“What Happens if the Cross Falls and Crushes Me?”: Psychological and Spiritual Promises and Perils of Lesbian and Gay Christian Celibacy

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Christian lesbian and gay (LG) individuals, especially those from more conservative backgrounds, often face identity conflicts between sexuality and spirituality and use various methods to resolve these conflicts, including sexual orientation change efforts and identity integration. Many LG individuals are identifying as celibates who refrain from same-sex sexual contact and relationships as a means of resolving identity conflict. This study used grounded theory to investigate the psychological and spiritual well-being of 12 current and former lesbian and gay Christian celibates (LGCCs) by exploring the question, “What are the experiences of celibacy in terms of psychological and spiritual well-being?” For many participants, celibacy resulted in dissonance between their beliefs and their sexual desires and behaviors, leading to substantial challenges and harms that negatively affected their well-being. Participants, especially ex-celibate participants, described psychological, emotional, social, sexual, and spiritual harms. Implications for psychologists and other mental health practitioners working with clients struggling with conflicts between sexual and spiritual identities are discussed.

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