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Sex and the Sinner: Comparing Religious and Nonreligious Same-Sex Attracted Adults on Internalized Homonegativity and Distress



Homonegative prejudice has long been connected with poor psychological outcomes. These have often been purported to include internalized homonegativity (IH), an outcome regarded as especially detrimental given its association with a large number of adverse mental health correlates. Given the evidence that homonegative prejudice often prevails most strongly within many mainstream religious contexts, the current study examined whether religious lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals would possess higher levels of internalized homonegativity than their nonreligious, and formerly religious, LGB counterparts. To test this hypothesis, Christian, formerly Christian, and nonreligious Australian LGB respondents (N = 579), recruited through social media platforms and a diverse range of community groups, completed an online survey assessing IH; religion-sexuality distress; religious and familial homonegativity; sense of self; and outness. Ordinal logistic regressions revealed that Christian LGB respondents possessed significantly more IH than nonreligious respondents. Furthermore, perceiving greater homonegativity in one's religious and familial environments predicted higher levels of distress and IH among Christians specifically. Despite having apostatized, former Christians still reported greater religion-sexuality distress than nonreligious individuals, suggesting that the psychological effects of homonegative religious environments are potentially enduring. Across all respondents, IH was also greater for males, those who were less "out," and those who possessed a weaker sense of self. Findings generally support the premise that religious homonegativity places LGB Christians at additional psychological risk, with particular regard to IH and religion-sexuality identity conflict, and that both personal and interpersonal characteristics may exacerbate this risk. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Sex and the Sinner: Comparing Religious and
Nonreligious Same-Sex Attracted Adults on
Internalized Homonegativity and Distress
Babucarr J. Sowe, Jac Brown, and Alan J. Taylor
Macquarie University
Homonegative prejudice has long been connected with poor psychological outcomes. These have
often been purported to include internalized homonegativity (IH), an outcome regarded as
especially detrimental given its association with a large number of adverse mental health
correlates. Given the evidence that homonegative prejudice often prevails most strongly within
many mainstream religious contexts, the current study examined whether religious lesbian, gay,
and bisexual (LGB) individuals would possess higher levels of internalized homonegativity than
their nonreligious, and formerly religious, LGB counterparts. To test this hypothesis, Christian,
formerly Christian, and nonreligious Australian LGB respondents (N579), recruited through
social media platforms and a diverse range of community groups, completed an online survey
assessing IH; religion-sexuality distress; religious and familial homonegativity; sense of self; and
outness. Ordinal logistic regressions revealed that Christian LGB respondents possessed signif-
icantly more IH than nonreligious respondents. Furthermore, perceiving greater homonegativity
in one’s religious and familial environments predicted higher levels of distress and IH among
Christians specifically. Despite having apostatized, former Christians still reported greater
religion-sexuality distress than nonreligious individuals, suggesting that the psychological effects
of homonegative religious environments are potentially enduring. Across all respondents, IH was
also greater for males, those who were less “out,” and those who possessed a weaker sense of
self. Findings generally support the premise that religious homonegativity places LGB Christians
at additional psychological risk, with particular regard to IH and religion-sexuality identity
conflict, and that both personal and interpersonal characteristics may exacerbate this risk.
I was in extreme conflict, believing in God destroying me if I remain
homosexual. I wanted to die. I wanted to commit suicide and maybe
it would have been better to have taken my own life...Thepain was
excruciating, as if I was really dead but in a psychological, mental,
emotional and spiritual way.—Female, 21
For many LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual, or otherwise same-sex
attracted) persons, homonegative prejudice is regularly, and recur-
rently, endured. Homonegativity refers to any negative attitude
toward homosexuality, or any devaluation of LGB persons, by an
individual, group, or society (Mayfield, 2001). Prejudice is widely
thought to underpin the disproportionately high rates of psycho-
logical problems generally observed in LGB populations (e.g.,
Lewis, 2009). Researchers have also often noted that homonega-
tive prejudice is nowhere more apparent than among mainstream
religious bodies and adherents (e.g., Allport & Ross, 1967;van den
Akker, van der Ploeg, & Scheepers, 2013). Some researchers have
further described the inner conflicts that ensue when religious
LGB persons suffer religious rejection or internalize homonegative
religious attitudes (e.g., Rodriguez, 2009). Building upon these
findings, the current study sought to empirically compare the
homonegative internalizations of religious versus nonreligious
LGB persons, with particular regard to the psychosocial factors
surrounding religion-sexuality conflict.
