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Advocating for Transgender Clients
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The social work profession seeks to improve client well-being and meet the basic needs of all people. Social workers have a responsibility through the Code of Ethics to practice cultural competency (1.05) and engage in social and political action that will exhibit respect for differences and preserve the rights of equality for all people (6.04). Through the guidance of the Code of Ethics, NASW - Ohio has compiled a list of the ways that social workers can advocate for their trans clients on both micro and macro levels. 


Advocacy on the micro level:

  • Ask what pronouns your client uses upon introduction
  • Ask what pronouns your client uses each new time you see them if your client uses different pronouns day-to-day
  • Practice a client’s preferred gender pronouns instead of simply using their name or resorting to ‘they/them'
  • Use your client’s chosen name versus their birth name. ·  Introduce yourself with your own pronouns.
  • Know terminology and implementing it into practice. There are a few terms that might come up often when working with a transgender client, such as:
    • Cisgender -Transgender (never transgendered)
    • Genderqueer
    • Non–binary
    • Intersex
  • Use your client’s own terminology.
    • Some older individuals may refer to self as transsexual or transvestite and wish to be identified as such.
  • Maintain or reform bathroom policies to allow trans folks to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
  • Changing single bathroom signs to say “All gender restroom” or “Family restroom”
  • Train yourself and staff on trans culture through discussion, trainings, and workshops.
  • Avoid microaggressions, such as misgendering your client or asking invasive questions about their bodies. If you make a mistake and use the wrong gender pronoun, simply apologize and correct the mistake. Do not isolate the individual by dwelling on the mistake.
  • Display Pride or Trans flags in your building as a way to show support.
  • Use intake forms that list more options than just male/female, or a form that allows client to write in gender.
  • Advocate for your client at name change hearings or ID changes.
  • Be knowledgeable about recent events that pertain to trans clients
    • Examples include the Black Pride 4, the proposal to ban trans folks from the military, and the high rates of violence against trans women of color (Human Rights Campaign 2017)

Advocacy on the macro level:

  • Advocate to stop the military ban. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is currently putting together a plan for implementing the ban that will be released in February 2018. So one way to advocate is to contact Jim Mattis (his address is here to send letters to about this ban. You can also communicate to Governor John Kasich and his office regarding this ban. Governor Kasich has influence with the Ohio National Guard specifically as Ohio National Guard is under both federal and state leadership. It is unclear if Governor Kasich will be able to impact how the ban is implemented in the Ohio National Guard but there is a possibility that he may be able to. · Advocate for anti-discrimination policies in the work place or general public policy. -List gender identity or expression as a protected class.
  • Reform workplace policies to be inclusive to trans people. For some examples of ways to do this, please see the resources section.
  • Advocate for insurance companies to cover trans specific care, including:
    • Routine, necessary care
    • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Gender reassignment surgeries
    • Discuss and promote research and education around the trans population with the general public to reduce stigma.
    • Collaborate with local resources to create a safe, supportive environment for the trans population.
    • Show up to any marches or protests that promote equality for trans folks; let your voice be heard!  


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