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Demarcating Gender and Sexual Diversity on the Structural Landscape of Social Work

By

Nick J. Mulé, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, School of Social Work, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies, York University, Toronto, ON

 

 

Note: This paper was first presented at the Structural Social Work: Honouring Our Past, Considering Our Present, Envisioning Our Future conference held at Ryerson University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada on September 30, 2006.

Abstract

The importance of demarcating gender and sexually diverse populations in structural social work theory is discussed from a differently centred cultural group perspective highlighting distinct qualities that fall outside normative gender identities and heterosexuality. Historical oppression experienced by these populations has likened their inclusion in structural social work theory yet the continued marginalization of these populations and associated implications are not to be lost sight of. A means of bringing currency to structural social work theory with regard to these populations is to embrace liberationist goals taking intersectionality into consideration. Such goals are in alliance with the social work values of acceptance, self-determination and respect working towards social justice and emancipation, and go far beyond the rights-claims equality agenda that sustains a slightly varied hegemony, giving the social location of gender and sexually diverse groups relevancy and viability on the structural landscape of social work.

Introduction

In this paper, I will argue the importance of demarcating gender and sexually diverse populations in structural social work theory as a differently centred cultural group (Moosa-Mitha 2005) with distinct qualities that fall outside normative gender identities and heterosexuality. This is substantiated by the history of oppression experienced by these populations (Warner 2002), structural social work’s named inclusion of them in theory (Carniol 1990; Moreau & Leonard 1989; Mullaly 1998, 2002) and because these populations continue to be marginalized. I will argue that if gender and sexually diverse populations are to be appropriately recognized within structural social work theory, a careful, measured approach needs to be employed in order to adequately address the complexities that represent the realities of these populations. The insidiousness of heterosexism coupled with Neo-Liberal ideology (Duggan 2003) has complicated how best to be inclusive and address the needs of the gender and sexually diverse. I will argue for liberationist goals taking into consideration intersectionality and to not simply settle on rights-claims-based equality in effectively locating these populations on the structural social work landscape. Ultimately, a means by which structural social work theory can equitably and appropriately demarcate gender and sexually diverse populations will be proposed with a linkage to social work values such as acceptance, self-determination and respect towards the goals of social justice and emancipation.

It is of great importance to marginalized groups that their existence be recognized, as one of the more subtle yet powerful aspects of marginalization is to simply be overlooked or actively ignored. For the gender and sexually diverse populations (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer and/or questioning), this is a real issue given their history of oppression (Adam 1987; McLeod 1996; Warner 2002). Over the years, as with many disciplines, social work has seen numerous theories arise to address the needs of those we serve. Structural social work theory is of significance to these populations for it accurately captures the interrelating experience of identifying as a gender or sexual minority and society’s negative response to this. First and foremost naming gays and lesbians as a recognized oppressed group (Carniol 1990; Moreau 1979; Moreau & Leonard 1989; Mullaly 1998, 2002) has an empowering impact on these populations, and secondly, the social workers who work with them and of course social workers who are members of these populations, as it theoretically locates these people in ideology and contributes to social change in practice. A useful exercise is to examine and reflect on the parallel process by which structural social work theory and the gender and sexually diverse communities have developed over the past approximately 30 years and how both can continue to have currency with one another in terms of relevancy and viability.

Structural social work came on the scene in the mid 1970s as a theoretical perspective and option for practice with a political edge that exposed capitalism as being antithetical to human need. Premised on critical theory, structural social work is committed to social transformation and emancipation (Mullaly 2006). Structural social work is a form of radical social work in which the influence of social and economic structures on the lives of the oppressed is understood (Bailey & Brake 1975). Based upon contemporary Marxist analysis and strongly influenced by a feminist perspective, structural social work added numerous other social locations and divisions to that of class, inclusive of sexuality (Moreau & Leonard 1989). Practice approaches include education and consciousness raising, acknowledgement of the dialectical role of people and systems, making linkages to supportive systems, building counter systems, through critical consciousness affect systemic change (Bailey & Brake 1975) and social workers undertaking intra-organizational change by becoming active outside employer and/or public service organizations (Galper 1975; Moreau & Leonard 1989). For a time, structural social work was suppressed due to an economic crisis and the dominance of a neo-conservative politic (Mullaly 2006). More recently, Fook (1993) has bridged the gap between social analysis and social work practice, whereas Mullaly (1998, 2002, 2007) has further developed structural social work theory adapting it to changing times. Its strengths include the resistance of normative narratives, a broad recognition of diversity and its concern with transforming oppressive elements of social structures. This paper looks at the degree to which these strengths are applied in relation to the rapidity with which the gender and sexually diverse populations are developing in Canada. That for structural social work and the gender and sexually diverse populations to continue to inform each other, there needs to be a recognition of how neo-liberal ideology subverts normative narratives to ‘progressive’ ones, that a sweeping approach to diversity be made more complex in order to adequately address the needs of oppressed groups (Payne 2005; Raymond 2006) and an acknowledgement that transforming social structures can benefit some while marginalizing others.

