For my cultural immersion paper, the group I have chosen to observe was the “Eastern Panhandle Pride.” The group is devoted to supporting and providing services to LGBTQ+ individuals in the Eastern Panhandle area of West Virginia. I was able to observe two events and one meeting conducted by the group. Because of these observations, I was able to re-assess my preconceived ideas, grow and develop from my own biases, and create a mock counseling session that would serve individuals of the LGBTQ+ community ethically.
Growing up in a small, conservative town where everyone went to church on Sundays; any discussion regarding LGBTQ+ was one that was hardly talked about. It was ingrained in my psyche that those who were homosexual were “damned.” It was not until Junior year of college over spring break that both of my two best friends had “come out” to me. They explained how they were scared to tell “come out” to me because they were afraid of how I would react. At that time, I remembered on countless occasions in high school, of how I went to “war” with classmates when they would call my friends “gay”. However, I was genuinely convinced that they were not. When they told me, I was disappointed with them and myself; disappointed because they did not feel comfortable telling me, and because of my intense dislike for them being that way. My feelings were very conflicting, and I do not blame them for waiting so long. As years passed, my feelings for both of them have not changed. I love them deeply and always will.
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Since the birth of my first child three years ago, my devotion to the Catholic faith has taken off. I have engrossed myself into faith more than ever. Within the passing year, I have had another friend, “come out”. My husband and I attended her wedding about five years ago; her new husband even adopted her daughter that day. On social media, they were “the” couple; commenting back and forth on each other’s posts, and continuously made cute and funny inside jokes between the two of them. If there was a couple that was meant for one another, it was them. They had two children immediately after marrying; so when I found out last year that they were separating and that she had a girlfriend. I was taking aback. They had a “mutual splitting”, and she was now living in a small apartment in the town I grew up in with her girlfriend and her three girls. Though it is not my life, of course, my husband and I discussed the current situation, and it was eventually steered toward religion. His words, “Why does it bother you so much whom people love? Do you think Jesus does not love those people?” My rebuttal was, “Of course he loves them. Jesus loves the murderer and the prostitute; he does not agree with their sin.” I’m not proud that I feel this way, I want to be more accepting!
However, one bible verse that always sticks with me, especially when discussing this topic is “Ah! Those who call evil good, and good evil, who change darkness to light, and light into darkness, who change bitter to sweet and sweet into bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20, New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)). I continuously have a conflicting battle with myself when this issue comes up. Since the election of Pope Francis; the church has not been very accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. However, Pope Francis, a little less conservative than other Pope’s has expressed to be more loving and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. When this class began, and this assignment asked that we observe a culture and discuss our findings; I knew it would be in my best interest to observe the LGBTQ+ community. If I am going to be a school counselor, and one that is accepting, aware, knowledgeable and skillful, I need to place myself into something that I do not feel the most comfortable because this is where you grow and develop as an individual.
I reached out to Eastern Panhandle Pride using Facebook messenger. I explained how I am a resident in the area, a teacher from Shepherdstown Middle School working on my masters in School counseling and am taking a class called CO 547 Counseling Multicultural Populations. I continued by saying I have one assignment to connect with a group in my community that is or has been disenfranchised or oppressed or that I envision could potentially need to know more about for school counseling. I discussed how I would first need to get into contact with the leader of the group, attend three gatherings, and journal my experiences. The leader of the group, Joe Mercurio, messaged me back and discussed how they were amid their biggest event; Eastern Panhandle Pride West Virginia, on June 29th from 11 am – 4 pm. After the event, they would reconvene again to vote on their board members, and then again begin planning for Hagerstown Pride Festival 2019.
On June 29th, I attended the Eastern Panhandle Pride West Virginia event in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. They had many vendors and an agenda for the day’s event. Vendors included Christ Reformed United Church of Christ, Women’s March of West Virginia, West Virginia Free, Fairness West Virginia, Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, and Shepherdstown Presbyterian Church to name a few. The agenda of the day included the street fair with vendors,11 am – 4 pm, a kid’s area, and storytime at the War Memorial Building from 11 am – 2 pm, and a Drag Show at the War Memorial Building from 8 pm – 2 am. Though I felt extremely uncomfortable, the event was very organized and those running it showed such enthusiasm and support for this community.
