Heterosexism and service accessibility: Barriers faced by tongzhi youth in Hong Kong

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Background: Heterosexism is defined as an assumption that heterosexuality is the only legitimate type of sexuality, was introduced by Herek (1996) to conceptualize discrimination against lesbian and gay men. There is a rising concern within the social work profession to address the discrimination experienced by Tongzhi or sexual minority (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning/queer-LGBQ) youth in Hong Kong, where public and professional attitudes are still negative and also where discrimination based on sexual orientation has not been prohibited by law. Sexual minority youth are perceived as receiving the highest rate of discrimination in a Government run survey. The Issue and the Research Gap: Although studies show that sexual minority youth experience high rates of emotional and school difficulties due to social discriminations, service use among them is unreasonably low. It is probably due to reduced service accessibility in service utilization among LGBQ youth. In addition, the possible inaccessibility of service caused by sexual orientation discrimination has not been explicitly addressed in the Code of Practice for social workers in Hong Kong, which guides the professional practice of social workers employed by service agencies. Very limited research has been conducted to examine the service accessibility for LGBQ youth, most are targeted adult populations and none has been conducted in East Asian societies. Methodology and Preliminary Results: To expand the existing research on service accessibility issues in this population, a modified Delphi approach is used to gather consensus opinion from a sample of currently employed Chinese registered social workers, on the service barriers for sexual minority youth to access social services in Hong Kong, and strategies to enhance the service accessibility. The research results indicate five levels of service accessibility barriers within the framework of heterosexism (i.e., cultural, policy, agency, professional, and individual) and strategies to tackle heterosexism for increasing service accessibility for LGBTQ youth are suggested. Implications for future research and the development of accessible service structures among these youth are discussed within the social-cultural context of Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


Kwok, D. K. (2014, July). Heterosexism and service accessibility: Barriers faced by tongzhi youth in Hong Kong. Paper presented at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development, Melbourne, Australia.


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