Session: Queering Death: Community Care, Shifting the Narrative, and Reimagining Death in the LGBTQ+ Community (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

146 Queering Death: Community Care, Shifting the Narrative, and Reimagining Death in the LGBTQ+ Community

Friday, January 18, 2019: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Continental Parlor 9, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SO&GI)
Antonia Alvarez, MSW, University of Denver, Kris Bifulco, MPH, Family & Children Services of Silicon Valley, Danny Alvarez, MSW, Stanford University and Cathy Kapua, The Life Foundation
All people will, at some point, face the realities of death and dying. Some describe death as the one thing all beings have in common, however, concepts of death and death practices vary greatly across the world and among many cultures. This roundtable discussion will focus on the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, nonbinary, asexual, etc.) community and its intersections with death, dying, suicide, community death response, and other death practices.

The LGBTQ+ community has a unique relationship with death and death experiences. From the loss of many gay men during the AIDS crisis, to personal experiences with suicidality, the Pulse Nightclub shooting, to the growing number of trans women of color who are murdered in the United States each year, and the “trans panic defense” still being legally used, this is a community that has been surrounded by and has grown out of death. We recognize the need for a space for LGBTQ+-identified and LGBTQ+-serving professionals to spend time with these concepts in an open, honest, and reflective way.

Following important scholarship from critical suicidologists about the overt “vulnerabilization” of queer youth (Cover, 2016), this discussion will challenge the narratives of risk that are attached to the LGBTQ+ community and will provide space to examine the potential implications of shifting the focus toward hope and healing. Building on work from LGBTQ+ activists and scholars who advocate for community care (Page & Schulman, 2017), and radical therapists calling for “supervision of solidarity” (Reynolds, 2010), this roundtable discussion will create space for dialogue and peer-to-peer sharing of ideas and experiences related to death and dying in the LGBTQ+ community. Presenters will discuss the value of personal-care when researching and practicing with topics with heavy emotional impacts (Rager, 2005), including death and dying, and will simultaneously challenge the conceptualization of self-care as necessary or even desirable outcome (Jones, 2017). Finally, with recognition to Indigenous and LGBTQ+ of color scholars and activists who are leading the decolonial charge in academia (Kovach, 2009; Smith, 1999, and Wilson, 2008), this roundtable will center and amplify perspectives and experiences with death, dying, and suicide, from LGBTQ+ Indigenous and people of color.

This roundtable will begin a dialogue for and from the LGBTQ+ social work research and practice community to address some of the unique and some overlapping goals for healing, mourning, preventing, and understanding death and dying in our communities. Presenters will aim to 1) Create a space for queer-identified and queer-serving professionals to talk about death, dying, suicide, community death response, and other death practices, 2) Discuss how the aging “AIDS generation” may approach death and have diverging needs from general population, 3) Examine the potential for working towards a queer, death-inclusive future that includes and centers LGBTQ+ Indigenous and people of color, and rituals that move beyond our mainstream community response to death and dying.

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