@NIH observes #PRIDE month – How research impacts LGBTQ communities

NIH is observing PRIDE month this June with events on the NIH campus and the ‘telling our stories’ campaign. The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), along with the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities are bringing awareness this PRIDE month to how research impacts sexual and gender minority communities. See the NIH Director Francis Collins’ statement to NIH staff for pride month below.

Check out the NIH EDI website here for ‘Telling Our Stories’ and more. Or on twitter @NIH_EDI.

Dear Staff,

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity, diversity, and inclusion in our research and workplace.  As part of that commitment, the NIH will be celebrating this year’s Pride Month with a variety of activities that highlight the meaning of including the sexual and gender minority (SGM) community in our work.  The Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), the Sexual & Gender Minority Research Office, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities are sponsoring several events that will address key areas of interest in working with SGM populations.  The goal of these activities is to understand, in very specific ways, how research impacts sexual and gender minority communities, and how best to conduct research with and for SGM populations.

The theme for this year’s NIH Pride Month is “Telling Our Stories, Claiming Our Power, Standing in Our Truth.”  This theme reflects our understanding of the importance of storytelling in the biomedical research setting.  In each of the four Pride Month events, we have the opportunity, perhaps for the first time, to look at research from a new and different perspective.

Throughout the month-long celebration, EDI will make available on their website video testimonials and written accounts of members of the NIH SGM community and their allies. Through this campaign, we will have the honor of hearing their stories and learning from their experiences.

Each of us has the ability and the responsibility to learn about, understand, and work for the interests of those groups that invite us and trust us to explore research opportunities within their communities.  I hope that during the month of Pride you will pause to reflect upon the diversity of the SGM population and the importance of including this community in our research and other related activities.  SGM research sits at the intersection of our ongoing commitment to equal employment opportunity, diversity and inclusion, and our mission of turning discovery into health.

For more information on the Pride events happening on the NIH campus, please visit http://edi.nih.gov/pride and follow EDI on twitter and Instagram at @NIH_EDI.

Sincerely yours,

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.


Implications of the #SCOTUS decision for LGBTQ scientists

A post by Bruno da Rocha-Azevedo for the ASCB blog:

Diversity in the biomedical workforce: The SCOTUS decision and the implications for LGBTQ scientists

On June 26, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) delivered a historic civil rights decision. It is now the law of the land that same-sex couples have the right to marry. This decision puts the United States into a select group of 21 other countries in which same-sex marriage or civil unions are allowed. The SCOTUS decision has implications related to individual liberties and moral issues, but also in businesses and the general workforce.

What does the Supreme Court’s decision bring to the scientific workforce and to LGBTQ scientists in general? A first clear sign is the right to file for benefits for partners all over the country, since marriage now includes all couples. Thus it is expected that all U.S. research institutions will have to recognize same-sex couples, providing employees with spousal benefits just as they do for heterosexual partners. This is happening right now in several states. For instance, the University of Georgia system, which previously followed state rules denying benefits for gay couples, included same-sex partners on its benefit programs right after the SCOTUS decision on June 26. Similar situations happened in states like Texas, Oklahoma, and Florida, which had previous rulings against these benefits. The fact that LGBTQ scientists can provide benefits (such as health insurance) to their partners will probably allow gay scientists to apply to grad schools, jobs, and/or postdoctoral positions in places they would not have considered before June 26.

Despite being the law of the land, places can be more or less “welcoming” to openly gay scientists. Some universities do not include “sexual orientation” as part of their nondiscrimination statements. Instead, they use a rhetorical “other applicable status protected by law” to include LGBTQ minorities. Prospective students, postdocs, and job seekers still need to closely examine university and research institution statements on diversity. These can tell you a lot about the environment you might find in your new workplace.

Private and religious academic institutions can still be difficult for openly gay scientists, the institutions can claim First Amendment protection for discriminatory practices. Also a significant number of universities offer “diversity/minority awards,” which do not include LGBTQ scientists. Some institutions do not even consider LGBTQ a minority. Furthermore, some gay scientists fear prejudice from their peers during hiring and other selective processes since not all scientists have the same social progress mentality. This seems to be a major reason why scientists don’t come out of the closet. We can’t deny the advances of the LGBTQ cause, but prejudice is still out there.

What should we do as LGBTQ advocates after Obergefell v. Hodges? First of all, make sure the law is being followed. If you are in an institution in a state that didn’t issue same-sex marriage benefits before June 26, check whether it changed its policies regarding same-sex partners. Another important action is to look for diversity employment statements. Does your institution make clear that there is no official bias on sexual orientation and identity?

LGBTQ is a minority, invisible and present, but still a minority Therefore we are a piece of the complex diversity puzzle. And as all minorities, LGBTQ individuals need institutional protection and guidance to avoid discrimination. The ASCB is doing its part as a scientific society that advocates for a diverse workforce. Last year, a LGBTQ diversity workforce was approved by Council and will be implemented soon. Also, the LGBTQ Diversity Session at last year’s Annual Meeting was a success with a great blend of cell biology and career advice. This year’s speaker will be Matthew Welch, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology at University of California Berkeley. So please join us in San Diego for this event!

Minorities are a very important part of our society. For successful inclusion, we need to establish equality in law and policy, showcase examples of professional/personal success, and provide guidance. It is always good to see that we are heading in the right direction and June 26 was a great day. We are moving forward in science and in society.