Gender-Identity Issues

Speaker: Donald Dyson, Ph.D., M.S.S

This highly engaging and interactive portion of the training provides clinicians with the knowledge and skills necessary to assist a wide array of patients and clients. This is accomplished through developing a clear and distinct differentiation between gender and sexual orientation, a practical understanding of the complexities of gender and orientation that includes social and cultural influences on both, and the ways in which clients’ chosen identities may or may not create challenges within their daily lives (Satterly, 2010).  The segment provides practical tools for assessing issues related to gender and orientation, for working sensitively with clients across gender spectrums and from varied orientations and for effective work when the identified issue relates to the client’s sexual identity.  Using interactive learning methods supported by adult learning theory will ensure high levels of not only retention, but also participant engagement, self-efficacy and application.

Brief Rationale

Sexual orientation is a complex and often misunderstood component of human sexuality.  Blaise Parker (2008) describes sexual orientation as the direction of an individual’s erotic, love and interpersonal feelings toward men, women or both genders (p. 232).  The terms heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual are often used to refer to sexual orientation, however, these are somewhat limiting based upon how an individual understands his or her sexuality.  Generally, the term homosexual, while often used in historical literature, is not used. Instead, the terms gay, lesbian or bisexual reflect the choices of the terminology the population uses (Parker, 2007).

The term “Queer” emerged in the late twentieth century (Jagose, 1996).  Originally used to mean “strange” or “odd,” it was later employed as an epithet toward GLBT people.  In the 1990’s, the sexual minority community embraced the term Queer as a self-identifier with numerous implications, including empowerment (i.e. using the oppressive term as a positive label) and fluidity of identity.  This latter implication embraced individuals who did not feel they fit within the categorical strictures of the terms gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Transgender is an umbrella term that refers to persons who do not fall into the binary constructs of gender in Western society (Embaye, 2006).  Transgender persons report that their inner sense of gendered experience does not correspond with the gender assigned at birth (Pauling, 1999).  Collectively, member of this community are often referred to as the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community.

Providing effective and ethical services to GLBT clients or students is often a challenge due to the realities of prejudice and discrimination that face this population daily.  The segment will address some of the ways that social workers (1) display biased, inadequate, or inappropriate attitudes and behaviors towards their GLBT clients; and (2) provide affirmative social work practice (American Psychological Association, 2000; Messinger 2006).

Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course/event, participants will be able to:

  1. Distinguish between Gender, Orientation and Identity;
  2. Identify the psychosocial challenges and strengths of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual clients;
  3. Identify the psychosocial challenges and strengths of Transgender clients;
  4. Identify professional practices that communicate sensitivity to clients of different genders and orientations;
  5. Identify client challenges that may be related to gender, orientation and identity, including challenges related to social and cultural realities;
  6. Identify and discuss personal and professional values that may impact professional practice with GLBT clients;
  7. Recognize and describe the factors that reflect Affirmative Practice with GLBT clients;
  8. Evaluate practice approaches for their efficacy in working around issues of gender, orientation and identity.