It is important to recognize gender and sexually diverse populations as a distinct cultural group with unique needs and the imperativeness of demarcating their existence as such on the structural landscape of social work as one means of preserving their specific sensibilities and encouraging their contribution to the development of society. It was a sexuality-based liberationism that transformed the queer movement in Canada from individuals initially considered to be ‘criminals’, ‘sinners’ and/or ‘sick’ to individuals with a diversity of gender identities and sexualities contesting heteronormativity. During this time, a collective cultural identity was developed featuring a queer sensibility built around a nucleus of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations that lay outside the normative concept of heterosexuality. Apart from the attitudes, values, mores and queer contributions to the arts and discourse, Cruikshank (1992) sums up the essence of gay culture as being that of self-determination, a value shared by the social work profession (CASSW 2005) and a goal of structural social work theory (Mullaly 1998).

Nevertheless, it is also important for structural social work theory to recognize the mediation that needs to take place between the individual and the collective. A practical approach is taken by Jackson (2003) who cautions never to lose sight of the diversity contributed by individuals and the need to respect this, but also the need to take on a unitary concept in addressing institutional heterosexism at the macro level. The dialectical relationship between the individual and the collective over time transcends into an identifiable social group consciousness (Foucault 1988). Yet, such consciousness needs to be complicated by the fluid existence of social identity which is not necessarily fixed but rather developing, changing and transforming with a positively disrupting effect on the social order (Weeks 2003).

Sometimes the changes that happen within social identity groups can be conflicting, as with current tensions that exist within the gender and sexually diverse communities regarding assimilationist vs. liberationist agendas that are at odds with each other. Assimilationists have generally sought change via the equal rights claims route usually through legal recognition. Smith (1999) cautions the limitations of this approach for it sees legislative change as an ends in and of itself and as Bronski (1998) points out, this has limited if any impact on social prejudices or fears. The equality agenda is problematized for becoming ensconced in the liberal (Herman 1994) or neo-liberal (Duggan 2003) heterosexist hegemony. The mainstreaming effect of assimilationism is one of ‘acceptance’, ‘tolerance’ and ‘respectability’ on heteronormative terms. Whereas, liberationists seek to expose, challenge and disrupt social codes and controls placed on its communities by a heteronormative society (Lehring 1997; Seidman 1997; Vaid 1995; Warner 2002). Liberationists embrace and celebrate their differences and see it as a valuable contribution to society. This is not to say that assimilationism and liberationism are strictly dichotomous stances, as I have argued elsewhere (2006) both approaches have been utilized to address particular needs, sometimes even simultaneously (i.e. battles for legal rights have produced effective public education campaigns that have shifted the general public’s views). It is to say that a critical perspective is necessary in analyzing the outcome of either or both of these approaches.

Critical Queer Perspective on Structural Social Work Theory:

It has been noted that structural social work theory ascribes to fixed categories of social identity, simplifying their meaning while denying the multiplicities that make them so complex (Payne 2005). The effects of such fixed categorizations result in a mere additive approach and non-recognition of the multiple and intersectional differences (Moosa-Mitha 2005) lived by many in the gender and sexually diverse communities further discussed below. Although the important and powerful effects of structural social work’s inclusion of lesbians, gays and to some extent bisexuals is acknowledged, the value of this recognition and a need to further capture other gender and sexually diverse populations is pertinent for these communities. For example structural social work theory tends not to discuss transsexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex or queer individuals replicating the lack of human rights protections they have and overlooking the diversity they bring to gender and sexually diverse communities. While structural social work theory will identify binaries, such as that of heterosexual/homosexual, this presents a reductionist approach that excludes the expansive possibilities that arise from examining other sexualities, the male/female binary and those that are questioning the need for gender and sexual labels at all.

