Career Counseling with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Persons: The Next Decade

Article excerpt

The author, on the basis of an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature as well as the relevant opportunities and threats, proposes future directions for career counseling with lesbian, gay male, bisexual male and female, and transgendered persons. Suggestions include efforts for theory development, empirical research, career assessment, counseling practice, and counselor education.

Whereas Tyler (1978) criticized the vocational behavior literature for concentrating on middle-class men, Fitzgerald, Fassinger, and Betz (1995) asserted that the study of women's career development was probably the most active and vibrant area of vocational psychology research and theory from the 1970s to the early 1990s. The past decade has witnessed another significant advance in this literature, namely attention to the vocational behavior of lesbian, gay male, and bisexual male and female (LGB) persons. This new development is a response to the historical ignorance regarding sexual orientation and the heterosexual assumptions in career theories and research. Whereas the other articles in this special issue on the future of career counseling take a broad perspective, I concentrate on cutting-edge developments regarding the impact of sexual orientation on vocational behavior.

A number of conceptual and practical articles about the career development of LGB persons began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s (e.g., Elliott, 1993; Hetherington, Hillerbrand, & Etringer, 1989; Hetherington & Orzek, 1989), followed by theoretical and empirical work (e.g., Bieschke & Matthews, 1996; Chung, 2001; Rostosky & Riggle, 2002). Special issues on this topic appeared in The Career Development Quarterly (Pope, 1995b) and the Journal of Vocational Behavior (Croteau & Bieschke, 1996). Comprehensive reviews of this literature were provided by Croteau (1996); Croteau, Anderson, DiStefano, and Kampa-Kokesch (2000); and Chung (2003). Building on these reviews, I discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature, as well as relevant opportunities and threats that I have identified, regarding the direction of career counseling with LGB persons in the next decade.

A recent political trend in society at large, as well as in professional organizations, is the inclusion of transgendered people in the LGB movement. Transgendered persons are broadly defined in this article as (a) persons whose gender identity or behavior deviates significantly from what traditional culture deems appropriate for their biological sex at birth or (b) persons who have ambiguous or multisex genitalia. This definition includes transvestites and transgenderists (part-time and full-time cross-dressers), transexuals (both before and after sex-reassignment operations), and androgynous and intersex (ambiguous or multisex) persons (Carroll & Gilroy, 2002; Gainor, 2000).

The issue of adding a T(for transgendered) to LGB is somewhat controversial. Opponents to inclusion argue that LGB is about sexual orientation (a person's affective and sexual desires for people of the two sexes; Chung & Katayama, 1996), whereas transgenderism is about gender identity (a person's self-identification as male or female in self-concept or behavior). They claim that these are two distinct constructs and should not be confused with each other. Furthermore, transgendered people are not widely accepted, or may be discriminated against, in the LGB community (Gainor, 2000). On the other hand, in recent years an increasing number of LGB organizations have moved toward the direction of inclusiveness. Recognizing the significant contributions of transgendered people in the LGB movement since the Stonewall event in 1969, as well as the historical, cultural, political, and psychological interrelatedness between the two communities (Gainor, 2000), proponents of inclusion argue that transgendered people are an integral part of the LGB community. …