The Out Toxicologists and Allies (OTA) Special Interest Group was officially formed in 2019 with the vision to support the inclusion, promotion, retention, and professional development of individuals that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and related community members (LGBT+) in the field of toxicology.
Although LGBT+ rights have expanded over the last 20 years, members of this community continue to face disproportionate biases and limitations in the professional and social world. In the United States alone, there currently remains no legal protections for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in over 20 states. For science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professionals in particular, the biases are present and harmful for both personal and career advancement. A recent research publication found that LGBT+ STEM professionals were more likely to experience career limitations, harassment, and professional devaluation than their non-LGBT+ peers.1 In light of this and the fact that the most marginalized—transgender people, especially those like Black transgender women that exist at the intersections of racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia—are relentlessly targeted with violence and anti-trans legislation that governs access to everything from health care to athletics to housing, OTA recognizes the need for visibility, action, and education.
In its short existence, OTA has already made an impact on the Society at large: In 2020, OTA crafted a proposal that was accepted by SOT leadership to incorporate broader definitions of gender identities and associated pronouns in the SOT membership and Society materials. This proposal has also influenced practices at other scientific societies in the past year. Also, in addition to hosting its inaugural (virtual) reception this past Annual Meeting—complete with science-themed drag names and toxicology trivia—OTA sponsored its first webinar, which was focused on mentoring LGBT+ professionals and was attended by members and allies from academia, industry, and government.
OTA believes that our goal to advance professional and social development opportunities for LGBT+ folks in toxicology at all stages (from students to professors to industry veterans) not only serves to amplify the diversity and inclusivity initiatives of SOT, but also will create a stronger, more adaptable workforce for the field in the years to come. By doing so, we hope to create a supportive environment in the field for those that identify as part of this community, as well as to provide the opportunity for education and learning for all those dedicated to the advancement of those in the LGBT+ community.
Membership in OTA is open to all SOT LGBT+ members as well as allies who embrace diversity and promote inclusiveness within SOT. OTA recognizes that individuals come from diverse backgrounds and strives to be supportive of all intersecting identities. We hope you’ll join us this month in celebration of Pride, of Juneteenth, and of the strength of diversity in science, and we look forward to seeing you (in person!) in San Diego in 2022!
1 Cech, E.A., and T. J. Waidzunas. 2021. “Systemic Inequalities for LGBTQ Professionals in STEM.” Science Advances 7, no. 3 (January): eabe0933. https://www.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abe0933.#ComponentGroups#Communique:SOTNews#SOTActivities#OutToxicologistsandAllies