With structural social work theory firmly located in the critical school of thought and committed to radical social work and anti-oppressive practice and an objective of emancipation (Mullaly 1998), a concern arises with Mullaly’s (2002) reliance on the term ‘equality’ in addressing the latter. Liberation ideology (Altman 1971; Duggan 2003; Warner 2002) is critical of equality as it will only extend to the parameters permitted by the dominant group. A liberationist approach (Tatchell 2003; Vaid 1995) allows subordinate groups to create alternatives beyond what the dominant group will ‘tolerate.’ Mullaly (1998; 2002) incorporates Young’s (1990) politics of difference in structural social work theory, rightly separating out legal justice from social justice. He describes social equality as going beyond mere equitable distribution by giving people the opportunity to participate in society’s major institutions and exercise their capacities. The shortfall with this is that major societal institutions operate within dominant hegemonic ideologies (in this case genderist and heterosexist), implicating people’s contribution in ways that are most ‘palatable’ to those in power, risking an assimilationist outcome. An extension to this approach would be to incorporate liberationist action that utilizes differentiated people’s (i.e. gender and sexually diverse) contribution as a means to actually change the social order, inversing the social order’s hegemonic domination over them. In essence liberationism (Richardson 2005; Warner 1999; Warner 2002) provides a means of transcending hegemonic parameters of movement to affecting change by rupturing, influencing and reshaping the social order with the differentiated group’s unique contribution.

One can see how slippery the slope can become on the structural social work landscape in pursuing social justice and emancipation. There is a seductive aspect to rights claims and legal justice, as victories in such realms (as experienced in particular by Canadian lesbians, gays and bisexuals over the past 15 years, from federal human rights protections to same-sex marriage) gives the impression of an injustice corrected, an achievement of equality and acceptance by mainstream society. A more in-depth critical interrogation deconstructs such illusions to reveal an insidious neo-liberal influence, an assimilationist agenda and a slight realignment of the social order, so much so, so as not to upset the continued domination the social order is committed to maintaining. After all, legal/legislative change does not necessarily result in social change, as the continued existence of gender and sexually diverse-based phobias and isms attests. Lost, and the price paid is the liberationist agenda, process and outcome that would respect a self-defined essence of one’s lived experience, individually and collectively, demand its rightful place in society and work towards creating the social justice changes required to achieve this. Only then, will members of the gender and sexually diverse populations approach a sense of emancipation, not only for themselves, but have a freeing effect on the hegemonic constraints placed on the rest of society. Thus, I caution structural social work theory to be cognizant of how gender and sexually diverse populations are demarcated on its landscape and to avoid the pitfalls of such a slippery slope.

One of the reasons why assimilationist agendas flourish is because they are well accommodated by the neo-liberal agenda which has a covert yet omnipotent presence in our society. Canada is subject to a neo-liberal state with goals for a privatized citizenship that urges self-reliance, self-governance and free markets (Brodie 1996; Held 1991). Identity and cultural politics are directly impacted by neo-liberal goals of which Duggan (2003) exposes as racial codes, populist campaigns, culture wars and sex panics, in which those that fall outside the norm experience the neo-liberal repression of their differences. Even multiculturalism has been neutralized to sustain the current social order. Implicated in such ideology are gender and sexually diverse movements that undertake mainstreaming agendas in their pursuit for ‘inclusion’ and ‘acceptance’, rather than disrupting the status quo. By mainstreaming, assimilationists contort themselves into a variation of the dominant modality of societal membership bolstering the current social order and abandoning the true diversity of the movement. It is at precisely this point, that the movement teeters on thin ice in which the omnipresent role of neo-liberal ideals inform equality-based goals in order to be palatable, tolerable and acceptable towards assimilationist ends – a kind of ‘homonormativity’ – as defined within heterosexist conditions, excluding alternative queer perspectives.

