Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How it happened

I want to thank everyone who made the recognition happen, and make sure credit lies where it is due.  It's clear that the event was well received.  AAS President Debbie Elmegreen told me that she received numerous complements after the ceremony.

From my perspective, this was a lot like pushing a big rock downhill -- the initial "grassroots" push took a lot of work (emails, Facebook page, blog, drafting documents...), but once the letters of support started flooding in it was clear that there was support on the Council and among influential people in the AAS, especially members of the nascent LGBTIQ working group, and the effort took on a life of its own.

I wasn't privy to the discussion within the Council, but I have gathered that while there was some resistance to the award, the overwhelming sentiment that this was the right thing to do led to a unanimous decision for the special recognition last Tuesday.  In particular, Pat Knezek and Nick Suntzeff offered early support for the effort and drafted the language for the award, Ed Guinan was my liaison to the Council and helped me navigate the politics and bureaucracy nimbly, and AAS President Debra Elmegreen was supportive of the decision and getting Charles Francis in town to accept the award.

Anecdotally, there has apparently been a sea change in the last couple of years in the Council's attitude toward these issues;  it's possible that if this effort had started some years earlier, it would have stalled.  So, thanks to those who voted for our current Council members; and for the rest of us:  our votes clearly matter, so don't neglect AAS elections!

I also wasn't privy to all of the forms of pressure on the Council or the organization of the ceremony itself, but it is clear to me that members of the new Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality were instrumental in making this effort so successful.  In particular, I had many fruitful interactions with Van Dixon, who worked hard on this, and Jane Rigby contributed to the announcement and certificate text.

Finally, it's very important to recognize the "tail wind" that we were working with: everyone who sent in a letter, and everyone who spread the word and helped make the nomination go "viral."  Gina Brissenden helped a lot here with her Rolodex, and Kelle Cruz helped me figure out the whole "FaceBook" thing.

President Elmegreen told me that she thought the number of letters of support for this effort was greater than for any other nomination the Council had ever seen.  So thanks to everyone who sent in a letter of support, which made this not so much a nomination but a mandate.

Next up:  a new AAS prize!

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