I'm currently applying to grad school to do a PhD in physics in the United States. I would really like to mention in the personal history statement/diversity statement essays: 1) the work I did in my undergrad to create a safe, informal community for other LGBTQ students in my department and 2) how it's a future goal of mine to be an openly gay professor (having an out-and-proud academic role model would have been very valuable to me, even though that may sound ridiculous*).
Is it prudent to mention my orientation in these essays? Or am I just asking for trouble?
My identity is very important to me as is the work I have done/plan to do to make academia a more accepting environment, but at the same time, I am scared that I will be risking my chances of getting into grad school by mentioning what's still considered a very 'controversial' issue by many people. Hope this question is appropriate for this forum, and thank you in advance!
(Edit 11/25) Note these statements are not the statement of purpose (which is entirely academic) but rather extra essays requested in addition to the statement of purpose. UC Irvine gave advice here about these essays as:
Write about your contribution to diversity in your Personal History Statement or Diversity Statement of the graduate application, if there is one. If there is no Personal Statement or Diversity Statement, then include a paragraph about your contribution to diversity and diversity activity in your Statement of Purpose. If appropriate, briefly explain what obstacles you have had to overcome and how that shapes what you aspire to do in your future career. This has been found to be an accurate measure of future success, dubbed grit. Describe any contributions to increasing diversity in the Personal History Statement or Diversity Statement. Discuss specific things you may have done (mentoring, tutoring, Physics or Astronomy Club president, etc.) that have acted to broaden the participation of women, minorities or other underrepresented groups.You could also discuss what you would do at the institution you are applying to improve equity and inclusion there; for example, start a graduate women in physics group or lead outreach events. Be sure to read up on what programs already exist at that institution.
*To explain just one example of why it would be useful to have an out instructor, I was subjected to explicitly homophobic criticism by one instructor at my undergraduate institution. I did not complain because I did not know whom I could trust, but if there had been an instructor who was out/even out as an LGBT-supporter/ally, I would have felt comfortable complaining about the harassment.