NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Pioneering Contributions: Travis Peterson's spirit displayed itself early in his social work career as a Master of Social Work student in the Worden School of Social Service at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, TX. Peterson became an openly gay social worker in the NASW Texas Chapter in 1975, and continued to be a role model in the community by opening a private clinical social work and psychotherapy practice --specializing in LGBT issues--in Houston and San Antonio. He provided information sessions to LGBT organizations, to the general public, and advertised and wrote advice columns in LGBT publications. Peterson and his lifemate attended meetings of the Houston NASW chapter as a couple, furthering their status as role models. Peterson sought and received support from other LGBT social workers and cross-disciplinary activists that he met in his national activities, sharing how he built his support network in Texas. This influenced others to develop and strengthen LGBT support networks in their communities. Peterson and other activists played a significant role in disseminating useful and current information regarding LGBT issues, dispelling myths, and giving social workers useful and current facts and strived to create an environment in the social work community where members could safely come out. He served two terms on NASW's National Committee on Lesbian and Gay Issues and co-edited NASW’s first publication on LGBT issues. On two occasions, Peterson worked to develop and update LGBT sensitivity training for police academy students in Houston and San Antonio. He was the founder and chairperson of the Houston Association for Lesbian and Gay Mental Health, which was initiated primarily as a support group for lesbian/gay mental health professionals. Eventually the organization recognized the need for the area's non-gay professionals to have training on LGBT issues, which led them to sponsor "Omnibus '80: A Conference on Lesbian/Gay Issues for Mental Health Professionals", where Peterson delivered the keynote address.
Career Highlights: While serving the NASW Texas Chapter at five Delegate Assemblies, Peterson helped create the LGBT Caucus in 1978 that remained active for several subsequent Assemblies. He began his work with NASW as corresponding secretary for the San Antonio chapter, which was followed by approximately 40 positions held in NASW at the local, state, regional or national levels over his career. Peterson also had a passion for providing quality education and information for mental health professionals. He was an instructor at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work for four years, and also served three years in teaching and administration at the University's Center for Addiction Studies. Additionally, he served different terms as adjunct faculty at University of Houston and Our Lady of the Lake University. In 1984, Travis was the first LGBT person appointed to serve on the Board of Trustees of NASW's political action committee, PACE. The same year, Peterson represented NASW as its first openly gay lobbyist at the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco.
Biographic Data: Peterson was born in 1940 in Lubbock County, Texas, into a West Texas farming family. He frequently reported that he was the only openly gay activist from Muleshoe, Texas, until he met another one in San Antonio. He received a BA in Journalism from Texas Tech University in Lubbock in 1964, and a Master of Social Work from the Worden School of Social Service, Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio in 1968. He has one son, Patrick, a television journalist, and the person he insists is the “World’s Most Wonderful Granddaughter", Julian Peterson, age 14. Peterson has been partnered with Charles Cuneo, his lifemate of 33 years. He was on the Board of Directors for the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio.
Significant Achievements & Awards Received: 1985 - Outstanding Achievement Award, NASW Committee on Lesbian/Gay Issues; 1986 - Certificate of Appreciation (for Ongoing Contributions to Continuing Education in Substance Abuse), Texas Association of Addiction Professionals/Houston Chapter; 1992 - Houston Social Worker of the Year, NASW Houston Branch; 2008 - Chuck Jordan Award (for Lifetime Service to the LGBT Community), Human Rights Campaign/San Antonio Branch; 2009 - Lifetime Achievement Award, NASW San Antonio Branch; 2010 - Community Service Award, Pridefest San Antonio.
Significant Achievements & Awards Received: 1985 - Lesbian and Gay Issues: A Resource Manual for Social Workers. Hilda Hidalgo, Travis L. Peterson, Natalie Woodman (Eds.): Silver Spring, MD: National Association of Social Workers.