Transgender, social work education, lived experience, policy, paradigm shift


Educational settings have been found to be challenging arenas for transgender and gender expansive (TGE) youth and young adults due to misgendering, lack of affirming bathrooms, systemic exclusion (e.g., legal names and lack of inclusive gender identity demographic options), and frequent silence or avoidance related to TGE issues. Though studies of TGE adult experiences in higher education are emerging, most explore disaffirming experiences. Social work education focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion, along with how to promote social justice, which suggests more affirming environments for TGE individuals. However, little is known about the experiences of TGE students and even less about faculty in social work education. To help fill this gap, the researchers interviewed 23 TGE social work students and faculty to explore their experiences of gender-related affirmation and challenges in social work educational programs. The findings from a thematic analysis identified examples of affirming and disaffirming experiences and recommendations for improving gender affirmation and inclusion in social work programs. Social work is in a strategic position to serve the needs and impact the social welfare of TGE individuals, starting with educational settings.

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