American Astronomical Society (AAS) Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE)

American Astronomical Society (AAS) Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE) (pronounced “wiggly”)

LGBTIQ: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning

Equality begins at home. If your department or institution wants to be more welcoming to LGBTIQ students and colleagues, have a look at our new report, Supporting LGBT+ Physicists and Astronomers: Best Practices for Academic Departments. Jointly developed by WGLE and LGBT+ Physicists, this document presents ideas for improving the climate in your department, both today and for the long term, tips for addressing hiring and personnel issues, and suggestions for advocacy at the institutional level.

NEWS

Upcoming events

  • LGBTIQ Networking Dinner, 6:30 PM, January 5, 2015, at Seattle, Washington, AAS meeting

Contact info

The LGBTIQ astronomy community in the US has a general email list, GLBTQastro which everyone is welcome to join. All AAS members are invited to participate in WGLE; to join, contact WGLE at wgle@aas.org.

Why we exist

Many LGBTIQ people are scientists, and many workplaces have adopted non-discrimination policies. Still, LGBTIQ astronomers continue to face both legal and illegal discrimination. In 29 states, it is legal to fire someone solely because they are lesbian, gay, or bisexual; in 34 states it is legal to fire someone solely for being transgender. The U.S. Government, 17 states, and the District of Columbia now recognize same-sex marriage. In the states that do not, lesbian astronomers and gay astronomers are compensated systematically less than their non-gay peers, unless their employer offers same-sex partner benefits.

While most workplaces prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, such policies are not universal, and many workplaces do not ban discrimination based on gender identity or expression. Hostile scientific work environments still exist, with negative consequences for the productivity and well-being of LGBTIQ scientists, especially the most junior.

Some of the discrimination enumerated above is legal and systemic, and therefore beyond the power of the AAS to redress; but since some AAS members must deal with these issues every day, WGLE will promote mentoring and networking within the LGBTIQ community. Some of this discrimination can be addressed through changes in institutional policy; WGLE can play a role by publishing “best practices” for departments and institutions to follow, and by helping colleagues to educate themselves about LGBTIQ issues and diversity. There is considerable common cause with CSMA and CSWA, since homophobia, sexism, and racism often have common roots, and WGLE will work with those committees as appropriate. WGLE can also advise the AAS Council as requested on LGBTIQ issues.

The issues outlined above should concern all AAS members, since the concept of meritocracy is central to any scientific society, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is profoundly anti-meritocratic. Through WGLE, we hope to make our profession more equitable and more diverse.

Web resources:

 

 

Glossary

Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth (National Center for Transgender Equality).

Intersex: A term used for people who are born with external genitalia, chromosomes, or internal reproductive systems that are not traditionally associated with either a “standard” male or female (National Center for Transgender Equality).

Questioning: The questioning of one's gender, sexual identity, sexual orientation, or all three is a process of exploration by people who may be unsure, still exploring, or concerned about applying a social label to themselves for various reasons (Wikipedia).

Straight ally: a heterosexual person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, LGBTQ social movements, and challenges homophobia (Wikipedia).

Our charge

The Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE) is tasked with promoting equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) individuals within our profession. To that end, WGLE will work to

  • end hiring and workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity
  • eliminate pay, benefit, and taxation inequalities experienced by LGBTIQ individuals
  • create a professional climate that respects and values diversity
  • serve as a conduit for communication between the AAS Council and the LGBTIQ community
  • support networking and peer mentoring among LGBTIQ individuals
  • provide resources to support LGBTIQ equality within the astronomical profession.

Upcoming projects

  • Expand WGLE website to include the following:
    • Provide information to young people who are trying to integrate their personal and professional identities.
      • Whom can you tell? When?
    • Provide resources for supporters of LGBTIQ equality.
      • How to make your department more welcoming to minority individuals (of all kinds)
      • Strategies to eliminate pay and benefit inequalities at your institution
    • Other topics:
      • A list of speakers who would be willing to answer questions or give talks
      • A list of universities and other employers with progressive antidiscrimination policies and/or pay and benefit parity
  • Establish a more visible presence at AAS meetings. Host networking events at AAS and other professional meetings.
  • Collaborate with other minority groups within the AAS and with similar LGBTIQ groups in other scientific societies.
  • Partner with the AAS Council to conduct a demographic survey of the AAS membership.
  • Help the AAS develop and disseminate best practices to promote LGBTIQ equality in the workplace.
  • Host talks or workshops at AAS meetings to address LGBTIQ issues.

WGLE logo

The WGLE logo was designed by Melody Weist.