“Don’t say gay” and similar policies from a social work perspective

Black femme with blonde individual braids smiling wearing an equality shirt and rainbow makeup at an outdoors event

This is a slight update on a reflection I wrote for a field course assignment on current events.

Nationwide, efforts to enact anti-LGBTQ policy is a current social issue. Though these policies are just the latest in a long history of proposed or effected policies against the LGBTQ community, many such pieces of policy have been proposed in recent years. These include “trans bathroom bills” whereby it would be illegal for transgender people to enter and use bathrooms that fit their gender (rather than their assigned gender); “trans sports bans” that would make it so transgender youth would be unable to participate on school sports teams according to their gender (rather than their assigned gender); trans “child abuse” policies that trigger investigations of child abuse against parents providing gender-affirming care for their children; and “don’t say gay” bills that would prohibit discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools; and trans healthcare bills that would make it illegal for doctors, parents, youth, or a combination of these to seek or provide affirming care for transgender youth.

outline of state of louisiana with pride flag overlay

In my home state of Louisiana, many of these types of policies have been proposed in the last several years, with Representative Dodie Horton’s HB 837 (currently pending House referral in the Louisiana Legislature) being the most recent attempt. According to the bill’s text, it would seek “to prohibit classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels; to prohibit teachers and others from discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity with students; and to provide for related matters.” The effects of such a bill becoming law, according to SarahJane Guidry of Forum for Equality, would be to “stigmatize LGBTQ people, isolate LGBTQ kids, and make teachers fearful of providing safe, inclusive classrooms.” HB 837 and other policies like it contribute to attitudes and a social environment that is hostile to LGBTQ citizens and their affirming families, and may socially exclude, criminalize, and physically and mentally endanger them.

These policies relate to the competencies requiring social workers to demonstrate ethical and professional behavior; engage diversity and difference in practice; advance human rights and social, economic, and environmental justice; engage in policy practice; engage with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; assess individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; intervene with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; evaluate practice with individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities; and develop as a social work leader. The Code of Ethics Standard 1.05 states “Social workers should obtain education about and demonstrate understanding of the nature of social diversity and oppression with respect to race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, and mental or physical ability” while including the charge “Social workers must take action against oppression, racism, discrimination, and inequities, and acknowledge personal privilege.”

This is an issue for the population being served by my agency, the community, and the nation. Such laws put a stifling effect on education and discussion of the LGBTQ population as well as the practitioner’s legal ability to serve this population and take action against the oppression of LGBTQ people. Every step of engagement from assessment to evaluation is impacted by these policies. An example in my field practice is we are currently looking into diversity, equity, and inclusion in program development, and part of this is building knowledge and resources to better serve LGBTQ veterans. These policies could encourage care teams to avoid “taboo” topics of gender and sexual identity which would mean inadequate treatment of this marginalized veteran population. Should more of these policies progress, care teams may also be faced with the ethical dilemma of choosing between following the law and addressing social problems and challenging injustice. This directly relates to development as a social work leader because it challenges the ability to serve as a (positive) role model, recognize and work toward the organizations’ visions, and confront structural marginalization. Due to this, we must, following the competencies and Code of Ethics, engage in policy practice because such policies affect how and if we can provide services legally.

The follow-up reflection for this 2-part assignment can be found here: How anti-LGBTQ+ policy can hurt the hospice and palliative care population

2 responses to ““Don’t say gay” and similar policies from a social work perspective”

  1. On this and tn copycating tax anti-abortion law there are parts the laws are missing to compensate so everyone is equally inconvenienced in the infringing in a discriminatory manner on citizen rights.


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