The Positive Aspects of Intersecting Religious/Spiritual and LGBTQ Identities

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Abstract

Religion and spirituality are positive resources in the lives of many individuals (Pargament, Mahoney, Shafranske, Exline, & Jones, 2013). Although much of the existing research on the intersection of religious/spiritual and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer (LGBTQ) identities has focused on conflicts in these identities (Fontenot, 2013), a growing number of studies suggests that religious/spiritual LGBTQ people experience positive aspects similar to those emphasized in the general literature. We sought to extend previous findings by asking LGBTQ participants (N = 314) to describe the positive aspects of identifying as both religious/spiritual and LGBTQ. Qualitative analysis revealed that the positive aspects were characterized by 5 themes: (a) Love and Acceptance for one’s LGBTQ identity; (b) Deeper Meaning and Purpose due to having an LGBTQ perspective; (c) Empathy, Openness, and Compassionate Action rooted in LGBTQ identity and a passion to actively live religious/spiritual values; (d) Positive Relationships with families, partners, and communities based in a shared religious/spiritual identity and authentic expression of LGBTQ identity; and (e) Spiritual Strength for coming out and coping with sexual or gender identity stigma and prejudice. Participants’ responses suggest that religious/spiritual and LGBTQ identities interact in ways that synergistically enhance each other and may provide an important source of strength and support that can be mobilized in clinical practice.

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