In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section LGBTQ Populations and Social Work

  • Introduction
  • Foundational Works
  • Texts
  • Reference Works
  • Organizations
  • Journals

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Social Work LGBTQ Populations and Social Work
Mitchell Rosenwald, Mabel M. Rodriguez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 November 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0260


It is well-documented that individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/ questioning (LGBTQ) navigate their lives in the presence of stigma and discrimination. Social workers play an essential role as mentors, brokers, therapists, and advocates with individuals who are LGBTQ as they travel their life paths. This annotated bibliography intends to provide knowledge and practice applications to social workers and other professionals that will help increase their competencies with the LGBTQ population. Drawing on classic Texts, social workers can understand some of the historical and fundamental knowledge necessary to work with individuals who are LGBTQ. Specific knowledge of each subpopulation—Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual Individuals, and Transgender / Gender Nonconforming Individuals—is critical for understanding their experiences, challenges, and resiliencies. Furthermore, sexual orientation and gender identity variables intersect with other variables, such as race or ethnicity or both, ability status, Religious Affiliations, and age. These intersections shift and expand the LGBTQ lens toward an appreciation of the complexity of the human experience with multiple identity facets involved. For individuals who identify as LGBTQ, both oppression and resilience interplay in a range of areas. The decision to “come out,” the experience of historical and potentially psychological Trauma, the degree of social supports, Health and Mental Health status, and the potential involvement of child welfare systems are some of the issues and barriers many LGBTQ individuals experience and overcome. Yet others face difficulties rooted in heterosexism, homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Interventions at the clinical level can heal past and present traumas while interventions at the macro level can prevent some of the very trauma and distress the population faces. Social workers can avail themselves of key journal articles, texts, and references for the latest knowledge and advocacy efforts. Additionally, Organizations provide digital and in-person education, support, and advocacy for the LGBTQ population. Social workers serve on the frontlines and behind the scenes with their work with the LGBTQ population. They have an ethical imperative to work to provide support, healing, and advocacy. It our hope that the following bibliography is useful to social workers in this endeavor.

Foundational Works

The following Texts are among the classics that inform queer studies in social work as they provide history, insight, and close-up accounts of the LGBTQ population within its social context. Histories of LGBTQ individuals can only be understood within the historical Trauma in which they were shunned, harmed, and made invisible; see Appleby and Anastas 1998; Bornstein 1994; Faderman 1991; Savin-Williams 1990; Seidman 1996; and Weinberg, et al. 1994. Yet these histories are also emboldened by sheer LGBTQ resilience, as LGBTQ individuals and groups gained the strength to share their stories, bravely lived their lives, and fought for more affirmative social attitudes and responsive social policies. Collectively, these texts provide several accounts of the histories of the LGBTQ population spanning centuries as well as a specific focus on the AIDS epidemic; see Bronski 2011, Katz 1992, and Shilts 1987. They provide foundation for understanding the LGBTQ experience and insight into the theory and practice of helping this population.

  • Appleby, G. A., and J. W. Anastas. 1998. Not just a passing phase: Social work with gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    The authors provide an overview of lesbian, gay, and bisexual identity development within an ecological model of social work practice including attention to life transitions, management of issues related to family acceptance, and identity development. The impacts of self-identity, sexual orientation, heterosexism, and homophobia are addressed. Lastly, the text covers areas of challenges specific to mental health, substance abuse, violence, and HIV/AIDS.

  • Bornstein, Kate. 1994. Gender outlaw. London: Routledge.

    This landmark text provides a firsthand account of an individual’s experience as transgender and situates the experience into the sociological context. The author examines gender constructions as well as providing details on navigating through life in a bi-gender world.

  • Bronski, Michael. 2011. A queer history of the United States. Boston: Beacon.

    Chronicling the queer history of the United States from its discovery to activism in the era of AIDS, the text provides a chronology of how the LGBTQ population has interacted with the broader society. It examines histories of persecution, revolution, and resistance while also focusing on urban life.

  • Faderman, Lillian. 1991. Odd girls and twilight lovers: A history of lesbian life in 20th century America. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

    This text examines the decade-by-decade evolution of lesbian relationships in the 1900s. It reviews these types of relationships with special attention to how class, race, gender role, and political context, among other variables, shape these relationships. In this review, the role of identity and culture in lesbian life is highlighted.

  • Katz, J. N. 1992. Gay American history. Rev. ed. London: Penguin.

    It has been said that the history that has been taught for centuries is that of heterosexual history. This essential book corrects that myth and provides a comprehensive account of the contributions of lesbian and Gay Men to the history of the United States. It reviews both the tragic and resilient periods of the nation’s view of lesbian and gay individuals, and how these groups responded, survived, and moved to empowerment.

  • Mallon, G. P., ed. 2008. Social work practice with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. 2d ed. New York: Routledge.

    This book provides an overview of practice knowledge and principles for social workers and other practitioners to work with the LGBT population. Topics include the provision of individual, couples, group, family, and community work to individuals who are LGBT. Diversity as well as ethical issues are explored.

  • Savin-Williams, R. 1990. Gay and lesbian youth: Expressions of identity. New York: Hemisphere.

    This text explores the author’s research on self-esteem among lesbian and gay young people. It reviews the theory and research on lesbian and gay self-esteem. Finally, it adds the author’s conclusions from his study.

  • Seidman, S., ed. 1996. Queer theory/sociology. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    This text provides a comprehensive overview of foundational sociological thinking’s intersection with queer theory. It covers both a sociological overview on homosexuality and a dialogue on queer theory and also reviews frameworks for understanding queer theory through the lens of identity, society, and politics. The text serves as a cornerstone in sociology and helps provide social workers with a macro perspective on sexuality.

  • Shilts, R. 1987. And the band played on. New York: St. Martin’s.

    In this historic text that chronicled the impact of AIDS, the author explores the disease’s effect on the predominantly gay population in America. The eras prior to and during the AIDS epidemic are reviewed. The political context and policy response to this epidemic makes this text a classic read on understanding the impact and consequences of AIDS.

  • Weinberg, M. S., C. J. Williams, and D. W. Pryor. 1994. Dual attraction: Understanding bisexuality. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    This volume heralds a historical accomplishment in focusing attention on bisexuality with an expansive scope. It explores the concept of bisexuality and provides details into that experience, situating bisexuality among heterosexuality and homosexuality, and addressing its conceptualization after the era of AIDS.

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