Prejudice and Harm
LGB individuals have endured a long history of prejudice. For
many decades, homosexuals were criminalized by Western law-
makers, detested by mainstream society, and set upon with a range
of objectionable medical and mental health treatments (e.g., Hal-
deman, 2002). Despite numerous reforms, prejudice has persisted
to the present day. In legal and political arenas, for example, LGB
persons are still subjected to dehumanizing antigay campaigns and
the denial of basic civil rights (Kertzner, 2012;Russell & Rich-
ards, 2003). In clinical settings, a number of psychotherapeutic
practitioners still adhere to “illness” models of homosexuality and
may advocate the use of questionable reorientation therapies (Bar-
tlett, Smith, & King, 2009;Haldeman, 1994). In daily life, many
LGB persons encounter harassment and discrimination at home,
Babucarr J. Sowe, Jac Brown, and Alan J. Taylor, Macquarie Univer-
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Babucarr
J. Sowe, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Balaclava
Road, North Ryde, NSW 2109 Australia. E-mail: babucarr.sowe@mq
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
American Journal of Orthopsychiatry © 2014 American Orthopsychiatric Association
2014, Vol. 84, No. 5, 530–544
school, or in the workplace, or are targets of verbal and physical
abuse (e.g., Hillier et al., 2010).
The impact of such pervasive and long-standing prejudice in
social, institutional, and interpersonal environments can be devas-
tating. Literature suggests that when LGB persons are faced with
homonegative stressors and discriminatory treatment, a range of
mental and behavioral ramifications may ensue. These include
psychological distress (Szymanski, 2009); anger and anxiety
(Swim, Johnston, & Pearson, 2009); depressive symptoms, sub-
stance abuse, and sexual risk behaviors (Hatzenbuehler, Nolen-
Hoeksema, & Erickson, 2008); as well as self-harm and suicidality
(Almeida, Johnson, Corliss, Molnar, & Azrael, 2009;Hillier et al.,
2010). Because homonegative experiences seem to be widespread
(e.g., D’Augelli, 2002), it is not surprising that LGB samples tend
to show poorer mental and behavioral outcomes than their hetero-
sexual counterparts (e.g., Rossen, Lucassen, Denny, & Robinson,
Religious Prejudice as a Risk Factor
In general, religion may be an especially prejudicial force for
many LGB persons, in social, institutional, and interpersonal con-
texts. In fact, research has connected (predominantly Christian
religion with prejudice for many decades (Allport & Ross, 1967;
van den Akker, van der Ploeg, & Scheepers, 2013). Using selective
biblical texts, much of the traditional Church has historically
opposed the abolition of slavery, equal rights for people of color,
interracial marriages, and equality for women (Thatcher, 2008). In
similar fashion, conservative Christian groups have vigorously
lobbied against civil rights for LGB persons, denouncing them as
dangerous to society and family life, and an abomination against
God (e.g., Burdette, Ellison, & Hill, 2005). Studies repeatedly
show that prejudice toward LGB persons, and homosexuality in
general, is greatest among those who are highly religious (e.g.,
Marsh & Brown, 2011), who score highly on religious fundamen-
talism (e.g., Hunsberger, Owusu, & Duck, 1999), who have a more
conservative Christian ideology (e.g., Plugge-Foust & Strickland,
2000), who attend Church more regularly (e.g., Fisher, Derison,
Polley, Cadman, & Johnston, 1994), and among those who view
homosexuals as desecrators of Christianity (Trevino, Desai, Lau-
ricella, Pargament, & Mahoney, 2012). Specifically, those of Prot-
estant affiliation have been found more likely to attribute homo-
sexuality to sinful choices (Haider-Markel & Joslyn, 2008), to
view homosexuals as “contaminates” in society (Burdette et al.,
2005), and are among those most opposed to same-sex unions
(Olson, Cadge, & Harrison, 2006). Similarly, the Roman Catholic
Church regards homosexuals as intrinsically disordered toward
evil (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [CDF], 1986),
requires seminary candidates to be screened for homosexual ten-
dencies (Songy, 2007), and urges the “crucifying” of same-sex
attractions in pastoral care (Crowley, 2004). Furthermore, in men-
tal health services, some Christian practitioners may address LGB
clients with the presumption that homosexuality is unhealthy,
ungodly, and indefensible. In the disturbing words of Gagnon
(2005, pp. 301–302): “Christian psychologists should be careful
not to short-circuit, by compromising God’s standards, any work
that God might be doing in the lives of [LGB] persons experienc-
ing distress....Often God uses the experience of deprivation as
a means of shaping Christ in us.” Taken together, this suggests that
homonegative prejudice may be at its strongest within many Chris-
tian contexts.
