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USJ Social Work Professor Presents Transgender Research at Conference

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In June 2019, Assistant Professor of Social Work Gina Rosich, Ph.D., attended and presented at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI) 2019 Conference. Dr. Rosich shared the qualitative results of her mixed methods study on the issue of employment discrimination against members of the transgender community.

Within the study, participants were asked what they perceived to be barriers to employment for people who are transgender. Using Marshall’s Theory of Social Citizenship, she discovered that many transgender people experience multiple levels of discrimination on a regular basis.

Some reported blatant, outright discrimination when interviewing for jobs while others discussed the fear they experienced when navigating the search for employment. In addition to this social discrimination, the responses also highlighted the broad lack of legal protections partly due to the lack of representation by elected officials. Other participants also discussed their struggles with tangibles related to transition, such as obtaining an identification card with a gender marker that accurately reflects their identity.

“Marshall’s Theory of Social Citizenship applies when you’re looking at advocacy efforts,” explained Dr. Rosich. “People face discrimination in all three realms of the theory. Therefore, advocacy must take place to address oppression in all three realms. One thing the participants repeatedly felt would help is to provide informational education to human resources departments, businesses, and the larger community to help people gain understanding. When you have greater understanding of people that you may not know anything about, that can lower hatred and foster understanding and acceptance.”

Dr. Rosich remains inspired to continue her work in this area. Next, she will apply the Minority Stress Theory to show the difficulty of the job search process for transgender individuals and its emotional toll on their lives – from overt discrimination to the fears and anticipatory anxieties transgender job seekers experience.

“Social work is an applied profession where we have values and a purpose specifically around social justice, improving people’s lives. Our values reflect the importance of changing society, as well as working with individuals,” she said. “People who are working with anyone who is gender nonconforming need to know the totality of people’s lives. It’s not just about the stressors around figuring out your gender identity and transitioning. It’s important to focus on these day-to-day life struggles and how that can impact people’s lives. Sometimes helping means changing social structures and to do that we must know about people’s struggles.”

Dr. Rosich not only brings her research experiences to conferences, but also into the classroom at USJ. In her courses, she introduces her students to information about transgender issues, as well as other forms of oppression that affect communities. By asking her students to spend time self-reflecting on their own privilege, she works to prepare them to effectively support the individuals they will meet in the community throughout their careers.

“Students really take the time to examine and understand who they are and how their values, background and social location impact the work that they’re doing,” said Dr. Rosich. “It helps them become professionals who support, advocate and ally with oppressed people in their capacity within social work field.”

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