The Hidden Minority
Upon hearing multicultural counseling, culturally diverse counseling, or counseling of diverse populations most people may think of groups that differ from the dominant culture in our society, such as, race, culture, ethnicity, etc. Many people do not think beyond these categories to consider a second tier of diversity, for instance, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc. What is the dominant culture? In most references the comparison is associated with the White Euro-American norms. The basic assumption that heterosexuality is the only normal path of all human beings creates a need for counseling trainees to consider the hidden minority group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues (GLBT).
In general, many counselor trainees might be unfamiliar with the distinction of these above-mentioned titles. An affection and/or orientation to a person of the same sex is referred to as homosexuality (Sue and Sue, 2003). Commonly, males are known as gay, females are known as lesbians. Individuals who self-identify themselves as homosexual or as heterosexual and move back and forth between the groups are self labeled as bisexuals (Matthews, 2001). Transgender individuals consist of transsexuals, individuals undergoing hormone treatment, and others who elect surgery (Sue and Sue, 2003). In most of my readings and research on counseling diverse populations, I find that bisexual and transgender issues have been omitted or lightly touched upon.
Among the gay subculture there is a difference between gay and homosexual. Homosexual has a negative connotation because it has been used as a diagnostic label by many clinicians, concerns only to sexual orientation, and is frequently accompanied by a negative self-image. The word gay has come to indicate an attitude of positive self-acceptance, which includes affection, emotions, life-style, and political perspective as well as sexual orientation (Beane, 1981).
Sexual orientation can simply become an invisible diversity in the way that differences of gender, race, or disability cannot. Counselors need to be attentive to the possibility of this difference of 'vanishing' within the therapy. Counselors must be confident of talking with clients about sexual orientation (Mair and Izzard, 2001).
Everyone feels different growing up, however the experience of the gay person is unique. As African Americans (or any racial minority group) children grow up, they see and interact with other African American children and their families are mostly from the same minority group. This is not the same with gays who grow up in an environment that seems to be totally heterosexual (Beane, 1981).
As with other minority groups in the United States, GLBT individuals are shamed for their minority group class. For instance, gay men and lesbians are the victims of more hate crimes than any other ethnic or non-ethnic minority group in the United States (Barrett and McWhirter, 2002). GLBT individuals encounter types of oppression and discrimination comparable to those experienced by people of color (Carroll, 2001). When GLBT clients begin therapy they may also encounter the same disapproval, stigmatization, and other obstacles of social equality.
The idea that homosexuality was a perversion seems to have dominated the work of analysts until the 1970s. The American Psychological Association accepted an official policy that stated,
"Homosexuality per se implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or general social or vocational capabilities."
Furthermore, they specified that mental health professionals should take the lead in eliminating the stigma of mental illness long associated with homosexual orientations (Sue and Sue, 2003).
In 1991, the Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns of the American Psychological Association discovered that 58.2 per cent of therapist stated knowing personally about events of professional bias against GLBT clients....
References: Barrett, K., & McWhirter, B. (2002). Counselor Trainees ' Perceptions of Clients Based on Client Sexual Orientation. Counselor Education & Supervision, 41, 219-232.
Beane, J. (1981). I 'd Rather Be Dead Than Gay": Counseling Gay Men Who AreComing Out. The Personnel and Guidance Journal, pp. 222-226.
Carroll, L. (2001). Teaching 'Outside the Box ': Incorporating Queer Theory in CounselorEducation. Journal of Humanistic Counseling, 40.
Chojnacki, J., & Gelberg, S. (1995). The Facilitation of Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual SupportTherapy Group by Heterosexual Counselors. Journal of Counseling &Development, 73, 352-354.
Elze, D. (2002). Risk Factors for Internalizing and Externalizing Problems Among, Gay,Lesbian, and Bisexual Adolescents. Social Work Research, 26, 89-100.
Galatzer-Levy, R., & Cohler, B. (2002). Making a Gay Identity: Coming Out, SocialContext, and Psychodynamics. Annual of Psychoanalysis, 30, 255-286.
Kaufman, J., & Carlozzi, A. (1997). Factors Influencing Therapist Selections AmongGays, Lesbians and Bisexuals. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 10, 287.
Mair, D., & Izzard, S. (2001). Grasping the nettle: gay men 's experiences in therapy.Psychodynamic Counseling, 475-490.
Matthews, C. (2001). Adapting the ethnocultural assessment to gay and lesbian clients:the sexual orientation. Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, 40.
Sue, D.W., & Sue, D. (2003). Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice(4th ed.).
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