One of my long-term goals as an out physicist and faculty member is to foster a more welcoming and supportive climate for sexual minorities in physics.
Awareness within the physics community of issues and concerns for sexual minorities is far behind our awareness of, and sensitivity to, the needs of other historically under-represented groups. It is now widely acknowledged that the physics community needs to become more inclusive of women and members of racial and ethnic minorities, and community-wide efforts have been underway for some time to address this need. In contrast, the importance of increasing the representation of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered physicists is rarely a part of that conversation -- let alone the goal of a dedicated effort within our university departments, laboratory groups, or professional societies.
Addressing this need for awareness and a more supportive climate is particularly important for students who aspire for a career in physics but who may be discouraged by residual prejudice among their peers or instructors, societal stereotypes regarding the "acceptable" professions for someone who is a sexual minority, a lack of role models, and the absence of support structures. Similar impediments remain for individuals who seek to advance in the field, from the post-doctoral level through the full professor level. The loss of creative talent in our profession due to this situation impoverishes the field as a whole and flies in the face of the APS committment to ensuring the human rights of all scientists.
As a successful theoretical physicist who has reached the level of full professor and achieved an internationally recognized role as a scientific leader, I aim to serve as a role model to GLBT students, post-docs, and junior faculty; to alert my colleagues to the issues mentioned above; and to give voice to the needs and concerns of sexual minority physicists wherever it can be most effective.
Specific activities include:
Including the rainbow flag on the first slide of every invited scientific talk I present.
Contributing to the nascent effort within the APS to become aware of the needs of sexual minorities. In particular, I presented an invited talk at the 2012 APS March Meeting Session on "Sexual and Gender Diversity Issues in Physics", Boston, MA. See the related announcement, download my talk "Shattering the Lavendar Ceiling: Sexual Minorities in Physics" or read it online, and read the April 2012 APS News article on this session (pages 1 and 7).
Confronting instances of insensitivity to sexual minority issues in the physics community or broader academic community. See for example my letter to the APS News (page 4).
Serving as a member of the UW-Madison Faculty Senate GLBT Issues Committee (2009-2011), including one term as chair.
Serving as a member of the UW-Madison Office of Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee (2010 to present)
Reaching out to individual students and junior colleagues to provide support.
Maintaining as out a stance as possible in my Department and in the wider physics community.
I encourage any GLBTQ+ student, post-doc, faculty member, or ally to to contact me with any concerns or ideas about addressing the needs of sexual minorities in physics. And I provide a few resources that may be helpful below.