Abstract: Understanding Students' Commitment to LGB and Transgender Ally Behavior (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

221P Understanding Students' Commitment to LGB and Transgender Ally Behavior

Friday, January 14, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Jessica Williams, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant/ Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Arlington, TX
Brittanie Atteberry-Ash, PhD, Doctoral Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO

The National Association of Social Workers value of Dignity and Worth of the Person and the Ethical Principle Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person state that social workers should treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion while being of mindful of individual differences. Although this is a guiding value of the social work profession, little research has been conducted to explore how social workers students understand and engage with social justice as it is related to the LGB and transgender communities. Further, there has been limited research about ally behavior among social worker students, which is one avenue though which social workers engage with social justice. The Human Rights Campaign defines ally as someone who is supportive of LGBT individuals. The purpose of this study is to explore social work students’ ally behaviors and identify factors that predict allyship.


Data for the current study come from a sample of social work students representing over 60 schools of social work in the United States. We examine demographic, social context, school context, and attitudinal predictors or LGB and transgender ally behaviors. Demographic correlates include age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and race. Social context variables include orientation to social dominance, political orientation, and having LGB and transgender friends. Particularly important to social work are the inclusion of school context variables, including taking a course on power, privilege and oppression, student level, participation in dialogues, and concentration focus. After, removal of participants who did not meet study qualifications and after addressing missingness through listwise deletion, the final analytic sample was 841. We ran descriptive statistics for all study variables followed by two linear regression models predicting LGB and transgender ally behavior.


In examining the final model for LGB ally behavior several social context variables were predictive of higher levels of LGB ally behavior, including having both LGB and transgender friends and more liberal political leanings, while higher adherence to social dominance predicted lower levels of LGB ally behavior. Having more positive attitudes toward LGB people was also predictive of higher levels of LGB ally behavior. Several school context variables were predictive of LGB ally behaviors, including participation in a formal dialogue and taking courses with content on power, privilege, and oppression. The final model for transgender ally behavior followed a similar pattern of the LGB ally model, with some exceptions. Particularly, taking a course with content on power, privilege, and oppression was not a significant predictor of transgender ally behavior, nor was political orientation.


This study sheds light on the important role of pedagogical interventions that promote critical social work behaviors, including a commitment to ally behavior on behalf of LGB and transgender people and communities. Given the current trend of anti- LGB and transgender legislation this topic is important to understand. Specific implications and strategies for education and research will be discussed.