Dear The New Social Worker Editor:
As an MSW candidate graduating in December, I have been thinking a lot about what I will be doing after graduation and if there are any particular issues or populations I want to work with. The truth is, I have been struggling with this for quite some time.
Recently at my concentration year placement for my MSW, I was referred a client by my supervisor. My supervisor specializes in gender and orientation issues and sees many clients of this nature. I am familiar with this population, as I am a part of the LGBTQIA+ community myself, but I definitely do not consider myself an expert. However, my supervisor put her trust in me and my abilities as a future social worker and gave me my first ever transgender client. Now, I consider myself a very open and accepting person and I still hold this to remain true, but that day would change my perspective as a social worker and as a person forever.
This particular client has taught me so much about what the journey of a transgender person is like and helped me to see the world through a new lens. This client does not identify with either gender and identifies as non-binary. I admit that I did not know all the terminology there is in the LGBTQIA+ community, but this client was able to help me begin to see that there is so much that needs to be done for this population.
Transgender persons make up about .3% of the U.S. adult population or about 700,000 people, according to Marie Claire (see http://www.marieclaire.com/culture/g3065/transgender-facts-figures/). This means that there are 700,000 people that may be left out or not receiving proper mental health services or proper medical care or feel comfortable at work, all because mental health workers, social workers, doctors, or companies are not being trained on LGBTQIA+ issues properly.
My client stated that, so many times, they have gone to the doctor and have felt so misunderstood and violated, because the doctor was insensitive and not properly trained on how to treat a transgender patient. To me, this is a horrible tragedy. Imagine going to the doctor and being called the wrong name or being labeled as the wrong gender. I can only imagine how that would make me feel.
By training staff, doctors, and people in the helping profession, the transgender population can receive so many of the services that they desperately need without feeling like they don’t belong or feeling uncomfortable. Isn’t this what social work is all about? Helping those in need? I think so. So I want to urge your readers to become better informed regarding this population, and hopefully as the world changes and develops, this population can be treated with the respect they so desperately deserve.
Laurel Dettman, MSW Candidate, Barry University