In the last week I have been fortunate enough to witness two very informative presentations on the LGBT community. Coincidentally, a couple of my friends through my internship Tubman, organized OutFront MN to come and speak about their organization which advocates and tries to eliminate homophobia for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered (OutFront, 2011). The next day we had the pleasure to hear from a speaker in our Swk 280 class, who similarly discussed how to be more sensitive and communicate more respectfully toward everyone, especially the LGBT community.
The main idea from these presentations was to learn how to better serve and look out for our clients’ well being. This led me to wonder if children were taught some of these same basic techniques for treating our fellow friends, family and peers more respectfully earlier in life. College was the first time I have ever received any type of education on how to “walk, talk and work” with people. I believe that reinforcing acceptance earlier in life will allow children to grow up less closed minded.
I learned two very important lessons from these presentations. First, language and terminology are important factors in how you address and communicate with your clients, your family, your friends and peers. Secondly, you should be aware of biases in what you hear and/or read in society. A demographic question posed to clients about their sexual orientation could be offensive and oppressive. Asking someone’s “sexual preference” is not the same as asking for someone’s “sexual orientation”. The speaker from OutFront MN compared preference as a fondness for something, rather than a place of origin. “Evidence for a social or behavioral basis for homosexuality can be misused to argue for the sexual preference position, which maintains that homosexuality is a choice made by individuals” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009). This quote from Marsiglia and Kulis backs up what our speaker from OutFront was saying that someone’s sexuality is not a preference. Growing up I did not necessarily prefer that I be identified as a girl; I grew up knowing that I was a girl. It is the concept of gender. I display the traits of a woman through how society decides women should act. All people have the right to show who they really are, and if they are biologically one sex but physically another, they have the right to show society who they are.
Terminology is another way to learn how to effectively communicate with others. I enjoyed how both speakers phrased the topic of how to address those who are different than you, which should be everybody. Ask them how they would like to be addressed! What type of pronouns (masculine or feminine) would they use for themselves? I believe that people have the right to grow up comfortable with expressing themselves in a way in which they decide. Marsiglia & Kulis (2009, p.159) provide a heterosexual questionnaire regarding sexual orientation. I thought about how I would feel if someone asked me these questions, or how someone else would feel if I asked them the questions. If someone asked me if I would ever grow out of my sexual identity I would be hurt because it is part of my identity and there is nothing I would ever do to change that (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009).
Lastly, staying aware of biases and discriminatory language with what I hear or read is important. One speaker made the point that pop culture can convey stereotypes and stated that Hello Kitty is an example of a violent stereotype. It wouldn’t seem so obvious because she’s cute, cuddly and aimed towards girls between the ages of 5-10 years old. Hello Kitty gives the impression that girls are nice and kind but unable to give consent. After all, how could she give consent if she has no mouth to speak up with? This could be seen as violent and unhealthy because it continues the oppressive attitudes towards women by insinuating that they should never speak out against the injustices aimed at them.
Communication is key and being aware of language and the terminology you use is the best way to communicate effectively with others. Teaching children earlier in their education about how to get along with people, I think, will create a better working environment for everyone. “As societal and self-awareness of identity grows social workers and people alike will be able to bring them with unique narratives and life challenges” (Marsiglia & Kulis, 2009).
OutFront MN (2011). About Us. Retrieved from
Marsiglia, F. F., & Kulis, S. (2009). Diversity, oppression and change: Culturally grounded social work. Chicago, IL: Lyceum Books, Inc.
Class speaker, Personal Communication, March 28, 2011
OutFront class speaker, Personal Communication, March 25, 2011
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