Considering the extent of such prejudice in socioreligious set-
tings, one might expect Christian LGB persons to be at additional
psychological risk, relative to nonreligious LGB persons. Prelim-
inary evidence points in this direction. In a study by D’Augelli
(2002), the reconciling of one’s religious beliefs and nonhetero-
sexuality was substantially distressing for more than two-thirds of
those surveyed. An Australian national study on health and well-
being (Hillier et al., 2010) also found that nonheterosexual youth
who broached religion in a qualitative survey response felt worse
about their sexuality, were more likely to self-harm, and were
more likely to report suicidal ideation than those who did not
discuss religion. Rodriguez (2006) also explored these themes,
conducting a secondary analysis of data from the Northern Cali-
fornia Health Study. It was concluded that LGB respondents
involved in established religion or who held religious beliefs
showed evidence of greater identity conflict, which was in turn
associated with negative perceptions of homosexuality. In addi-
tion, respondents classified as struggling with their gay identity
demonstrated the most negative psychological outcomes in the
study. More recently, qualitative research by Subhi and Geelan
(2012) revealed that individuals gripped by religion-sexuality con-
flict experienced a range of ensuing mental and emotional diffi-
culties, while Shilo and Savaya (2012) found that LGB youth had
less acceptance of their sexuality if they scored highly on religi-
osity. Of further relevance, Yakushko (2005) noted that even if
LGB persons had attended a conservative Church at any point in
their lives they had higher stress over their sexual orientation and
lower self-esteem than those who had not. In light of these find-
ings, it becomes evident that religious-based homonegative preju-
dice may contribute to substantial distress and inner turmoil among
LGB individuals of a Christian background.
Religious Prejudice and Internalized
In particular, widespread religious prejudice may cause endur-
ing harm by fostering internalized homonegativity (IH)—the neg-
ative attitudes toward homosexuality that LGB persons eventually
come to adopt about themselves (Mayfield, 2001). Such an out-
come is widely considered detrimental given the connection of IH
with a number of adverse mental and behavioral correlates (e.g.,
psychological distress and poor self-esteem, Szymanski & Gupta,
2009; depression, dysthymia, and poor sexual health, Rosser,
Bockting, Ross, Miner, & Coleman, 2008; sexual risk behaviors,
Hatzenbuehler et al., 2008; rejection sensitivity, Pachankis, Gold-
fried, & Ramrattan, 2008; problems with interpersonal relation-
ships, Frost & Meyer, 2009; and the propensity to seek conversion
The use of the term “Christian” is admittedly diverse given the broad
array of traditions, doctrines, beliefs, and practices associated with the
term, and the various levels of meaning it holds for those who identify with
it. The use of the term Christian in the current context of discussion (and
the basis by which Christians have been generally identified in empirical
literature) refers most broadly to those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ
as the Son of God, or who otherwise self-identify as Christian or report
affiliation with a Christian church or tradition.
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therapy, Tozer & Hayes, 2004). The development of IH is outlined
by social psychological theories. For example, Herek, Gillis, and
Cogan (2009) view IH as a manifestation of sexual stigma, in that
it is based upon the collective devaluation of homosexuality, and
the inferior social status accorded to homosexuals, by members of
a society. This becomes internalized when individuals align their
self-concept with the stigmatizing responses of society around
them. Similarly, minority stress theory describes IH among sexual
minorities as a stress process stemming directly from the homon-
egative conditions of one’s wider social context, which entrenches
negative perceptions and appraisals of homosexuality among
members of that context (Meyer, 2003). Accordingly, when reli-
gious contexts are pervasively homonegative, LGB Christians may
be more prone to regard their own sexuality as evil or inferior, and
show a greater degree of IH as a result.
To the contrary, those religious environments that embrace LGB
identities may actually help to reduce or prevent IH (Wagner,
Serafini, Rabkin, Remien, & Williams, 1994). These spaces may
protect against IH by affirming the inherent goodness of LGB
persons and refuting religious teachings that condemn homosexu-
ality (Lease, Horne, & Noffsinger-Frazier, 2005). As a result, LGB
persons may be able to positively integrate their religious and
sexual identities so that they do not experience distress (Rodriguez
& Ouellette, 2000).
