I am and members of our UNC School of Social Work community are shaken and disturbed by the recent spate of actions from state lawmakers across the country who seek to harm the LGBTQ+ and especially our transgender community. These discriminatory efforts include pronouncements from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton encouraging the public and licensed professionals, including social workers, to report and investigate families for potential child abuse if they have transgender youth receiving gender-affirming health care.
This week alone, the Florida House of Representatives passed two bills: House Bill 1557, which many opponents have coined as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill and Senate Bill 148, also known as the Stop WOKE Act. Both bills would prevent educators in public schools from fostering dialogue about systemic racism and LGBTQ+ issues. In addition, these actions would require schools to notify parents of a student’s LGBTQ+ identity without that student’s consent.
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Senate lawmakers this week passed a bill that would prevent transgender student athletes from playing on sports teams that align with their gender identity.
Unfortunately, these are just a few examples of the social attacks on our transgender and LGBTQ+ communities. These discriminatory efforts are an affront to the dignity and well-being of members of these communities, as well as antithetical to our core social work values. As social workers, we have an ethical responsibility to “not practice, condone, facilitate, or collaborate with any form of discrimination on the basis of … sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”
As a School of Social Work, we are committed to strengthening the lives of individuals, families, and communities. The urgency of effort in which state leaders are working to advance numerous bills that directly harm transgender and LGBTQ+ members, particularly transgender youth, is alarming.
All of our nation’s young people deserve equal protection and treatment when accessing health care, attending school, and participating in athletics. Yet, these initiatives promote discrimination and do harm to youth, their families, and their communities. We encourage you to move from silence to words and from words to actions, to show that you CARE about the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities. Here are some ways that we can show that we CARE:
C – cash: Consider the power of your cash. Where does your money go? Does it go toward uplifting the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities, or does it support the power structures that oppress them? We can CARE is many ways. For example, consider donating to organizations that support the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities.
A – advocate: Assess how you spend your time and energy. Do something! Act! Advocate on behalf of the transgender and LGBTQ+ communities. Pick up the phone, send a letter, email those who are making decisions that impact these communities.
R – respect: Real change starts with respecting the transgender LGBTQ+ communities. Show respect in ways that are meaningful to you.
E – educate: Ending discrimination and oppression involves educating those who are ignorant. Our power is in changing minds, hearts, and hurtful laws. Never underestimate the power of persuasion.
In this critical time, please join me to CARE for our transgender and LGBTQ+ communities. Such action is a vital part of our mission as social workers.
Dean Ramona Denby-Brinson