Facades of Progression, Meanings of Regression:

As a means of illustrating neo-liberalist ideologies and how they influence the development of the gender and sexually diverse movement towards an assimilationist perspective, a series of macro issues are outlined in this section, that from the outset appear to be progressive and worthy of the support of structural social work. Yet, these issues simultaneously reveal a discrepancy that in essence can critically be seen as regressive to the true development of gender and sexually diverse communities. The purpose of this illustration is to honour the important relationship between action and theory development paralleling structural social work’s dialectic stance on theory and practice (Mullaly 1998). This series of issues is in no way conclusive nor exhaustive both in quantity and content, but meant merely as examples that structural social work is cautioned to be observant of and sensitive to.

Rights Claims:Canada is noted for being one of the most progressive countries in the world based on its recognition of lesbians, gays and bisexuals via human rights protections through provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Reding 2003). Such recognition in the Charter has opened an avenue of ‘progress’ for Canada’s gay movement, as numerous challenges and battles have been pursued successfully going this route. Legal recognition has served lesbians, gays and bisexuals well by providing unprecedented representation within law and human rights protections. Yet, this ‘progress’ needs to be understood in the legal-rights claims context it resides in, a restricted framework that is exclusive of transsexual, transgender and intersex people. Even for the lesbians, gays and bisexuals ‘protected’ from discrimination, legislated human rights laws do not necessarily have a socio-cultural impact as attested by persistent heterosexist and homophobic values and attitudes in this country. Further, one must not lose sight of the limitations of rights claims that overwhelmingly tend to be premised on heteronormative values (see same-sex marriage below as a current example), closing out alternative queer perspectives.


Social Policy:
The recognition of ‘sexual orientation’ as a grounds for protection from discrimination in human rights legislation throughout most of the country has ‘progressively’ over time, found its way within social work ideology. An important example of this is the inclusion of sexual orientation in the social work profession’s code of ethics (CASW 2005). The importance of this is in the recognition of the existence of these populations, an acknowledgement of their oppression and the need for social work to contribute to the reversal of their marginalization. A true understanding of these populations would go beyond the additive exercise of a mere listing of sexual orientation (gender identity remains absent) and to recognize them as culturally distinct with specific yet multiplicit needs, issues and concerns. A means of doing this is through social policies which for the most part are population based (i.e. targeting seniors, adults, adolescents, children, infants, women, disabled, aboriginals, homeless, etc.) yet rarely if ever do policies recognize the gender and sexually diverse populations (Mulé, 2005, 2007). This fading of recognition in social policy as compared to human rights legislation contradicts the principles of the latter and the efficacy of the former, leaving one to question the ethical extent to which social work as a discipline is committed to these populations.

Health Care and Social Services: The two and often overlapping fields of health care and social services are inhabited by many social workers. And although social work as a field is to be commended for expanding mainstream services to or developing specialized services for the LGBT populations the broader health care and social service systems have failed to recognize these populations due to an illness-based approach, despite, for example, Canada’s population health approach (Jackson, Daley, Moore, Mulé, Ross, Travers 2006). An illness-based approach places emphasis on targeted illnesses for intervention (i.e. cancer, HIV/AIDS), whereas population health recognizes that certain populations are more vulnerable to health disparities than others (i.e. children, the disabled, seniors) due to their social location (Health Canada 1998). The impact of HIV/AIDS over the past quarter century has dominated the focus of funding and programming as well as epidemiological identification of populations (men who have sex with men [MSM] as opposed to many who are proudly gay or bisexual men). The eventual response to the crisis by the formal system was ‘progress’ considering its slow start, but the illness-based focus effectively excludes many members of the gender and sexually diverse populations (i.e. lesbian and bisexual women, two-spirit, trans and intersex populations) and health and social care issues the gender and sexually diverse struggle with (i.e. self-esteem, violence, depression, suicide, tobacco, drug and alcohol use, cancer, poverty, etc.) possibly contributing to their contracting of HIV/AIDS not to mention inhibiting their ability to reach their full potential (Mulé, 2005, 2007). There is much that social work can contribute, especially when one considers that in many Canadian communities outside of large urban centres, the only place one could turn for support and resources and a safe space is an illness-based AIDS organization.

