Dimensions of Culture

Many people experience some form of discrimination, prejudgment, bias, closemindedness, or other exclusionary attitudes because of their race, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or class. Discrimination toward minority groups can come from those of the majority culture; toward other minority groups or the majority culture, from a minority person or group; or toward an LGBT individual, from someone in the majority culture, other ethnic groups, and the individual’s own ethnic group.

Little research has been done on the interactions among ethnic diversity, homosexuality, and substance abuse. Providers need to remember that LGBT clients from ethnic minority groups may have additional problems that will affect their recovery from substance abuse. LGBT members of an ethnic minority group need to learn the norms of the mainstream culture, their own minority culture, and gay culture—norms that may conflict. Juggling the demands of these norms may be confusing and problematic and the drug rehab provider may need to help the client negotiate the confusing and contradicting norms while the client is in treatment. An LGBT individual may have a stronger connection to his or her ethnic group than to the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered community, or the dominant allegiance may be to the LGBT community. It is important that providers invite clients to explain their cultural context and how they feel about their place in society, assess with clients their placement on the continuum from assimilated to traditional, and explore the meaning of these variables in their clients’ recovery. It is of utmost importance for counselors to be aware of how their own cultural values, biases, and attitudes influence their practice and how they affect their behavior toward coworkers and clients.

Introduction to the LGBT Community and Culture

Substance abuse treatment providers need to be aware that LGBT persons do not fit the prevalent stereotype of well-dressed, middleclass urban dwellers; drag queens; or masculinely dressed females. LGBT people live and work in all segments of society. They are from every minority, cultural, racial, and ethnic group. They are members of every nationality, religion, and age group and are from every educational and socioeconomic level. Although some urban centers have populations that are more accepting of LGBT lifestyles than others, and thus are magnets for LGBT persons, LGBT people live in rural, urban, and suburban areas and in every State. LGBT clients can ask for substance abuse treatment services anywhere in the country and not only in large urban areas.

The LGBT minority group differs from other minority groups in that LGBT persons do not come from a common geographic area or have certain physical characteristics in common.