Ethnic Minority Groups

The cultural norms and beliefs of an ethnic group can have a significant impact on an LGBT person’s feelings about his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, his or her ability to express that identity, and how other members of the ethnic group treat the LGBT person. Although an LGBT orientation conflicts with mainstream cultural values, it may be just as, or even more, unacceptable in some ethnic minority groups. Many ethnic groups value strong family ties and traditional gender roles and expect that their children will carry on the family name and traditions through marriage and children. Some families see LGBT behavior as arising from a decadent Western society and as a rebellion against the family and traditional beliefs, instead of as a part of a person’s identity. Consequently, LGBT behavior is difficult for family and friends to understand and tends to become invisible.

Some LGBT individuals of color may be accepted by their parents but feel alienated from their ethnic community. Some may distance themselves from their cultural communities and turn to the LGBT community for support and validation. Support groups for LGBT African Americans, Latinos, and Asian/Pacific Islanders are active in large cities, but many LGBT individuals of color find themselves in predominantly white, middleclass LGBT communities. It is assumed that the LGBT community with its experience of discrimination would be tolerant of diversity. However, ethnic minorities are discriminated against by some LGBT individuals. LGBT people of color may feel they have double minority status that may compound negative consequences such as a poor self-image, low self-esteem, inadequate coping mechanisms, and substance abuse. LGBT ethnic minorities face greater challenges than their counterparts in mainstream society, and it is important for substance abuse treatment providers to validate these experiences and challenges.