Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work

First Advisor

Richard Walsh-Bowers

Advisor Role

Dissertation Co-Supervisor

Second Advisor

Robert Basso

Advisor Role

Dissertation Co-Supervisor


This study explores issues related to same-gender sexual orientation in social work education from the standpoint of gay men. The literature suggests that the effectiveness of social services is limited by social workers’ lack of knowledge and sensitivity regarding same-gender sexual orientation. This problem is significant because at least 10% of the population are sexually attracted to members of their own gender and because clients from this segment of the population may have service needs different than those of heterosexuals, particularly related to societal discrimination based on sexual orientation. The purpose of this inquiry is to identify changes needed in social work education with respect to same-gender sexual orientation and to understand how these modifications could be implemented. The investigation is based on feminist standpoint theory, a critical approach to epistemology which holds that knowledge reflects the social values of those who develop and ascribe to it. The design of this inquiry includes strategies drawn from institutional ethnography, an application of standpoint theory to the study of social institutions from the standpoint of marginalized groups, for the purpose of uncovering the determinants of oppression. The study also employs strategies of action research, an approach to stimulating change as well as developing knowledge, which involves collaboration with those who will be affected by the outcomes of inquiry. The research participants were 37 gay men, including students and faculty members from 11 schools of social work in six Canadian provinces, as well as practising social workers and clients of professional social workers. Most respondents were white, anglophone, and middle-aged. I collaborated with a committee of gay men during all phases of the design and implementation of the study. The investigation involved in-depth, semi-structured interviews of respondents about their experiences and perceptions regarding social work education, as well as examination of documents related to social work education policies and programs. Analysis of the data focused on identifying problematic aspects of social work education and their determinants. The findings are that issues related to same-gender sexual orientation are excluded and marginalized in social work education discourse. Respondents perceived the climate in schools of social work to be unsafe for open discussion of same-gender sexual orientation and the curricula to lack accurate content on the topic. This silencing appears to be linked to accreditation standards which do not require schools of social work to actively address issues of same-gender sexual orientation in their policies, programs, and curricula. The implications of the study are that there is a need for the adoption of social work education policies and programs which would create a safe climate within schools of social work for public discussion of same-gender sexual orientation. Policies should affirm acceptance of same-gender sexual orientation as a valid expression of human sexuality and effectively counter discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Sexual orientation should be addressed in faculty recruitment and development, and student selection support. As well, accreditation standards should mandate the integration of content related to same-gender sexual orientation into the core curriculum. In this report, I use the term same-gender sexual orientation, which refers to both lesbian and gay male sexual orientation, because some respondents discussed issues which related to lesbian sexual orientation. A consequence of this study being conducted from the standpoint of gay men is that its findings clearly apply to issues of gay male sexual orientation in social work education. In addition, the findings may also have some implications for the handling of issues related to lesbian sexual orientation in schools of social work. However, because perceptions from the standpoint of lesbian women may differ from those from the standpoint of gay men, who are socially located differently than lesbian women, there is a need for a separate study of social work education from the standpoint of lesbian women.

Convocation Year


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