Historically, the profession of social work has often implicitly reinforced homophobic and heteronormative policies and practices. It wasn’t until 1973 that Dr. Evelyn Hooker successfully campaigned to remove the definition of homosexuality as a mental illness from the American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4695779/).  Current  DSM categories of gender dysphoria, gender incongruence, and gender identity disorder perpetuate the myth that gender diversity is a mental illness (https://www.socialworkers.org/Practice/LGBT/Gender-Identity-Disorder-and-the-DSM). Despite the fact that social work has come a long way in recognizing the rights and diversity of LGBTQ+ communities, it nonetheless often essentializes sexual identity and gender when thinking about service needs. The American Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) has The Council on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity and Expression, which promotes the development of social work curricula and materials (see study report here). However, there is still a need for social work education curriculum development and evaluation in the intersection of sexual identity, gender identity and expression and oppressive practices is actually implemented.


Queering social work explores how queer theory can inform our understanding of structural and critical social work practice, particularly when understanding how categories of gender and sexual identities affect our work with individuals, families, and diverse communities. I use queering as an approach to unpacking how the field uses dominant discourses on sexuality and gender identity and expression to inform how we teach social work and critically practice it. I have taught autoethnography as a pedagogical tool to help students explore the layers of their experiences and identities, and apply them to how they reflect on their social work practice. I have also developed a mixed methods study in collaboration with Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland to examine how students report their views on sexual identity and social work ethics. Finally, I regularly organize seminars and workshops that address various aspects of queering social work.


This is a summary of events I have organized on this topic.

Click the symbol next to the event for details.




Telling Our Stories: Former Foster LGBTQ Youth Experiences with Social Work



Making the Invisible Visible: Stories of Everyday Street Harassment



Latin@ LGBTQ: Healing Ourselves, Healing Our Communities


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Kris Clarke, Ph.D

Academic and social commentator
Helsinki, Finland

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