In February, Kat was interviewed by Roberta Kwok, a US science journalist, for an article on transgender researchers for a US kids science magazine. After some to-ing and fro-ing over terminology and photographs, the article was published online in May, combining interviews from various transgender researchers.
Kat talks about how they got into electronics and music technology and what they research, but also about being queer in STEM, and why they think it’s important to be able to be out in the workplace:
Many scientists are now open about being transgender. One such researcher is Kat Young, who identifies as non-binary and trans. Young uses the pronoun “they.” They are a PhD student in electronic engineering at the University of York in England.
Young studies audio technology and perception. They are investigating how the shape of their ears affect how people process sound. This work could help researchers create realistic audio experiences. For example, engineers can use sound to make virtual reality feel more life-like.
Since they were a kid, Young has always liked knowing how things work. One time, Young disassembled radios in the driveway. Their dad “wasn’t very pleased because he then had to drive over lots of small sharp pointy bits,” Young recalls. Young also enjoys playing guitar. When they were a teenager, they played drums with friends in a band called Star Shaped City.
Young didn’t realize they were non-binary until after watching the YouTube web series “Carmilla.” One character is a non-binary science student. “I hadn’t come across the concept that there was an option that wasn’t male or female,” Young says. “Ah, that’s me,” Young realized. “This makes sense now.”
Young feels it’s important to be open about their gender identity. They include their pronouns on their business cards and conference name tags. They also have posted pictures of flags representing transgender and gay pride on their office door.
“If someone feels that they can’t be open about themselves at work, they can’t produce their best work,” Young wrote on their website. Hiding one’s identity would be distracting. “There’s a part of your brain that’s always thinking about that rather than all of your brain thinking about the work you’re doing,” they say.