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4 Basic Strategies LGBTQ+ People Use in Navigating Religious Membership

LGBTQ+ people face a lot of unique challenges that the broader population either does not face at all or encounters less of. Such challenges include minority stresses, discrimination, heightened suicidality, heightened rates of depression and anxiety, and etc. These risks can be further exacerbated by individuals who belong to orthodox and conservative focused religions especially within Abrahamic traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as deviations outside of the heterosexual norm are often considered aberrant and sinful.

John P Dehlin and a few of his colleagues conducted a study in 2015 that identified 4 strategies for addressing the intersection of LGBTQ+ experiences and particularly the LDS faith were: a) rejecting sexual orientation in preference of religious identity, b) compartmentalizing religious/spiritual and sexual orientation identities, c) rejecting religious/spiritual identities in preferences to LGBTQ+ identity, d) and finally religious/spiritual and LGBTQ+ identity integration. Several factors were assessed to measure the psychosocial health and wellbeing of each subgroup. I made a summary here:

Strategies LGBTQ+ People use to Navigate Religious Membership

1. Rejecting LGBTQ+ identity and orientation in preference to religious identity

. In this strategy individuals make an effort to try to ignore their sexual orientation and devote their core beliefs and energy into fully immersing themselves within their spiritual and doctrinal beliefs and identity.

It was found that such individuals reported the second lowest measures of psychosocial health and wellbeing and that, like all strategies mentioned, is possible but very likely to be difficult and unlikely to sustain over the lifespan of the individual.

2. Compartmentalizing sexual orientation and religious identity.

In this strategy individuals make an effort to separate their religious/spiritual lives and identities from their sexual orientations and often engage in living double or separate lifestyles.

It was found that such individuals reported the lowest measures of psychosocial health and well-being of any of the strategies and is the least likely to be sustained over time.

3. Rejecting religious/spiritual identity.

This strategy involves individuals transitioning into separate faith systems or abandoning religion/spirituality altogether in order to ameliorate identity conflict.

It was found that this strategy is the most common of the 4 strategies and participants reported the second highest measures of psychosocial health and wellbeing, and was

one of the most sustainable strategies of coping.

4. Integrating religious/spiritual and LGBTQ+ identities:

Finally the last strategy is where individuals are able to harmoniously incorporate their sexual orientations and spiritual/religious identities through various ways that we will discuss in a future blog.

This was found to be the rarest strategy employed because of the complexity often involved, however, if achieved, individuals in this small group reported the highest measures of psychosocial health and wellbeing with the greatest sustainability over time.

Each individual at this complex intersection has their own unique journey to face in order to accomplish living life according to their values which only they have the right to dictate. No strategy is particularly right as we all have unique ways of dealing with the challenges of life. However, it can be helpful to have pertinent and comparative information like this in your toolbox when working through your own journey and path to feeling peace and accomplishing a thriving and satisfied life. Stay tuned for more information to come to assist you on that journey.

Citation Used

John P. Dehlin, Renee V. Galliher, William S. Bradshaw & Katherine A. Crowell (2015) Navigating Sexual and Religious Identity Conflict: A Mormon Perspective, Identity, 15:1, 1-22, DOI: 10.1080/15283488.2014.989440

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