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Special Topics Paper #1

[Student Name Omitted]

[INSTRUCTOR NOTE: While this is a great example of the Barbershop Project, it is not

considered a perfect paper in terms of APA formatting, mechanics, and writing style. It is

provided to demonstrate the various cultural experiences you are free to write about, as

well as the depth of reflection and analysis expected in your own paper.]



There are many different cultures in this world that an individual can observe and study. It takes

real courage to step outside of your comfort zone and drop yourself in the middle of someone

else’s world. In doing, the biases you have and the stereotypes you have believed are consciously

called into question and placed under a microscope. For this paper, I did just that, and I feel that

I learned a great deal compared to what I thought that I would learn. The LBGTQ culture is more

substantial than I initially believed. The things that I learned have made me more understanding,

compassionate, and empathic to those in the LBGTQ community; which is necessary to in order

to be a culturally competent therapist. Therefore, in this paper, I will cover and discuss the

following things with regard to the LBGTQ community/culture that I observed: my personal

self-awareness, understanding others, and professional development.

Keywords: lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, questionings, drag-king, drag-queen



When growing up, an individual takes on different biases and learns different stereotypes

regarding other cultures and races, both consciously and unconsciously. In Sue and Sue (2016),

there is a discussion about “White Racial Identity Development,” and I have found that those

stages apply not only to racial identity but sexual orientation identity and gender identity also. As

noted in Sue and Sue (2016) it is not possible for an individual to come of age in this world

without taking on racial (in this case of this paper gender and sexual orientation) biases,

prejudices, misinformation, deficit portrayals, and stereotypes of their ancestors. This realization

became very apparent when I stepped outside my comfort zone and dropped myself into the

middle of the LBGTQ (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and questioning) culture. In this

paper, I will analyze my experience observing the culture of the LBGTQ community in the

following ways: my personal self-awareness, understanding others, and professional



In preparing to observe the culture of the LBGTQ, I was extremely nervous and excited

at the same time. I did not know what I was going to really expect; this is because even though

my sister is bisexual, the only knowledge I have of the LBGTQ community is what I have seen

in movies and television shows. Movies such as To Wong Foo- Thanks for Everything, The

Birdcage, RENT and the television show Will and Grace is where I learned about the LBGTQ

community growing up. There are a lot more movies and television shows for those coming of

age to watch and develop more understanding of the community.

In addition to what I saw on television and in the movies, I grew up in a non-

denominational Christian household which influenced my viewpoints. Even though my parents


were not as strict as the parents of my Baptist or Methodist friends and cousins, they still held

tightly to fundamental Christian beliefs such as abortion is murder, pray about everything, God is

always watching, and relations between those of the same sex is wrong. I remember my parents

talking to me about Studio 54 and how the reason so many people contracted HIV and AIDS is

that they were bisexual or homosexual. Furthermore, many women that contracted the disease

often got it because the men they were intimate with was on the “down low.” “Down low”

meaning, he is interested in both men and women (bisexual), but he hides it and pretends that he

is only interested in women. It was a common thing when we were dating, and our boyfriends

would do something I parents thought was odd they would question if he was gay or on the

“down low.”

During this observation, I went to observe a drag show at an LBGTQ Bar. As noted

earlier, I was both nervous and excited at first. When I got in, there were a good number of

individuals there but not so many that I had a hard time moving throughout the bar. My sister

went with me to the bar so that I would not feel so anxious. I do not drink, so having her there

helped me to deal with any anxiety that I had. However, as I stood against the wall where I could

observe the entire bar, I realized that as more people trickled in the more my fist tightened up.

The more I saw same-sex couples dancing and kissing, the more uncomfortable I felt; I even had

to catch myself and stop staring at individuals I perceived as transgender. Furthermore, at one

point, I felt so overwhelmed watching the individuals I became nauseous, and I wanted to cry. I

felt so out of my element, not knowing what to do or what to say. After a few minutes, I took

some deep breaths and began to focus on the atmosphere. I realized that besides how I was

feeling internally, the atmosphere of the bar itself was relaxed (not hostile or wild), but it also

had a large amount of high energy (a lot of dancing, laughing, and mingling). When individuals


spoke to me, they smiled and were very kind. The more I relaxed, I realized I began to compare

the individuals in the bar to the people I saw on television shows Pose and Will and Grace. I

recall even turning to my sister and telling her that I had already found a “Will” and “Jack” from

the show Will and Grace.

