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College of Social Work

Newman Institute to Sponsor Social Justice Advocate

Apr. 11, 2019
Chris Woodley •

According to a report from the National LGBT Health Education Center¹, 78 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming (T/GNC) people felt more comfortable at work, and their job performance greatly improved after receiving some type of gender-affirming treatment or surgery. One University of South Carolina student is committed to helping current and future social workers understand the needs of T/GNC people.

The College of Social Work’s I. DeQuincey Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice will host educator, activist and speaker Nathaniel Naomi Simmons-Thorne for her presentation, “Transforming Care: A Guide to Trans-affirmative Practices.” The event will be held on Apr. 25 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Spigner House (915 Gregg St.).

“The Newman Institute focuses on a myriad of diversity and social justice-related topics. As such, we are keenly aware that there is a lack of information on issues relevant to transgender and gender nonconforming individuals,” said Ronald Pitner, Associate Dean of Curriculum and Director of the I. DeQuincey Newman Institute. “This lack of information is a social injustice, and the talk will help practitioners become more cognizant of best practices with T/GNC clients.”  

Simmons-Thorne is not only a sociology and philosophy undergraduate student at UofSC, but she is also an award-winning author, social justice educator and LGBTQ+ activist. During her presentation, she will guide an audience of social work students, faculty and local community members in an exploration of best practices with T/GNC clients.

“I want attendees to understand that our systems and institutions were not designed with gender fluidity and transgender people in mind,” said Simmons-Thorne. “Consequently, our systems and institutions are woefully incapable of responding to the needs of nearly two million people across the country. I want people to leave with an understanding that structural transformation is not only possible, but necessary. We are giving participants the conceptual tools, practical skills and policy proposals.”

Simmons-Thorne will highlight the experiences of T/GNC clients in critical institutions, including shelters, schools, prisons, health care facilities, foster care, and workplaces, and demonstrate how social workers can leverage their expertise to intervene and promote positive outcomes. Attendees will participate in interactive exercises to practice the concepts discussed. A Q&A session will follow, featuring a panel of affirmative practitioners and individuals from T/GNC communities who will draw on personal experiences to further illuminate the struggles and needs in socials service settings.

“Social workers are the first line of defense. They are liaisons to and within the systems and institutions that we must interact with for our survival,” said Simmons-Thorne. “Therefore, social workers play a crucial role in upholding the societal dignity of trans and gender nonconforming people. They also have a special responsibility to assist us in reforming of our systems and institutions which allow T/GNC people to experience the full-scale recognition of our identities and humanity. This currently remains an ideal, not a practice.”

According to Simmons-Thorne, her presentation aims to reveal the difficulties of how T/GNC people are not experiencing full-scale recognition. She hopes that social workers, faculty and community members will use the information from the presentation and become compelled to help in the struggle for inclusion and liberation.

The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required.

[1] Grant J., Mottet, L.A., Tanis, J., Harrison, J., Herman, J., Keisling, M. Injustice at every turn: A report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011.


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