LGBTQIA+ allyship in science

Created by the ASBMB Maximizing Access Committee (2024)


  • Statistics on the number of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ in STEM are difficult to find, largely because most surveys have not included questions about gender or sexuality. 
  • The National Science Foundation recently agreed to pilot several versions of LGTBQIA+ related questions on important surveys, including the Ph.D. graduate student survey (data available in 2026). 
  • A Pew Research Center survey (2022) found that 7% of U.S. adults identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual and 1.6% as transgender or nonbinary, although these numbers double among adults ages 18–29. 
  • LGBTQIA+ scientists face many barriers in STEM, leading to what studies have estimated to be 17–21% less representation in STEM fields compared with their overall presence in the U.S. population. 

Best practices for allies

  • Don’t assume gender, sex or sexuality. 
  • Model sharing whatever information you can (such as your own pronouns) comfortably. 
  • Use the language people use for themselves (i.e., “feminine,” “male,” “partner,” “spouse”), and default to neutral language when you don’t know. 
  • Google first, ask later (or not at all): Not every queer person is comfortable or suitable to be an educator on LGBTQIA+ experiences. 
  • If something’s hard, practice! Correct yourself mentally or set up a date with a friend to practice. 
  • Correct others when they make language mistakes or say something harmful. 
  • Seek content (movies, television, books, articles, podcasts, etc.) made my LGBTQIA+ creators to get a better understanding of the diversity of queer experiences. 
  • If you create forms and surveys, be mindful about how you use and ask for information about sex, gender and sexuality:
    • What exactly do you need to know (e.g., sex to correlate with medical data)? 
    • Share why you need to know and how you’ll use the information. 
    • Offer more than two options (multiselect or write-in). 
  • Advocate for gender-neutral bathrooms, the preservation of same-sex marriage, and gender-affirming medical care where relevant in your spaces. 
  • You will make mistakes. When you realize you’ve messed up, apologize briefly and move on. 
  • Gender identity, gender expression and sexuality are separate concepts, and you should not assume you know how people are based on current relationships or appearances. 
  • Note that people may still be questioning, which means they are unsure about or exploring their own sexual orientation or gender identity. Be patient and supportive, and follow their lead.