Elena Long does physics with what looks like a freeze ray.

New report shows need to improve working conditions for LGBT physicists

In a new report about the climate for LGBT people in physics released yesterday, over one third of respondents said they considered leaving their school or workplace in the past year, a number that correlated with experiences of harassment and discrimination. The report, produced by the American Physical Society’s Ad Hoc Committee on LGBT Issues, also found that LGBT women and people of color faced heightened levels of discrimination, with trans and gender non-conforming people reporting the harshest environments.

There’s a lot of talk about needing to increase the representation of marginalized groups in STEM fields; this report shows that part of the problem is a work environment hostile to active inclusion. In addition to the usual issues of employment discrimination and lack of workplace protections faced by too many LGBT people, respondents reported a climate in which closeted behaviors were expected.

Inclusive workplaces are also important for the field overall, says Dr. Elena Long, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of New Hampshire, founder of lgbt+physicists, and a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on LGBT issues. “The ultimate goal of physics is to understand how the universe works,” Dr. Long explains. “We can only face these challenges with the creativity and innovation that comes from a diverse community. Whenever our physics culture pushes a group of people away from the field, as we’ve found happens to LGB and especially trans physicists, we’re losing the expertise we need to understand our world.”

The report includes a number of recommendations for improving the field:

  • Ensure a safe and welcoming environment at APS meetings.
  • Address the need to systematically accommodate name changes in publication records.
  • Develop advocacy efforts that support LGBT equity and inclusion.
  • Promote LGBT-inclusive practices in academia, national labs, and industry.
  • Implement LGBT-inclusive mentoring programs.
  • Support the establishment of a Forum on Diversity and Inclusion.

The full report can be found here, along with a number of resources around LGBT inclusion in physics.


Header image credit: Karl Slifer, from the report


Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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