Journal article

Transgender competence in social work with older adults in Sweden


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Publication Details

Author list: Smolle, Sofia

Publisher: Taylor & Francis

Publication year: 2021

ISSN: 0148-8376


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Despite a growing transgender aging population with differing needs and care preferences, professional knowledge on gender identity and expression is still limited. This study examines Swedish social workers’ knowledge, experiences, and prerequisites for working with older transgender adults in municipal social services. The study is based on qualitative semi-structured interviews with 16 social workers and the collected data were analysed using the content analysis method. The analysis is presented through three themes: Heteronormative Discourse, Causes and Consequences of Invisibility, and Terminology and Pronouns. The results indicate that the challenges in social work with older transgender adults are related to invisible needs, a lack of knowledge, and social services organizations that do not prioritize issues related to gender identity and expression. Implications for social work are suggested including a need for an increased reflective practice and a norm-critical approach, in order to grasp the older transgender individual’s specific experiences and needs, beyond stereotypical ideas and thoughts on sexual orientation. However, to be able to develop this reflective practice, institutional and organizational conditions for increased knowledge are required as well as an historical understanding of exclusion and a deeper attention to the meaning of equal treatment. Regarding future research it is suggested to examine the relevance and possible value of LGBTQ-certification.


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