Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity

flags representing different LGBTQIA+ communities

NASW upholds that sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are real and irrefutable forms of identity. Thus, NASW condemns any and all forms of conversion practices, as they are harmful to the mental health and well-being of LGBTQIA2S+. These practices stand in direct conflict with NASW’s professional code of ethics, and these practices represent a significant risk of harm by subjecting individuals to forms of treatment.

Many LGBTQIA2S+ people live happy and healthy lives. However, LGBTQIA2S+ people can experience unacceptable social, mental health, as well as physical health inequities when compared to those who are not LGBTQIA2S+ Many of these mental health and health inequities are associated with high levels of overt and implicit discrimination against these communities and populations, both at a societal and institutional level.

LGBTQIA2S+ people thrive in social environments where they feel safe, affirmed, respected, and understood. Social workers have an ethical and professional duty to provide evidence-based care impartially and without discrimination, including but not necessarily limited to, on the basis of gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, and sex characteristics.

Social workers have a responsibility to engage in advocacy to ensure that the human rights of LGBTQIA2S+ people be protected from any and all efforts to limit full participation in civic life and related activities that effectively enhance social, physical, and mental health well-being.

This page provides tools and resources to enhance social workers’ capacity to support LGBTQIA2S+ people across the lifespan. The NASW National Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues is comprised of social workers committed to social justice and inclusion.

Promoting Inclusive Language

LGBTQIA2S+ is an umbrella term that brings together a range of diverse identities. This acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or gender expansive, queer and/ or questioning, intersex, asexual, two-spirit; the + represents people who identify as part of a sexuality, gender or sex diverse community but who do not identify with one of these specific identities. 

Given the plurality and continued evolution in language applied to these diverse communities coupled with enduring unequal arrangements of power and privilege, NASW acknowledges also the limitations of use of this acronym and that there remains an expansive array of communities not explicitly named that deserve recognition, support, affirmation, and advocacy on their behalf.

PFLAG Glossary of Terms

The Impact of Anti-LGBTQIA2S+ Efforts

NASW maintains that LGBTQIA2S+ people experience disproportionate mental health challenges due to systematic mistreatment and stigma connected to sexual orientation and gender minority status. This systematic mistreatment occurs in a broad array of spaces in social life to include political and legislative arenas, in face-to-face interactions, as well as in virtual spaces such as social media. 

Trans and gender expansive youth are especially harmed by the exponential rise in anti-LGBTQIA2S+ legislation that seeks to eliminate their participation in sports,  access to necessary public spaces such as bathroom, as well as access to essential medical services. 

Anti-LGBTQIA2S+ policies pose challenges to LGBTQIA2S+ older adults in accessing housing, health care, and long-term services and supports, thereby exacerbating health and social inequities that have accumulated throughout their life spans.

NASW Policy and Advocacy on Behalf of LGBTQIA2S+ People

Advocacy Highlights

group of happy young people

An Open Letter to LGBTQIA2S+ Kids and Youth

We see you, we celebrate you, and we will not give up on making the world better for you.

Read our Open Letter to LGBTQIA2S+ Kids and Youth