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    Gay Rights… What Should be the Social Work Response?

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    by Deona Hooper, MSW

    I want to share an article that was brought to my attention yesterday by a very close family member. This particular article was especially impactful for him because he recently shared with our family that he is gay. He is an awesome human being, well-educated, cares about his community, and he is doing everything a parent would want for their child. Why should him being gay matter? Well, for some in our family….it does! It was not accepted very well by his parents. Despite, everyone seeing gay mannerisms in him as far back as when he was three to four years old.

    Although he may never be allowed to bring his partner to family events, I make sure that he knows they are always welcome at my home. I do not want him to be isolated from his support system or dread coming home, but I must admit that I have not always been this progressive. I grew up with conservative christian values in the South, and the South its difficult enough being a minority.

    However, the pain that I have experienced and witnessed caused a change in my views. I had a best friend who was  a woman, a minority, and openly gay. For the majority of my adulthood, we worked at the same places. Most of my adult life, we were friends, but her being gay was the elephant in the room. I tried to be supportive, but she would always say,”You don’t understand”. She had a very limited support system, rejected by her church, and at times harassed at work. Yet, she always got through it.

    In 2007 on December 27, she committed suicide with her police service weapon. She always struggled with depression, and I didn’t understand this internal conflict  for a lifestyle she lived openly. She was very apprehensive about seeking mental health services because her fitness for duty may have come into question. I didn’t know anything about LGBT support services or getting her connected with people who could identify with the pain she was feeling. I just wanted her to get over it, and I thought she did.

    The last few months of her life were a complete lie, and she had convinced me and everyone around her that she was alright. She said that she was in a relationship and working extra shifts in which I didn’t question it. It wasn’t unusual for us not to hang out when she was with her girlfriend. Although I would meet whoever she was dating, I never broke bread with any of them.

    Today, I truly regret it, and I can’t imagine how that must have made her feel. I miss my friend everyday, and I will never get the opportunity to have the conversations that I wish we should have had. She wasn’t in a relationship and she wasn’t working extra shifts. She left no note, and I have no idea about what was going on with her in the last moments of her life. Bringing awareness to this issue is the only way that I know how to honor her memory.

    Social workers provide 69 percent of all mental health services in the United States. Are social workers contributing to the mental health crisis of the LGBT community’s increase in suicides by failing to proactively do outreach to this community? We must assess if our own prejudices are preventing the creation of early intervention services and proper assessment of issues when conducting home visits. I have noticed a shift in the social work profession that is moving closer towards conservative values. What impact will this have on treatment if the primary mental health service providers do not want to work with the LGBT community?

    This is not a blog post that I had planned to write, but I think this is an important discussion needed within the social work community. You may disagree or agree with gay rights, but a plan must be devised to deal with the uptick in suicides within the LGBT community today. Where do you stand on the issue?

    I have included an excerpt written by Perry Noble with a link to the full article as follows:

    Let me begin by saying I absolutely LOVE Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. (Gonna go ahead and tell you that Oatmeal Cookie Chunk is THE BEST flavor I’ve EVER had!!)

    A few years ago I went to Wal Mart (the closest thing to hell I can imagine…that and the DMV), found my favorite flavor and decided to tweet that I was purchasing some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream…and doing so “unleashed the hounds” in a sense. Honestly, I’ve never experienced anything like it, “Christians” began @ replying me on twitter condemning me and scolding me for buying this product because apparently Ben & Jerry’s supported gay rights/same sex marriage.

    Honestly, it bothered me. Because, first of all…I wasn’t trying to make a political statement I was simply trying to get some chunky monkey and some oatmeal cookie crunch. I like ice cream…I believe it will be served in heaven (with ZERO calories)! And second, it has broken my heart the way that many who claim to follow Christ have treated those who are homosexuals. We’ve yelled at them, ignored them and in some cases damned them to hell without EVER sitting down and actually having a conversation with someone who is gay. Read More

    Deona Hooper, MSW is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper, and she has experience in nonprofit communications, tech development and social media consulting. Deona has a Masters in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management both from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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    15 Comments

    15 Comments

    1. scottrose

      August 12, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Sounds great. Thanks again, Deona!

    2. SWhelper

      August 12, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Will do…There will be an archive of the chat created on storify in case you would like to add your thoughts and comments later. I will add the link to this thread to make sure you get it. My email is deona@socialworkhelper.com if you have any concerns or thoughts that you feel we should take into consideration on the barriers and challenges the LGBT community is facing, please let me know. I don’t have all the answers, but I do learn from dialogue.

    3. scottrose

      August 12, 2013 at 8:28 pm

      Thank you so much for the invitation. Unfortunately, this Thursday I’m meeting people for dinner at 7 across town so won’t be free at 8. Thank you, and please do think of me again.

