Homophobia raises its ugly head again at CERN laboratory in Geneva

Homophobia has raised its ugly head again at CERN’s laboratory in Geneva, says LGBT CERN, which reported that several of its posters have been defaced with hate writing and bible quotes – one saying that gay men should be put to death.

The LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) organisation at CERN, which houses the Large Hadron Collider, says its posters announcing social gatherings and meetings at CERN have had the word ‘Schwein’ (German for ‘pig’) written across them.

Some of the posters had quotations from the Bible added to them, including one from the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, which says: “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they shall surely be put to death”.

Homophobia at CERNHomophobic abuse is not a new problem at CERN, according to LGBT CERN. (Image: twitter.com/PhysicsWorld)

One individual already disciplined

One scientist who works at CERN has been disciplined after being caught on CCTV while defacing posters with homophobic hate writing. LGBT CERN says it does not believe the latest incident is limited just to one individual.

LGBT CERN, which has existed since 2010, told the Sunday Times that systematic defacing of its posters, as well as homophobic hate writing, is an ongoing problem at CERN, which has more than 2,500 employees.

Aidan Randle-Conde, a British physicists who founded LGBT CERN, told the Sunday Times:

“The continued defacing of our posters is an unacceptable campaign of hate and intolerance. We do keep track of how many posters get taken down or defaced, and over a two- week period roughly one-third can be removed.”

“I don’t know who is responsible, although it is probably the work of a few people. In some cases there have been religious texts attached to the posters.”

CERN Homophobia rears ugly headWhile the defacing of LGBT posters is fairly common, LGBT CERN stressed that hate writing and Bible quotes, like those in this image, are rare. (Image: twitter.com/Jonathan_Leake)

Homophobia an ongoing problem at CERN

Sunday Times science editor, Jonathan Leake, wrote that homophobia has been a problem in CERN in the past, with at least one individual in the LGBT CERN group receiving hate emails – disciplinary action for that abuse was taken.

Regarding homophobic abuse, a CERN spokesperson said:

“CERN considers that these acts are unacceptable, and strongly condemned on various occasions. This is in our DNA not only words, and is clearly reflected in our core values and in our code of conduct. Homophobic behaviour is clearly not welcome at CERN and will not be tolerated.”

LGBT CERN clarifies level of homophobia

Following Sunday’s newspaper report, LGBT CERN posted the following statement on its website:

“The recent article published in the Sunday Times is factually accurate, but some feel it conveyed the sense that the situation is much worse than it is. Poster removal is unfortunately a common occurrence, but more serious events, such as the ‘Schwein’ grafitti or threats like the Leviticus posting are thankfully rare.”

“We appreciate that action has been taken against the one person caught removing our poster and are also pleased that we have an open line of communication with the CERN Diversity Office. Issues affecting LGBTQ* scientists go far beyond the laboratory, and in some parts of the world it is not safe for out LGBTQ* people to walk the streets.”

“As scientists who attend conferences across the world, this places limits on our safety and ability to collaborate internationally.”

Homophobia in Engineering

Tory MP, Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet & Rothwell) published his report Engineering Action: Tackling Homophobia in Engineering in February 2016.

The report, jointly authored with Dr. Mark McBride-Write, Co-founder and Chair of industry network group InterEngineering, showed that more action is required in the engineering sector to tackle homophobia and its effect on productivity and the overall economy.

According to the report, bullying and pressures on LGBT engineers in the workplace is costing UK GDP (gross domestic product) about £11.2 billion each year.

Mr. Shelbrooke, a ministerial aid to the Minister for Employment, who is a Mechanical Engineer by profession, said:

“The basis of this report is to recommend that homophobic attitudes can be transformed through proactive, educational teamwork and leadership. Companies that have adopted such an approach have seen up to a 30% increase in productivity from openly LGBT employees as a direct result of a happier and more cohesive workplace.”

“This report not only highlights the prevalence of homophobia in the engineering industry, but also lays out a proactive approach for the sector to tackle this issue head-on.”

According to the report, over half of LGBT staff employed in engineering are choosing to remain in the closet because they are afraid of what the impact might be if they come out, i.e. they fear that coming out would harm their career prospects.

Former CEO of BP, Lord Browne of Madingley, said regarding the report:

“As a graduate trainee engineer at BP in the 1960s, it was immediately obvious to me that being gay in business and most definitely in the oil business, was unacceptable.”

“This report explores the consequences of failing to create an inclusive work environment. It shows that when people are not comfortable bringing their whole selves to work they do not engage and productivity suffers as a result.”

Video – Homophobia in the workplace

A Brazilian production against homophobia in workplaces.