and physical. The additional challenges related to working as a queer person in field of ornithology are long overdue for resources and support. The purpose of our organization would be to serve as beacon for members of the Queer community, out or not, to establish inclusivity and representation with the help of AOS and NOGLSTP.
At our first video conference meeting we voted to cement our official name, the Rainbow Lorikeets. I volunteered to help with the caucus’s web presence and Twitter page, while others pledged their time to advocacy, outreach, social events, and more. Moving forward, we were provided an email address with an AOS domain and offered web space through the AOS site. Every board member offered ideas and insight for the creation of website content. Collectively, we planned to create profiles of ourselves in partnership with 500 Queer Scientists, create information about historically LGBTQ ecologists, and include links to nonprofit organizations offering aid to queer people in need.
When it was finally time to unveil our Twitter account, AOS helped with our publicity by retweeting our mission statement and subsequent logo contest announcement. We are eager to include input from the LGBTQ community at large into the Rainbow Lorikeets. To put our mission into action, we opened the logo contest to both create awareness of our new caucus and democratically adopt an image to represent the Rainbow Lorikeets. We decided to offer a prize to the winner (stickers of the chosen logo), and both NOGLSTP and AOS generously offered to award a free one-year membership to our logo contest winner.
So far our board members have met approximately once a month to discuss progress and goals with our organization. We are still working to finish a website and have made strides in planning for the NAOC conference social. In addition, we are pushing for non-gendered bathrooms to be available to queer guests at NAOC and hope to provide sanitary products for menstruating people in all bathrooms. Moving forward, we are excited to serve as a resource to LGBTQ+ ornithologists. Our mission is to provide a safe and supportive community for the Queer community within AOS. However, we hope go even further than that, including not only ornithologists but also ecologists, entomologists, other STEM researchers and technicians, and queer people in general. The Rainbow Lorikeets are here to help, and I personally can’t wait to see what we can accomplish.