Experiences of Christian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer Emerging Adults: Family Upbringing, Identity Reconciliation, and Meaning-Making


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Virginia Tech


Religion, and in particular Christianity, is a salient part of American culture and informs policy decisions and family life. However, within the past two decades, emerging adults have become less likely to maintain a religious affiliation and attend religious services, suggesting a decline in the country's involvement with organized religious institutions. Non-heterosexual individuals are half as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to report a religious identity. The following study contextualizes these demographic findings and considers their potential impact on family life, and more specifically the interplay of religiosity with sexual identity development. Using a Constructivist Grounded Theory methodology, the current study presents data from eleven in- depth qualitative interviews with self-identified Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Queer (LGBQ) individuals between the ages of 20 and 25. Results are presented through three models. The first model illustrates the overlap of family and religious life, and their influence on sexual identity development. The second model depicts a three stage process through which participants made sense and meaning of the religious and familial discourses of their childhood: conflict, catalyst, and resolution. Particular attention is given to the final stage, resolution, and to the extraneous environmental factors that influenced how participants explained and made meaning of resolution. Finally, the third model described how participants constructed a LGBQ Christian identity, and how they perceive the acceptance of their identities by families and religious communities. This research contributes to existing literature by (a) examining the influence of a Christian upbringing on sexual identity development, (b) considering how individuals overcome conflict to integrate two seemingly exclusive identities, and (c) presenting how the adoption of a LGBQ Christian identity decenters heteronormativity and queers family relationships.



lgbt, christian, gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, religion