Helpful Resources for LGBTQIA Social Work
The percentage of American adults in the U.S. who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) reached 5.6% in 2020—a steady increase from 4.5% in 2017—according to the most recent data available. While more people are comfortable with coming out, LGBT populations and QIA (queer or questioning, intersex and asexual or allied) populations still face challenges.
Compared to individuals who identify as straight, LGBTQIA individuals are more likely to experience violence and face discrimination in areas like employment, housing, criminal justice, health care and public services. Some examples that indicate the need for LGBTQIA advocacy include:
- According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ youth represent as much as 40% of the homeless youth population.
- A 2019 study from the Williams Institute at UCLA found LGB people reported much higher rates of being fired, bullied or denied a job, lease or promotion compared with heterosexual people.
- In 2018, nearly one in five hate crimes was motivated by anti-LGBTQ bias, with 60% of those targeting gay men, according to FBI data.
- LGB youth seriously consider suicide at nearly three times the rate of heterosexual youth and are nearly five times as likely to have tried to commit suicide, the Trevor Project reports.
- The National Coalition for the Homeless reports 19% of people who are gender-nonconforming or transgender have been homeless (PDF, 359 KB).
- According to the National Center for Progress, LGBTQ people report discrimination in health care settings, which discourages them from seeking care and makes it difficult to find alternative services if they’re turned away. Up to 8% of all LGBTQ people have avoided or postponed needed medical care because of discrimination or disrespect from health care staff.
The role of a social worker in the LGBT community is meaningful. Despite the gains that have been made in the U.S., such as legalized same-sex marriage, the LGBTQIA population still faces adversity and may benefit from social work intervention.
Social workers with a master of social work in roles like youth counselors, therapists, advocates, veterans specialists or adoption caseworkers are likely to serve diverse populations. These LGBT social work resources can help social workers better understand this community, which may face unique vulnerabilities in society.
LGBTQIA Social Work Organizations
- Family Acceptance Project: The Family Acceptance Project is an education, intervention, policy and research project working to prevent LGBTQIA health and mental health risks in context of families, cultures and faith communities.
- Family Equality: Family Equality’s mission is to advance lived and legal equality for LGBTQ families and for those who wish to form them. The organization does extensive state advocacy work to drive policy change.
- GLSEN: GLSEN is geared towards those who work in education, as well as parents and students, to end homophobia in K-12 schools. The organization conducts extensive, original research to inform evidence-based solutions.
- GLMA: GLMA is a national organization committed to ensuring health equity for LGBTQIA individuals and health care professionals. GLMA works on advocacy, education and research on LGBTQIA issues in the health care field.
- Human Rights Campaign: The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national LGBTQ civil rights organization. It promotes education and drives policy change through local issue advocacy.
- LGBTSocialWork.com: This online LGBTQ social work knowledge community provides comprehensive strategies and resources for LGBTQ clinical practice, policy advocacy and research. It also has education and training resources for social work practitioners and social work students.
- Out and Equal Workplace Advocates: The Out & Equal organization focuses on LGBTQ workplace equality. It has programs, Fortune 500 partnerships, events and resources to advance its mission.
- PFLAG: PFLAG is the country’s largest ally and family organization for LGBTQ+ people, their families and parents, and allies. PFLAG has more than 400 chapters across the U.S. and provides online learning programs, advocacy support, publications, media training and other services focused on the LGBTQ+ community.
- SAGE Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders: This organization is focused on older LGBT populations, working on advocacy and providing resources related to LGBT aging.
- Trans Family Support Services: This organization provides family engagement services, training, education and speaker services that promote a gender-affirming and accepting community.
- The Transgender Training Institute: The Transgender Training Institute provides training services informed and provided by non-binary and transgender people to benefit non-binary and transgender communities.
LGBTQIA Social Work Books
- “Affirmative Practice: Understanding and Working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Persons”: In this book, authors Ski Hunter and Jane C. Hickerson detail history, knowledge, techniques and theory that inform an affirmative and nonjudgmental practice for delivering unbiased social work services to LGBTQIA populations.
- “Effects of Conservative Religion on Lesbian and Gay Clients and Practitioners”: This book by Ski Hunter examines the effects conservative religious views have on LGBTQIA clients and the social workers who serve them.
- “It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying and Creating a Life Worth Living”: This book edited by Dan Savage and Terry Miller is a collection of essays and testimonials written for LGBTQIA teens from political leaders, celebrities and everyday people. It’s a great resource social workers can refer youth clients to and read themselves to understand unique perspectives.
- “Prejudice to Pride: Moving from Homophobia to Acceptance”: Author Anne Marie Petrocelli covers topics relating to issues LGBTQIA populations face, including how religion and family affect this population and damage caused by homophobia.
- “Social Work Practice with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People”: This book edited by Gerald P. Mallon provides a practice knowledge base for working sensitively, effectively and competently with LGBT individuals. It covers topics such as LGBT parenting, group work practice for the LGBTQ community and the impact of sexual abuse.
- “Social Work Practice with LGBTQIA Populations”: Author Claire L. Dente presents key issues for social workers working with LGBTQIA clients in a variety of interpersonal and social contexts.
- “Social Work Practice with the LGBTQ Community”: In this book, editor Michael P. Dentato presents content written by LGBTQ allies, educators, scholars and students affirming methods and models of social work practice with the LGBTQ community.
- “Trans Bodies, Trans Selves: A Resource for the Transgender Community”: This book edited by Laura Erickson-Schroth contains content written by genderqueer and transgender authors, covering transgender issues like mental health, relationships, employment, parenthood and medical transition.
LGBTQIA Social Work Academic Articles
- “Cancer and Lesbian, Gay, bisexual, Transgender/Transsexual and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) Populations”: This article published by American Cancer Society Journals examines literature on seven cancer sites that may disproportionately affect LGBTQ populations. The article provides statistics, prevention information, clinical implications, an overview of psychosocial factors related to cancer survivorship and strategies to improve access to care.
- “Discrimination, Mental Health and Suicidal Ideation Among LGBTQ People of Color”: This survey looked at the experiences of 200 LGBTQ people of color based on LGBTQ-based discrimination, mental health, racism and suicidal ideation. The study found while racism had a direct effect on mental health, it did not have as prominent effects as LGBTQ-based discrimination did on suicidal ideation.
- “Inequities in Educational and Psychological Outcomes Between LGBTQ and Straight Students in Middle and High School”: This study found LGBTQ youth were at an increased risk for victimization by peers, suicide contemplation, suicide attempts and increased number of unexcused absences from school.
- “The Influence of Peer Victimization on Educational Outcomes for LGBTQ and Non-LGBTQ High School Students”: This survey of more than 11,400 high school students found LGBTQ students reported lower grades, higher levels of truancy, stronger expectations not to finish high school and lower expectations to attend a 4-year college. The survey concluded victimization was a major cause for these findings.
- “Minority Stress and Health: Implications for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Young People”: This study by Cathy Kelleher explored psychological distress among LGBTQ youth and found negative social environments caused by stigma related to sexual/identity orientation negatively impacts well-being.
- “Relationship Violence in Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender/Queer [LGBTQ] Communities”: This article examines research done to improve the understanding of causes and consequences of LGTBQ relationship violence. It identifies support services barriers for dealing with relationship violence and provides recommendations for the social work community.
- “Religion, Spirituality and LGBTQ Identity Integration”: This study of 35 LGBTQ adults focuses on their religious and spiritual backgrounds and how organized religion affected them psychologically and emotionally.
Information on this page was last updated in June 2021.