HIV cover ill-advised

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Science  15 Aug 2014:
Vol. 345, Issue 6198, pp. 739
DOI: 10.1126/science.345.6198.739-a

I am Chair of the Board of Directors of the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP) that encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. On behalf of NOGLSTP, an AAAS affiliate since 1994, I wish to register our indignation with the 11 July cover of Science showing transgender sex workers from Jakarta. The cover, a misguided attempt to pique interest in reading the special section on HIV/AIDS, has provoked many readers, including many members of our organization, to express their dismay at Science's lack of decorum and lack of sensitivity to a much maligned and misunderstood community. The scant attention the magazine paid to the transgender sex worker community makes these omissions all the more important. With one inappropriate picture, you have managed to stereotype all transgender women as sex workers and vectors of disease, as well as hyper-sexualize women of color in general. NOGLSTP applauds the articles presented in this issue, but we question why the cover explicitly shows transgender sex workers when there is no actual content in the articles about HIV prevention, care, or treatment efforts in these transgender communities.

To avoid the kind of hurtful misunderstanding and atmosphere of disrespect that has been generated by this dehumanizing and insensitive decision, NOGLSTP leadership would have been happy to facilitate discussion between science and engineering leaders in the trans community and the editorial staff of Science regarding appropriate content as it relates to transgender sex workers and the struggles they face, of which HIV infection is but one.

This incident should be used as a teachable moment to correct the prejudices of those who are insufficiently familiar with LGBTQ communities and their concerns. We exist in all cultures, ethnicities, and walks of life. We are proud scientists, engineers, mathematicians, doctors, and technologists who are part of the Science readership. The cover photo is unworthy of Science and AAAS. The LGBTQ communities, including in particular the trans community in this instance, deserve more respect than you have offered. The ethic of science demands that we regard all minds and people equally. Prejudice has no place in our endeavors.

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