Case Study

SIENNA BROWNE Social work student
Placement student told to ‘tone down’ sexuality

Sienna* was on her final practice placement in the East Midlands before she qualified as a social worker when she experienced homophobia.

Openly lesbian, she had previously learned it was important for her to modify her behaviour in order to manage the reactions of her colleagues. She says she makes sure she is “not pushing the boundaries any further than a heterosexual person would” but adds that it can be necessary to have “political conversations”.

During a slot on training and development in a team meeting, Sienna mentioned a conference in London about sexuality and social work. On the final day of her placement, her supervisor and practice teacher – who was also the senior practitioner on the team – advised her to “tone down” her opinions and sexuality in her next job.

They cited her raising the conference on sexuality in the team meeting, with her supervisor saying: “For God’s sake. We are all in heterosexual relationships!”

When Sienna said her supervisor was being heterosexist she responded that she “wasn’t going to apologise for being heterosexual” and that she “didn’t have time to be PC about everything”.

When Sienna told her university about the incident, although they were sympathetic they advised her to take no further action.

*Not her real name


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