Same-Sex Marriage: The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) was one of the few professional associations that publicly supported same-sex couples having the legal right to marry. At the outset this may appear to be a progressive stance in line with a vocal segment of the gay movement (as opposed to the segment for which marriage has little or no meaning) on this issue that based its arguments on equality, as excluding such relationships from the institution of marriage was clearly discriminatory. If one is restricting the context of the issue within the purview of heteronormative two-person conjugal relationships, then indeed denying same-sex couples access to marriage falls far short of equality. But equality itself needs to be problematized, for the same-sex marriage debate is a classic neo-liberal example of traditional heteronormative intimate relationships (one man and one woman) setting the standard by which some same-sex couples want to be recognized and access benefits. A critical analysis of this issue challenges the notion of why it is that marital relationships are held up as the valued relationships privileged with rights, benefits and social sanctioning over and above all other relationships (____ 2006). If there is a discipline that understands the diversity of relationships and the need not to judge them based on how they are constituted, it is social work, which in essence contributed to the neo-liberal agenda of further normalizing and privileging marriage over all other relationships by supporting an equality agenda over a liberation agenda that would have prioritized the recognition of relationships in all their diversity. Supporting the privileging of one kind of relationship (marital) over others falters on the broader social justice scale.

Gender and Sexual Binaries: Further to the discussion on social policy above, traditional binary notions of gender (male/female) and sexuality (straight/gay) persist despite the ‘incremental’ additive exercise of listing another oppressed group. In particular, transsexual, transgender and intersex individuals are challenging the limitations of the two-gender ideation. Furthermore, there are many in the gender and sexually diverse populations who identify as ‘queer’ or choose not to take on a gender or sexual label, in keeping with the fluidity of their lived experiences (McPhail 2004). In essence, this is a direct challenge to traditional notions of gender and sexuality and calls for a more sensitized and informed recognition of these populations than a mere additive approach. A recognition and acknowledgement of the diversity of genders and sexualities is underdeveloped in structural social work theory, has limited presence in policy, and lacks adequate funding, impacting on programming and services, detrimentally affecting practice.

The Individual, the Collective and Intersectionality:

All of these examples are admittedly presented from a collectivist perspective in which the gender and sexually diverse populations (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer, questioning) are communally grouped together for the sake of centring their differences from heterosexual norms and acknowledging their marginalization as a result. This is not to undermine the importance of individual experiences of those that make up these populations and the differences that can arise among them from within. These differences may be based on other marginalized social locations and/or political perspectives among others. It is the differences of these individuals that make up the multiplicities that arise and intersect within communal collectives of the gender and sexually diverse communities.

A number of writers have outlined the complicated process of recognizing the lived experience at both the individual and collective levels (Crenshaw 1991; Fine 1997; Hill Collins 1998; Phoenix 2004; Razack 1998). Many of these authors have addressed the anti-oppression perspective via intersectionality (Moosa-Mitha 2005). Identities are socially constructed and as such fluid, flexible and open to changes wherein they can overlap, intersect and may be multiple and mixed (Rummens 2003). Also, when studying diversity, intersections, social inequities via power differentials need to be considered. Differing social locations can provide us with insight into differential impacts on social opportunities, life circumstances and personal outcomes individually, as well as broader social systems of marginalization and oppression (Rummens 2004). Some feminists have posited that race, gender and sexuality are integrated, intertwined and inseparable aspects (hooks 1981) yet, also point towards differences among equals as a means of moving forward with joint struggles towards enriched visions (Lorde 1984). Further examples of intersections include other markers such as disability (D’Aoust 1994), Two-Spirit People (Brotman & Ryan 2004), and region (Shields 2003). The axes of stratification that captures varying social locations (including sexuality) is viewed by Crenshaw, Gotanda and Peller (1996) as non-hierarchical and having a ‘political intersectionality’ among them that recognizes differences that exist. Gaining an understanding of diversity issues, requires a multi-dimensional, intersectional perspective that captures a holistic vision of personal and social identity structures.
Whether the focus is on the individual or the collective, the insidiousness of neo-liberalism is not to be overlooked for it too has a set of goals that impact directly on identity and cultural politics that through the guise of multiculturalism marginalizes social movements towards promoting the current social order. Thus, neo-liberalism offers a neutralized recognition of multicultural existence, without contestation of dominant structures. Even when gender and sexually diverse populations are recognized, they are usually placed on a hierarchy of social locations and often trumped by others. It is through this discourse that gay activists pursue mainstreaming agendas rather than disrupting the status quo (Duggan 2003). Neo-liberal ideals create tolerable, palatable and assimilationist goals towards equality – a type of ‘homonormativity’ – as defined within heterosexist terms, upstaging alternative queer perspectives.

