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Running Head: CULTURAL IMMERSION

Cultural Immersion
Destiney Pattillo
Georgia State University

CULTURAL IMMERSION

Abstract
Over the course of two months Social Work students focused on research and analysis over
specific cultures in society. The focus of the analysis was to learn in depth the social issues
people of various cultures experience. The focal point of this analysis was the LBGTQIA
community and religion. The researcher wanted to understand how religion and family values
play into the coming out process for individuals of the LBGTQIA population. The study
consisted of an interview which focused on the cultural issues, and discrimination people of this
group face growing up. The candidate being interviewed spoke about the trends, and bullying
that this population faces throughout life based on religious beliefs of what is right and wrong.

CULTURAL IMMERSION

Introduction
Members of the LBGTQIA community face many different forms of discrimination today
in America. The analyzer that was focused on researching the LBGTQIA population had been
exposed to many different stereotypes surrounding this group in the past. One of the biggest
stereotypes that are believed about this population is the misconception that every person in this
unit is the same, with the same story. Individuals of this population are discriminated against at
the work place, and in school. Gender roles and the churches view of what is right and wrong is
the root to LBGTQIA oppression. In particular I had heard many negative responses about this
community in church, and was looked down upon for befriending individuals that were gay. It
became clear that people of this community were shunned by the Christian church I attended,
and it sparked an interest. How does religion play into the coming out process, and how does it
influence discrimination of these people (Lum, 2011)?

The LBGTQ Community


In the past the researcher had worked with someone apart of the LBGTQIA community,
and saw firsthand how bullying occurs in the work place. In the time period of working with this
individual numerous altercations occurred because other men at work picked on him for being
feminine. It became clear that the people saying the most hurtful things at work to the victim
were church goers. It was baffling for the researcher to see how many people were using religion
as their weapon to hurt this individual. The researcher personally did not believe all of the
prejudice gossip that surrounded this population in the media, but as a whole they were
uneducated on the topic. The individual was exposed to members of this community, but only
people that were White and Christian. The student did not understand how other religions
affected the coming out process, and felt it was important to learn how each persons story is
unique and special.
Many people feel that societal hate is a problem of the past, but after interviewing four
individuals of the LBGTQIA population it was learned that this problem is an epidemic hurting
not just our generation, but every generation living today. Even though the analysist had not been
exposed to many people apart of this community, it was more than relevant for the student to
become highly educated on this population. This topic needed to be learned because working in
social work involves cultural awareness and knowledge of ways to help every culture. It became
important to the researcher to learn how personal family and cultural beliefs affected each
individuals livelihood. Without background knowledge about the personal struggles this
population faces today working in the field with these individuals would have been nearly
impossible (Bourus, 2010).
Research

CULTURAL IMMERSION

Members of the LBGTQIA community are targeted by society in many different ways.
There are an extreme number of homeless young adults struggling on the streets due to being
kicked out for being gay. Research suggests that parental acceptance or alienation plays a major
role in the mental health, and success of teens struggling with sexuality (Meyer, 2003). Members
of the LBGTQIA community are at a higher risk of mental health disorders, suicide, and
substance abuse. This statistic is directly linked to the societal stresses people of this community
face (Meyer, 2003).
Religion also plays into the discrimination that many individuals face after coming out to
their family and community. The majority of homeless teens on the streets link family culture
and religion to why they were kicked out of their house (Galupo, 2011). Also one study revealed
that the Christian church family is one of the last groups a person comes out to, strictly out of
fear of being judged (Galupo, 2011). Individuals of this population face extreme intersectionality,
which causes discrimination to form within their group. The idea behind intersectionality
involves the intersecting of social identities.
A hidden religion that many people of the LBGTQIA practice is Spiritualism. This belief
system breaks away from the barriers religious sects put on populations and embraces the
differences among society. Spiritualist feels that there is no denomination bad or evil, and that
worship can occur in many different forms. This system embraces the afterlife, and the role spirts
play into everyday life. Every church, mosque or place of worship is considered home for a
Spiritualist (Stefanidakis, 2001). Meditation and communicating with spirts for guidance is very
popular within this practice. Many Spiritualists claim that practicing worship this way breaks
down the walls that modern religion creates. Spiritualism is a very misunderstood concept, but
those who practice it regularly explain it as a pure form of worshiping and appreciating all forms
of religion by breaking down barriers (Stefanidakis, 2001).