The second gathering I attended was at the War Memorial Building on July 6th at 11:30 pm in Shepherdstown, WV. This meeting was to vote on board members. It was a short gathering, and from what I observed, board members might have presented to the group before this meeting. After each member cast their ballot, members talked and discussed the Eastern Panhandle Pride event that happened the weekend before. They were very pleased; however, they plan to include more vendors from the Hagerstown and Leesburg regions.
The third gathering I attended was the Hagerstown Pride Festival on July 13th at Hagerstown Central Lot from noon until 6 pm. Very similar to the pride festival in Shepherdstown; the festival included vendors and a more impressive agenda with a band called the Luscious PURR (band), a drag show, dancethology, a second drag show, teen hour, ChixWithoutStix (band), a third drag show, dancethology, a fourth drag show, and a DJ. This festival was a lot more lively with continuous music; however, those attending seemed to enjoy themselves.
For this assignment, some questions were asked to be answered regarding those individuals observed in the culture of choice. Those questions are to help counselors with individuals of that culture during counseling sessions. The following questions will be addressed in this section, what are some likely counseling issues you might expect from this group and why what approaches (counseling and systemic) will you use and why. Other questions include, what are the ethical and legal issues inherent in counseling a client from this group, what will you do now to be ready to meet this future client, and what did you learn in this experience that you will use with future multicultural/diverse clients.
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Some of the likely counseling issues that you might expect from this group may include discrimination, fear of rejection, and bullying. According to an article regarding the new generation of LBGT individuals, issues of HIV, identity crisis, aging, and workplace issues are on the rise. Young adolescent clients of LGBTQ+ family members may also discuss the embarrassment of their same-sexed parents.
In counseling sessions with LGBTQ+ individuals or individuals with family members of the LGBTQ+ community, a counselor could use a variety of intervention therapies. Because each client is different, some may benefit from many interventions as opposed to one approach. Those therapies could include Gestalt Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and/or Existential Therapy. Gestalt Therapy will raise the client’s awareness. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps to treat problems and boost happiness by changing dysfunctional emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. Existential therapy looks at how the client views the world and helps them to make choices related to their views (Corey, 2011). These therapies and group sessions will include the issues listed above, but it will help each client to become more confident and mindful, and the ability to connect with themselves and others.
One ethical and legal issue inherent in counseling a client from this group is suicide. Sexuality is a challenging topic for many young adolescents. Adolescents in this age group may find it difficult to talk to someone about their issues. They feel as if they cannot trust anyone or that no one can help them. As a result, they try to cope with their issues on their own in hopes that they will disappear. These issues can have a detrimental effect if not addressed. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in ages 15 to 24, and third in ages 10 to 14. However, those who identify as a sexual minority are two to seven times more likely to commit suicide (Schreiber, 2017).
What I will do now to be ready to meet this future client include additional research on the LGBTQ+ community and a plan to build self-esteem and confidence in my client. This will involve discussions and activities that are physical and artistic and geared towards improving my client’s self-worth. I will plan to levels of courage and bravery by identifying fears and recognition of emotions. By having clients share their fears, teaching the clients strategies for identifying and handling these fears, and how to sort out emotions for successful cognitive processing are the underlying themes for this plan. Finally, I plan to develop in-depth knowledge of their experience, rewire the brain due to faulty beliefs, and learn techniques to help issues with the LGBTQ+ community.
After the two events, one meeting, and speaking with countless individuals of the LGBTQ+ community, I can say I have learned and grown as a person. From hearing countless stories of how my best friend was with one partner and another partner the next weekend; using drugs because it was a drug of choice by the community, I had become to believe that most of the LGBTQ+ individuals lived promiscuously on the regular. However, I have met individuals that love their spouse the same as I do, and long for creating a family that feels safe and loved. After being able to observe and research the LGBTQ+ community, I feel I am better equipped to help and support individuals who are or have LGBTQ+ parents. Though, I will need to continue research on making sure to ethically serve these students; I genuinely believe this assignment has made me become a better person.
- Corey, G. (2011). Theory and practice of group counseling. Nelson Education.
- DeAngelis, T. (2002). A new generation of issues for LGBT clients. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/feb02/generation
Schreiber, K. (2017, October). Why Are Suicide Rates Higher Among LGBTQ Youth?
- Retrieved July 29, 2019, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201710/why-are-suicide-rates-higher-among-lgbtq-youth
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