    4. SWhelper

      August 12, 2013 at 8:15 pm

      Will you join us for a live twitter chat to discuss this issue on Thursday Night 8/15/13 at 8PM EST using hashtag #swunited. Here is a preview:
      This week’s film maker being highlighted is Jen Ackerman who created a documentary on the challenges and barriers that members of the LGBT community face in being open about their sexuality.http://swhelper.org/2013/08/12/cswe-virtual-film-festival-series-the-lgbt-community-insights-to-strength/

    5. scottrose

      August 8, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Oh please. The sexual orientation apartheid system has been maintained above all by anti-LGBT religious bigots. There’s hardly a LGBT American who went through school without being subjected to harassment and torture over their sexual orientation. There’s a lot of junk and hooey in religious texts, and it is UNCIVIL of people to hate-monger against me on the basis of it. None of the anti-gay bigots who base their hatred of gays on religious texts follow those religious texts absolutely to the letter. They cherry-pick, following the things that they want to follow and ignoring the things that they don’t want to follow. In other words, gay-bashing hypocrisy. If religious people want to believe for themselves anti-scientific nonsense, such as that homosexuality is a “sin,” that’s fine for them, but they have to stop the public hate mongering against us. If you look into it deeply enough, the Catholic Church believes that Jews who don’t accept Jesus will go to hell. But you don’t hear them screaming that from the rooftops and all over TV, the way I have to hear faith-based anti-gay bigotry directed against me. To give you another example; Kosher people don’t eat pork; fine. But they don’t pump out oodles of endless hate speech, along with demands for laws banning all people from eating pork. Do you comprehend this yet? Gay people aren’t trying to prevent religious anti-gays from marrying each other, or going to church three times a day, or whatever. It’s that the anti-gays are nostalgic for when society was like a theocratic prison camp in which gay human beings were made constantly to suffer. Romney when he was running for president signed a “pledge” from “The National Organization for Marriage,” which pledge said, among other things, that he would work for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages throughout the country. Do you understand what that would mean, if it went into effect? It would mean that all of the existing U.S. same-sex marriages would be forcibly annulled, and considered void. Where is there any gay person seriously proposing a similar hateful thing against religious people?

    6. SWhelper

      August 8, 2013 at 9:33 am

      I don’t subscribe to arguing the merits of the bible no more than same-sex couples being asked to explain wanting to get married. For me, this is where both sides crosses the line. Telling someone what they should believe in their faith can be just as harmful as telling someone who they can and can not love.

      True believers use their faith to regulate their own behavior not someone else. When you focus on the inconsistency of different faiths, you place the burden of discrimination on someone’s faith instead on the extremist who cloak themselves in religious beliefs in order to legislate hate, start wars, and maintain a slave class.

      The above argument prevents potential allies from supporting a cause even though they may believe in fundamental fairness for all under the constitution. It should not be that one has to choose between sacrificing their faith or supporting discrimination. These folks whom you called religious bigots is evil in disguise. This is how they divide in order to maintain oppression. Until, the lgbt community make the distinction, this tactic will work.

      If you need to identify a true believer in faith versus evil in disguise, remember this: “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” Proverbs 12:18.

    7. SWhelper

      August 8, 2013 at 7:33 am

      Your post is spot on. I have been doing research for my next article examining the conservative shift in the social work profession. I plan to provide screen prints of comments and hate speech made by the people in this profession who provide the majority of mental health services in the country.

    8. scottrose

      August 8, 2013 at 7:10 am

      Really? Are we going to live all of modern life according to hateful religious notions? According to the Bible, if a woman is found not to be a virgin on her wedding night, she must be stoned to death. Also, religious gay-bashers often miss a crucial point in their public hate-mongering against gays. The religious stricture against homosexuality applies to *them* if they want, but their religion can not dictate how other people live. And it is the stupidest thing to believe one has a right to deny civil rights to other people because of one’s religious delusions. The Book of Mormon says that blacks are inferior to whites, but for some reason you don’t hear them saying that out loud too much any more.

    9. SWhelper

      August 8, 2013 at 7:00 am

      I completely understand your point, but at the same time I agree with the article that their are times both sides are not civil. It took time for me to assess and reevaluate my views and understanding of the challenges and barriers the gay community face. However, I have seen equal attacks by sectors within the gay community on people who feel the lgbt community deserves equality and equal treatment under the constitution, but they still believes it is a sin according to their faiths. No one from either side should force their beliefs on another in which I believe is the intent behind the author’s statement.

    10. scottrose

      August 8, 2013 at 5:53 am

      The full “Ben & Jerry’s” article makes the mistake of saying that “both sides” often are not “civil.” What is civil about expressions of anti-gay bigotry in the first place? Why should I as a gay person have to put up with nasty malicious bigots debating whether I’m human enough to deserve rights? It’s the uncivil anti-gay bigotry that has to stop. I don’t blame any gay person for telling a bigot to go jump in a lake.

    11. social worker

      August 3, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      “You may disagree or agree with gay rights, but a plan must be devised to deal with the uptick in suicides within the LGBT community today. Where do you stand on the issue?”
      If you are a social worker, you are ethically obligated to act to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation. I should hope all social workers understand their ethical obligation and don’t pick and choose which ethics they choose to uphold:

      6.04 Social and Political Action
      (d) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical disability.

    12. Social Work Helper

      June 19, 2013 at 2:25 am

      I understand your point of view…However, I disagree. I believe that gay rights is a civil rights issue, so I will make a civil rights analogy to make my point. During slavery and the Jim Crow Era, there were blacks who could pass for white.They hid their heritage because it produced an advantage and shielded them from having to undergo the discrimination of blacks who could not hide their color.

    13. Kody

      May 20, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      It may be prudent to stay mindful of how words like “gay tendancies” can further marginalize sexual minority populations in that it reinforce a misogynistic and heterosexist model for the exclusion of masculine gay men, making it more difficult for them to come out and increasing an availability heuristic on femininity in gay men.’M

    14. Socialworkhelper

      August 7, 2012 at 2:40 am

      Thanks for letting me know…..Link corrected and accessible.

    15. Mireille M Hernandez

      August 7, 2012 at 2:36 am

      The link to the rest of the article will not work for me.

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