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Social Workers and The LGBT Community

The Worker and the Over-Worked

The LGBT community, (also known as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) have been struggling for decades for the same rights as their heterosexual equals. Though the struggles have given many rewards, there is still a stigma surrounding the LGBT. It is through this stigma and hate that the LGBT lose their voices and it is our jobs as social workers to help them find their voices again.

History and Description

Homosexuality has been around and recorded since the creation of time: from Azande warriors who took in boy-wives until the 20th century to Homosexual relations between pharaohs, priests, and Greek soldiers. However, this does not mean that society has approved of the LGBT community, presently or historically. Even in the United States, we still see the LGBT community terrorized almost every day. Up until the 1970s it was against the law to identify as LGBT. If you were caught often times you were institutionalized, and some were even found to be lobotomized. One doctor famous for performing lobotomies on the LGBT was named Dr. Walter J. Freeman. He became famous for his perfection of the “Ice Pick Lobotomy,” and it is believed that out of his 4,000 patients he performed these lobotomies on, 40 percent were homosexuals (Mixner 2010). Although, the terror does not stop there, even in America today kids who are bullied are 2.6 times more likely to report having clinical levels of depression, 5.6 times more likely to report having attempted suicide and 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt that required medical attention. They are also two times more likely to have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease and to report risk for HIV infection, (Francis McClelland Institute 2012). This means that the bullying leads to an even more serious epidemic because more than 34,000 people are actually successful in taking their lives every year. This makes suicide the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds. Every 30-seconds someone attempts to take their own life. Bullying is not just experienced in public either; it is very common for a homosexual teenager to experience bullying within their families as well. “About four-in-ten (39 percent) people who identify as LGBT say that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or a close friend because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 30 percent say they have been physically attacked or threatened. 29 percent say they have been made to feel unwelcome in a place of worship. 21 percent say they have been treated unfairly by an employer” (Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends 2015). The National Coalition reported that “20 percent of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10 percent LGBT,” and “LGBT are twice as likely to experience sexual abuse before the age of 12. LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk for victimization, mental health problems and unsafe sexual practices. 58.7 percent of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually victimized compared to 33.4 percent of heterosexual homeless youth and LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth. LGBT homeless youth are also 62 percent more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers” (National Coalition of Homelessness 2009). As if that alone doesn’t make it harder for those seeking stability: in 28 of the 50 states you may still be discriminated against for your sexual identity. The LGBT community must not live in fear of just physical violence or rejection, but homicide as well. In just the last five years there have been 102 cases of homicide with the victim identifying as transgender. 2017 has seen 25 cases of homicide against transgendered individuals so far, making it the highest annual average of transgender homicide on record (Crary 2017).

Helpful Values and Ethics

It is extremely important to remember that when serving these communities, the biggest struggle for those who identify as part of the LGBT currently is that they are not being treated with respect or equality/equity, so treat them with such. However, that is a piece of vague advice as you should treat all individuals with respect and equality.

The true first value that we, as social workers, should also remember is that we should engage and encourage diversity and differences in the work place. This can also be helpful when attached with the “strengths-based perspectives,” when aiding our clients. Each individual has their own personal strengths. When working with LGBT members, help them find what it is that they excel at, to help them with their struggles with their own identities. Our second value to remember is that we, as social workers, should also make it a practice to strive for social institutions to be more humane and responsive to human needs. Members of the LGBT community are discriminated at work very often, and it is our job to help prevent that from happening. Whether it is talking to human resources at your company and helping them set up some better hiring parameters, or assisting members of the LGBT community find careers and jobs where they won’t have to fear workplace harassment or workplace rejection. If better parameters are met than we may be able to see a decline in our homelessness rates and an increase in diversity in the workplace. This also follows the third social worker value of committing ourselves to assisting clients obtain additional resources. This can range from finding them a therapist, to helping perform talk therapy, to finding them respectable housing or careers. These values help give us our own parameters when identifying our client’s specific problems and needs (Hepworth, Rooney, Rooney, and Gottfried 2017).

The LGBT community needs a voice, and as social workers it is our job to help aid them in finding their voices. We do that by becoming their voices or helping members of the community find their own voice and help amplify that voice. With so many obstacles it has been a difficult journey fighting for their voices, but with our help as social workers they may be able to defeat the rejection and bullying done by family, peers and society. It may, additionally, result in increased workplace equality and diversity.


  • Crary, D. (2017, November 17). Killings of Transgender People Hit a Record High in 2017, Advocacy Groups Say. California, United States: Time Magazine. Retrieved from
  • Francis McClelland Institute. (2012). How School Bullying Impacts Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Young Adults. 4(1). Tucson, Arizona, United States: The University of Arizona. Retrieved from
  • Hepworth , D. H., Rooney, R. H., Rooney, G. D., & Strom-Gottfried, K. (2017). Direct Social Work Practice; Theory and Skills(Tenth). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
  • Mixner, D. (2010). LGBT History: The Decade of Lobotomies, Castration and Institutions. Retrieved from
  • National Coalition for the Homeless. (2009). LGBT Homeless. Washington D.C., United States of America. Retrieved from
  • Pew Research Center. (2013, June 13). A Survey of LGBT Americans. Washington D.C., United States. Retrieved from

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