Understanding Others

When observing the individuals at the LBGTQ Bar, I realized their body language and

style of communication is not as extreme as what I have observed in movies and television. With

the exception of a small percentage, the majority of those that I observed looked, moved and

spoke in a way that I would consider significantly different from anyone else outside of the

LBGTQ community. I noted that if I were to see those individuals in the church, at a restaurant,

or in the local Wal-Mart, I would not know that they are a part of the LBGTQ community.

However, the drag show that I observed was much more extreme than I anticipated

(outfits, language, make-up, dancing, and overall performance). I watch the show Pose, and I

have seen the show RuPaul’s Drag Race, so I went in thinking I had a good understanding of

what to expect. I learned that I knew the basics of what drag-queens (men that dress as women)

and drag-kings (women that dress as men) are all about. It is more to it than an individual that

simply dresses up like an individual of the opposite sex. The individuals that dress up do so for a

couple of reasons: 1) they really enjoy entertaining others and being someone completely

different than who they are every day of their lives, and 2) They have a deep passion for being a

part of this form of entertainment.

Before my observation, I thought drag queens felt they were women but did not have the

courage to go through the steps to transition into a woman. I learned that there is a difference

between a transgender individual (someone who identifies as a sex different from what they are


born with) and a drag-queen or drag-king. Although there are transgender individuals that are

drag-queens and drag-kings, they are not interchangeable. When a person is a drag-queen or

drag-king, they are portraying an entertainment persona; they are putting on a show for a crowd

of people for entertainment reasons. A person that is transgender is not doing it to entertain

others; he/she does not feel a connection emotionally, mentally, and spiritually to the sexual

identity the individual was identified by at birth. Basically, how the person feels on the inside

does not match what is physically on the outside.

When individuals spoke to one another at the bar, it was not as exaggerated has what I

have seen on the screen (in movies and on television). They communicated with each other no

different than any other group of people. They talked about how their week or day went, about

things they watched on television, and how good or bad something looked. When they agreed

with each other, it was a calm “I see what you mean” kind of atmosphere. If they had a heated

discussion, they would raise their voices, and there would be body language to show agitation,

yet, it was not any different than what I have observed of any other group of people having such

a conversation at a bar. They did not throw things, slap each other, or take out weapons

(hammers, knives, switchblades, etc.) like what I thought they would. Again, I am basing this off

the assumption of what I learned about them from the screen over the years. However, the “Drag

Show” communication was a lot more extreme than I thought, as I mentioned earlier. The

vocabulary that was used in the show was very vulgar, and the show was as well (the dancing

and overall performance). Seeing a “Drag Show” in person is a shock to the system. What is

placed on the screen to portray the world of “Drag Shows” is very watered down compared to

what really happens at a “true” show.

Professional Development


This experience helped me to realize how much those that are a part of the LBGTQ

community are like myself or any other individual outside the LBGTQ culture. The majority

communicates the same way anyone else does (verbally and nonverbally), there is a small

percentage that exaggerates when communicating (similar to what is on the screen). Overall,

they have issues with discovering who they are and being comfortable with that person like the

rest of us. They are attracted to whom they are attracted to; they do not choose to be lesbian, gay,

bisexual, transgender, or questioning any more than I chose to be an African American. They do

not like being judged or stereotyped, just like Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Muslims, or anyone else

that is a part of a different culture or race than the majority.

This will help me to be more compassionate, understanding, and empathic to the clients

that come to me with issues they are having with their families, work, neighbors, and society.

Furthermore, there were individuals that were a part of all age groups, races, and cultures at the

LBGTQ Bar and “Drag Show.” This realization helped me to understand better and that each

culture has its own way of viewing relationships, so there are individuals that deal with a clash

between his/her racial and/or religious culture and the LBGTQ culture. This part of the

experience will enable me to be an empathic therapist and communicate in a way that will build

the therapist-client relationship that will be beneficial to my clients’ success and well-being.


In conclusion, I learned a great deal about what I thought I knew and what I did not know

about the LBGTQ community from this experience. This experience has motivated me to step

outside of my comfort zone more and venture out to learn and get a better understanding of

different cultures. It is essential that I do in order to be a culturally competent therapist because

watching things on the screen (in movies and on television) is not sufficient in any way. I will

have clients that have all different backgrounds and sexual orientations; it is important that I get


out there and learn as much as I can to become the best competent therapist I can for my clients.

My self-awareness of my limited knowledge of other cultures encourages me to work hard to

become more understanding of others in order to develop more as a professional.



Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice. (7th ed.).

Wiley and Sons.

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