After The Interview


The researcher learned more from the interview with Madison Tolleson than any other
interview. It was very interesting for the researcher to learn about spiritualism, and see how that
plays into the process of coming out. The subject explained to the interviewer that she was raised
Christian, but quickly rejected that religion after being bullied by the church for being a lesbian.
The subject explained that she is exiled from majority of her family based on her sexual
orientation. She also could never support a religion that made her life so miserable, and after soul
searching she felt at home practicing Spiritualism.
The interviewer has never experienced a Spiritualist, and knew nothing about the religion
before researching it before the meeting. The interviewer asked in what ways did she feel more at
home practicing Spiritualism, and the subject explained that in the Christian church it is more
about what not to do, where as a Spiritualist works on doing, and doing well for that matter. She

CULTURAL IMMERSION

explained that she still strongly worships a higher being, but it isnt a righteous and boastful type
of worship. She feels that after studying Spiritualism and finding herself the coming out process
has been much easier. She has opened up to more family members, and is more confident in
herself.
She explained to the interviewer that she struggled deeply with Depression while coming
to terms with her sexuality. She spoke about how she even contemplated suicide at one point
because she was taught what she was was wrong. She hated herself for being bad. She hated
herself for not making her family proud. Once she found Spiritualism, and was able to look at
religion from a different perspective she embraced that her being different is not necessarily
wrong. She has helped numerous of her Christian friends struggling with being LBGTQIA, by
talking to them about Spiritualism and other forms of worship. She explained that even though
religion caused a lot of pain in her life, she would never completely turn against it. Her family
believes in a God, and so does her, her form of worship is just more focused on the doing versus
what not to do.
Cultural Work
One strategy that the researcher feels is necessary to use when working with members of
the LBGTQIA community is to come into the situation with a want to learn. Social Workers
cannot box people up into categories, and each unique story is important. Many people think
they know numerous gay people so they get their struggles, but every struggle is special. Family
background, and culture play into each persons story, and they are not just a member of the
LBGTQIA community. These individuals represent many other groups in society and in some
cases get even more hate thrown their way simply because of their culture.

Conclusion
Even with the recent success the LBGTQIA community is still a marginalized minority in
America today. Although, the right of marriage was passed in 2015 the fight for equality is not
over. Members of the LBGTQIA community are still being fired, oppressed, and violently
attacked for their sexual orientation. Based on research found at fusion.net twenty transsexual
individuals have been killed in 2015, these statistics show that even with progress major issues
still remain. The hatred that is spread regarding this population does not go away with the
passing of laws, and it will take years of action to see true equality.

CULTURAL IMMERSION

References
Alida, B. (2010). A Systematic Review of Parental Influences on the Health and Well-Being of
Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth: Time for a New Public Health Research and Practice
Agenda. Primary Prevention , 33.
Lum, D. (2011). Culturally Competent Practice . Belmont, Ca: Cengrage Learning .
Meyer, I. (2003). Prejudice, Social Stress, and Mental Health in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual
Populations: Conceptual Issues and Research Evidence. HHS , 24.
Ortez, V. (2007). Racial Identity and Racial Treatment of Mexican Americans. Acedemia , 16.
Paz, G. (2011). Advancing Diversity through a Framework of Intersectionality: Inclusion of
LGBT Issues in Higher Education. Diversity Digest , 12.
Rivas, J. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://fusion.net/story/185799/2015transgender-women-murdered-underreported/
Stefanidakis, S. (n.d.). Retrieved November 1, 2015, from First Spriritual Temple:
http://www.fst.org/spirit1.htm