Recommendations for Demarcating Gender and Sexual Diversity in Structural Social Work Theory:

The inclusion of marginalized and oppressed groups, such as gender and sexually diverse populations, in structural social work theory, contributed to its status as progressive, influencing both ideology and practice in the discipline. In order for structural social work theory to maintain currency, it needs to be reflexive with the progress, growth and development of the communities it is addressing. In this section and based on the aforementioned arguments, I propose a series of recommendations that would more clearly demarcate the gender and sexually diverse populations in structural social work theory, reflecting a dialectical relevancy and viability between both.

• Recognition of the diverse genders and sexualities that are found in such communities (transsexual, transgender, two-spirit, intersex, queer or questioning in addition to lesbian, gay and bisexual), not merely as an additive exercise, but with acknowledged sensitivity to their issues and concerns and how they challenge current social order hegemonies

• To clearly separate out the differences between legal justice and social justice; equality with assimilationist outcomes, and different-centrdness with liberationist outcomes. Thus, ensuring that human rights discourse is understood via critical theory and informed by a liberationist ethos

• Aligning with queer liberationist strategies as they are most closely related to social work values of acceptance, self-determination, respect, social justice and emancipation in assisting the gender and sexually diverse populations to reach their full potential both individually and collectively on self-defined terms and not those of the dominant social order

• Being cognitive to the covert yet insidious effects of neo-liberalism and how it infiltrates gender and sexually diverse agendas reshaping their goals and objectives towards heteronormatively defined notions of ‘acceptability’ compromising the uniqueness of these communities

• Give equal measure to the diversity of individuals who are part of the gender and sexually diverse populations in order to respect the multiplicities that contribute to the richness of what these communities have to offer. As with all other marginalized and oppressed groups captured by structural social work theory, intersectionality is a lived reality implicated by social structures, in which some social locations are far more recognized by society than others.

• Incorporate a different centred (Moosa-Mitha 2005) approach into structural social work theory as this centres difference as a critical factor safeguarding it from hegemonic influences, interrogates normative assumptions, disrupts essentialist thinking, acknowledges multiplicities (including social roles of power) and allows for fluidity over time

These recommendations provide both structural social work theorists and practitioners with guidelines on generating clearer direction for future theoretical analysis and direct practice action that are grounded in the current realities of gender and sexually diverse communities. For theorists, incorporating the concepts presented will bring currency to how structural social work both includes and addresses the issues of gender and sexually diverse populations. Maintaining a critical analytical perspective lends itself to a consciousness of the insidious role neo-liberalism plays in promoting an agenda of ‘equality’ with assimilationist outcomes, and the need to undertake liberationist initiatives to ensure shared values such as self-determination. For practitioners, a sensitized understanding of the gender and sexually diverse will better prepare them to provide equitable interventions on the frontlines. Developing insights as to the complexities found within the gender and sexually diverse communities on socio-cultural-political and intersectional levels will better assist practitioners to work towards goals consistent with the values of both the discipline and structural social work itself. A continuing dialogue between structural social work and the gender and sexually diverse populations provides an opportunity to ensure ongoing relevancy and viability between the two on the structural landscape of social work.

Conclusion:

Based on their ongoing marginalization and oppression, I have argued why the demarcation of gender and sexually diverse populations needs to be as a differently centred cultural group. The complexities experienced by these populations call for a circumspect and heedful approach for appropriate theoretical recognition. In particular, the oftentimes undetectable insidiousness of neo-liberal ideology against the backdrop of heterosexism can fog well-intentioned attempts at being inclusive and addressing the needs of the gender and sexually diverse. I urge that liberationist goals be pursued over rights-claims-based equality, as the former better lends itself to intersectionality and reaching one’s full potential while staying true to gender and sexually diverse sensibilities and not risking the latter’s slide towards assimilationism and propping up of the dominant social order. I put forth these concepts as a means by which structural social work theory can address its currency, relevancy and viability in demarcating gender and sexually diverse populations on the structural social work landscape. Further, linking it to social work values such as acceptance, self-determination, respect, social justice and emancipation via a liberationist differently centred approach highlights shared perspectives and mutual goals. Nevertheless, a critical perspective is imperative in assisting us to be vigilant against the insidiousness of dominant hegemonies (heterosexism, homophobia, neo-liberalism) that threaten to curtail, suppress or erase the unique culture of gender and sexually diverse sensibilities.

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