In honour of Pride month, read about our CLS colleague Allan McPherson’s journey and his rainbow bracelet.

Headshot of Allan McPherson
Allan McPherson, CLS Accelerator Physicist Intern.

Allan McPherson has worked at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) for two summers and is now our Accelerator Physicist Intern through his bachelor’s degree program with the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan. 

He helps to purchase and install instruments that measure our electron beam as it moves from the linear accelerator into the booster ring. He also helps the accelerator team evaluate potential electron gun upgrades.

“I really enjoy doing simulation work,” Allan said. “I ran one to simulate the electric and magnetic fields inside an electron gun and how the electrons would be accelerated by them to determine how much power we would need to achieve the energy that we wanted.”

He also likes getting to work with a diverse group of people at the CLS. 

“In this relatively small city and relatively small institution, there are people from all over the world working together,” he said. “Working in a diverse workplace can sometimes pose a challenge in terms of knowing what to do or how to best interact with people, but I really enjoy it.”

For Allan, wearing a rainbow-coloured Pride bracelet on his wrist has made him feel more accepted at the CLS. “I have worn this bracelet pretty much every day for the last year,” he said. “It’s treated as a non-issue, which is exactly what I want. I think everyone wants our differences to be implicitly accepted.”

Allan wears the bracelet as an outward expression of who he is.

Allan's Pride bracelet is rainbow coloured and features the word
Allan wears his Pride bracelet every day as an outward expression of who he is.

“Depending on who you ask, I pass as straight. Not necessarily because I try but just because that’s who I am. For a long time, if someone asked me, then I would matter-of-factly tell them I was gay. But, because it wasn’t apparent, it held me back from feeling really open. By wearing this, I am making an outward show of who I am—making my identity visible.”

Initially, Allan was nervous to wear a Pride bracelet in public. He was worried he would experience negative reactions, looks of disgust or even physical violence. “It wasn’t that many years ago we had the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida,” he said.

“I would feel actual anxiety when I scanned my pass to get on the bus because that was the thing that exposed my bracelet the most.” With time, he began to feel more comfortable. “It was that process of wearing it and realizing that nobody cared that helped me to start to feel more comfortable being outwardly open.”

When asked if he had any recommendations for how the CLS could be more inclusive, he responded: “This is something much bigger than just the CLS, but I think that science and engineering have historically been very male and straight dominated fields. More needs to be done across the board to make the sciences, physics and engineering feel welcoming to women, queer people and Indigenous people.”

In the future, Allan wants to be a music, math and science tutor. He hopes to pass on his passion for these fields while also encouraging his students to be comfortable with who they are, whoever that might be.

“One of the biggest things for moving people along in their acceptance of queer people is knowing somebody who is queer and knowing them well. Seeing a tutor who is open about who they are can help.”

He hopes to help contribute to greater representation of the diversity within the gay community.

“There can be a certain feeling that there is only one way to be gay. Go back to the 90s when the only real LGBT+ representation in the media was Will and Grace. It felt like you had to be Will or Jack and those were the only two options for the gay man you could be, but there are lots more options,” he said. “You can be gay and love math.”

Written by Victoria Schramm.

Between all of our staff and the thousands of scientists from around the world who use our facility every year, we are privileged to work with a diverse group of people at the Canadian Light Source. As a national research facility that values respect, integrity, equity and balance in the workplace, and public accountability, we stand unequivocally for human rights.

For more information, contact:

Victoria Schramm
Communications Coordinator
Canadian Light Source

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