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  • NASW-IL Staff

NASW is Committed to Advancing the Human Rights and Well-being of all LGBTQIA2S+ People

Reprinted NASW News Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Celebrating Pride this month and every month, the social work community recognizes that ethical practices are affirming, diverse, equitable, inclusive and promote social justice. We believe the experience of Pride in oneself and in one's community are idealized in an environment that is accepting and promotes a sense of belonging and love versus environments filled with adversity, judgement, prejudice, and shame. LGBTQIA2S+* folks should be proud of who they are, in their homes, at their schools, at their workplaces, in their communities, and in day-to-day life. At this moment there are forces intentionally pushing folks back into silence, into closets, making it more dangerous to show up as their true selves, which is compromising their sense of Pride, and ultimately their overall well-being. As social workers, we have and remain committed to the human rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA2S+ people. We recognize that as social work students, professionals, leaders, advocates, and as a social worker-led association that we are each entrusted with the important work of shaping and maintaining the priorities, the professional code of ethics, and the policy positions of the social work workforce. More than 120,000 social workers are employed in mental health services or substance use treatment. In fact, social workers are the largest provider of mental and behavioral health services in the nation, and we are the only workforce with an explicit commitment to social justice as outlined in our professional Code of Ethics. It is our duty and professional calling to center and advocate with and on behalf of historically marginalized and systemically oppressed people and communities. As of May, more than 520 anti-LGBTQIA2S+ bills had been introduced in state legislations across the United States, including more than 200 that specifically targeted people who are transgender, according to the Human Rights Campaign. With an exponentially growing number of anti-LGBTQIA2S+ bills, LGBTQIA2S+ individuals and communities continue to suffer from oppressive harm caused by what has become a relentless series of political and legal attacks on their freedoms and fundamental human rights. These attacks seek to eliminate access to essential behavioral health, medical care, and even access to practical public spaces. Transgender and gender expansive adolescents have been especially targeted by these nefarious efforts as exhibited in state-based efforts to restrict pronoun and chosen name use, policies intended to out children against their own consent, transgender sports bans, and removal of access to evidence-based gender-affirming care, and criminalizing parents and guardians who love and support their LGBTQIA2S+ children exactly as they are. We are thus bearing witness to the consequences of these dangerous efforts as evidenced in the increase in suicide rates and diminished mental health of LGBTQIA2S+ adolescents and degradation of overall health and wellness of LGBTQIA2S+ people and communities at large. Suicide is the leading cause of death for youth aged 10 to 24, and youth who are LGBTQIA2S+ are four times more likely to attempt to die by suicide than their peers, according to the Trevor Project. While these forms of violence and oppression enacted toward LGBTQIA2S+ people and communities are hardly new, the manner in which the eradication of the fundamental human rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA2S+ people have become a galvanizing wedge issue and platform for a coordinated movement of socio-political hate is unique to this moment. LGBTQIA2S+ people have become targets and scapegoats for extremists seeking to censor and erase their existence. Make no mistake, what is transpiring is unequivocally a form of socio-political violence committed against LGBTQIA2S+ people and communities. As social workers, we will remain equally galvanized by what is an affront to our own professional ethics and values and we intend to collectively mobilize on behalf of LGBTQIA2S+ people. These blatant human rights violations are taking place within public view, and we will not accept silence as we affirm our enduring commitment to protecting the rights, freedoms, and well-being of all LGBTQIA2S+ people. As social workers we will use our voice, our power, and our advocacy efforts to: 1. Publicly proclaim our commitment to protect the rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA2S+ people. 2. Support and amplify LGBTQIA2S+ -affirming policy agendas. 3. Advance and protect the inclusion of LGBTQIA2S+ people within the social work workforce. 4. Engage in public-facing, policy-based, and mobilization efforts to support local, state, and national legislative efforts to protect the rights and freedoms of LGBTQIA2S+ people. 5. Engage in advocacy to counter efforts intended to harm LGBTQIA2S+ people through co-opting state-level licensing boards. 6. Confront disinformation campaigns and related efforts that harm LGBTQIA2S+ people, with an emphasis on LGBTQIA2S+ youth. 7. Engage in efforts to counter and remove discriminatory policies and systems that harm LGBTQIA2S+ social workers and all LGBTQIA2S+ communities. 8. Advance the development and dissemination of LGBTQIA2S+-affirming training and educational opportunities that promote the development and uptake of LGBTQIA2S+-affirming clinical and social care. 9. Support the development and dissemination of LGBTQIA2S+ -led research in order to continue to inform the development the formation of evidence-based practice and macro policy work. 10. Support the development and dissemination of specific LGBTQIA2S+ -affirming competencies in professional practice as well as within the context of clinical supervision. As social workers, we are beholden to our professional Code of Ethics as well as the policy positions pertaining to LGBTQIA2S+ populations. As social justice advocates, we are certainly situated within varying positions of influence to take the necessary steps to support our essential workforce, which is inclusive of all LGBTQIA2S+ social workers and LGBTQIA2S+ communities. Social workers have a responsibility to promote policies, laws, and programs that affirm, support, and value LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, families, and communities. NASW is affirming our commitment to protect and to advocate with and on behalf of LGBTQIA2S+ people and communities. Simply put, silence and inaction on this social justice matter is costing lives and it is within our capacity as individuals and as a collective social work profession to advance the right side of history in solidarity with social justice and the demand for health equity and to uphold the dignity, worth, and human importance of LGBTQIA2S+ people. *Please note LGBTQIA2S+ is an umbrella term that brings together a range of diverse identities. This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or gender expansive, queer and/ or questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit; the + represents people who identify as part of a sexuality, gender or sex diverse community but who do not identify with one of these specific identities. Given the plurality and continued evolution in language applied to these diverse communities coupled with enduring unequal arrangements of power and privilege, NASW acknowledges also the limitations of use of this acronym and that there remains an expansive array of communities not explicitly named that deserve recognition, support, affirmation, and advocacy on their behalf. As social workers recognize those we work with as the subject matter experts of their culture(s), this is an opportunity to invite those who identify as a member of this community to explain what it means to them if they feel safe to do so.


The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.

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