Dealing effectively with issues of diversity, including sexual diversity, is part of the requirement to develop “cultural competence” in child welfare.
Two factors must be present for cultural competence:
Awareness of the dynamic, ever changing quality of culture, and that is
neither a blueprint for behavior nor a static identity
The practice of cultural humility
All in the Child Welfare Field- Social Workers, Foster Parents, Residential Treatment Care Workers, Allied Professionals and Community Partners – whether we like it or not, or are comfortable or not, are living in a moment of significant social transition. Issues being raised today about LGBTQ youth are similar to other changes when society had to grapple with many previous issues of injustice and inequality: slavery, child labor and rights of children, voting rights, civil rights, affirmative action, and women’s rights. Although there has been change and movement with many of these issues of inequality, most of these struggles continue to some degree, socially if not legally.
The American culture has broadened its definition of “acceptable” gay role models in the media over the last decades with the Will and Grace, Modern Family, and Glee t.v. hits. While previously gay movie stars hid their sexuality until near their deaths and always “played straight”, modern day stars do not fear portraying very gay roles, with Heath Ledger being nominated for an Oscar playing a gay cowboy in Brokeback Mountain and Annette Benning and Julianne Moore playing a lesbian couple.
Gay rights and the fight for marriage equality are the latest major social change, following marriage equality for inter-racial couples not that long ago.
The military has approved females fighting in combat roles, in yet another shift toward equality, and we are currently engaged in heated discussion and debate over immigration reform.
As we prepare for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia there is already a “stir” since the legislation has been proposed that would outlaw “homosexual propaganda”, meaning public events that promote LGBT rights and public displays of same sex affection.
During every transition toward justice we experience a significant “split” among people between those wanting to hold on to the current situation and those pushing for change. Even groups that are previously struggling for their own freedoms often resist offering freedom to new groups. These splits are painful and contentious and require much personal effort to maintain relationships in a way that respects differences between people of good will.
There are many differences between people with regard to concepts such as “the natural state” or the “natural order”.
Race: Superior vs. inferior
Gender: differences between male and female and issues of inequality on various levels
Sexual differences: natural/normal vs. unnatural/abnormal; healthy vs. unhealthy
A recent award winning movie, “Lincoln”, contains many references to the “natural order” as some of our white ancestors strove to legitimize “owning” other people. We heard the same language when inter-racial marriage was prohibited.