Transgender, transformative justice, social work, anti-trans- gender policy, cultural humility, accountability, peacemaking


Social work education has traditionally used frameworks, such as cultural competency, to guide implicit and explicit curricula that shape how we think about communities that live and thrive outside of white supremacist and cis/heteronormative norms and values. While the cultural competency framework intends to promote a level of consciousness and attention that is required to practice with diverse individuals, families, and communities whose identities differ from that of the social worker, it instead inadvertently creates a knowledge base that reinforces harmful power dynamics between social worker and client/community. The cultural competency framework is absent of historical and structural context and lacks critical examination of positionality. The use of such frameworks has positioned social work educators and practitioners as the “experts” about culture, thus reinforcing the oppressive dynamic that allows for transgender and gender expansive (TGE) erasure, white supremacy, and transphobia to go unchecked. Without structural knowledge about the ways in which trans- phobic rhetoric and white supremacist ideology, for example, are reflected in policies and practices, social workers may be unable to develop the skills necessary to challenge these forms of injustice and ultimately hold them- selves, their colleagues, policymakers and the profession accountable. We suggest a shift in positioning that encourages and practices accountability rooted in transformative justice (TJ) principles. Drawing on knowledge and practices which emerge from activist spaces, an accountability frame- work is built upon a systemic understanding that requires shifts in belief, thinking, and behavior at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, institutional, and societal levels. This paper will introduce a suggested framework for social work education to engage in accountability rather than competency-based education and practice, and discuss how it may be applied to guide a response to anti-transgender legislation across the U.S.

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