A recent study by Barnes and Meyer (2012) found support for
such a connection between LGB persons’ perceptions of their
religious worship environments and IH. Specifically, LGB persons
who attended religious settings perceived as nonaffirming reported
higher IH than those who participated in affirming religious set-
tings, or who did not attend religious services at all. These findings
are instrumental in providing some of the first empirical evidence
of LGB individuals being at additional risk of IH within prejudicial
religious contexts. However, such findings are also somewhat
limited, or potentially impaired, by methodological restraints. For
example, “approving” versus “nonapproving” religious environ-
ments were crudely determined by whether or not religious ser-
vices were directed toward the LGB community, and hence the
perceived extent of homonegativity in these environments was not
actually measured. Second, past religious affiliation was not taken
into consideration, even though the nature of past religious settings
may have an enduring psychological impact (Rodriguez, 2006;
Yakushko, 2005), potentially affecting current levels of IH among
religious and no-longer-religious individuals. Third, and perhaps
most problematic, is that religious “setting” was narrowly opera-
tionalized through individuals’ perceptions of an attended worship
environment. This presumably resulted in a limited representation
of both religious LGB persons and nonaffirming religious con-
texts. This is because (a) religious prejudice undoubtedly operates
outside the context of religious services and (b) many religious
LGB persons who experience such prejudice may not participate in
worship services altogether. Given that LGB persons also appear
to attend religious services less frequently than the general popu-
lation (Herek, Norton, Allen, & Sims, 2010;Rodriguez, 2006),
worship service attendance is likely to be a particularly constricted
measure of one’s religious sphere in general.
In support of this, research indicates that homonegative religious
prejudice may permeate a number of interpersonal avenues beyond
an immediate place of worship. For example, children raised by
religious parents appear to develop greater prejudice toward ho-
mosexuals than those raised in nonreligious home environments
(Scheepers, Te Grotenhuis, & van der Slik, 2002;Sharpe, 2002).
Accordingly, religious parents and siblings are likely to express
homonegativity toward their LGB family members. Similarly,
students and peers who are more religious are more likely to see
homosexuality as a disorder (Hon et al., 2005), are less open to
interpersonal contact with other LGB peers (Waldo, 1998), and
may be less likely to help individuals if they are gay (Batson,
Floyd, Meyer, & Winner, 1999). Hence, LGB Christians will
potentially face religious prejudice, and also lose social support,
from a variety of significant others. Concordantly, Rodriguez
(2006) found that relative to other LGB respondents, those pur-
portedly struggling with their gay identity—who were also gener-
ally above average on religiosity—scored the highest on loneliness
and had the least social support. Shilo and Savaya (2012) similarly
found that higher levels of religiosity among LGB youth coincided
with a lack of acceptance and social support from their family and
friends. Because social support around one’s sexuality is an addi-
tional factor known to be negatively associated with IH (e.g.,
Chow & Cheng, 2010;Pachankis et al., 2008), this is further
reason to expect higher levels of IH among LGB Christians.
LGB Social Support and Outness
In the absence of support from significant heterosexual others,
developing supportive networks with other LGB persons may
become all the more critical. Research demonstrates that for stig-
matized individuals generally, and LGB persons specifically, the
presence of similar others is important for mental health (e.g.,
Frable, Platt, & Hoey, 1998). In particular, having less connection
with the LGB community, or reporting less social support from
similar LGB others, has been linked to higher levels of IH (Herek,
Cogan, Gillis, & Glunt, 1998;Rosser et al., 2008). Whether
religious or nonreligious, interaction with similar others can pro-
vide LGB persons with a degree of affirmation and belongingness
that may be starkly absent in other contexts. As a result, individ-
uals may feel less alienated by their sexual difference, and less
isolated in dealing with homonegative stressors.
Gaining support from other LGB persons, however, presumably
requires a degree of openness—or outness—about one’s sexuality.
D’Augelli, Hershberger, and Pilkington (1998) found that those
who were less comfortable disclosing their sexuality to others also
reported having fewer LGB friends. Aside from lacking the sup-
port potentially found among similar others, the concealment of
one’s sexuality can also be highly stressful and may require
constant vigilance and secrecy (Meyer, 2003). Although this may
protect LGB individuals from events of discrimination, conceal-
ment may also be a reflection of deeply held homonegative self-
views. In fact, a number of studies have found that less openness
about one’s sexuality with friends, family members, colleagues,
and in general, is indeed associated with higher levels of IH (e.g.,
Frost & Meyer, 2009;Herek et al., 1998;Pachankis et al., 2008;
Rosser et al., 2008). To the contrary, the ability to be open about
one’s sexuality may in many cases be a prerequisite for developing
a positive identity (Wells & Kline, 1987).
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Sense of Self Characteristics
When individuals experience rejection around their sexuality
over long periods of time, positive identity development may be
undermined. The emergence of IH is itself a reflection of a
distorted self-schema whereby individuals view themselves as
abnormal or inferior in relation to heterosexual others (Pachankis
et al., 2008). In addition, histories of rejection and disapproval may
mean that LGB persons come to develop a fragmented sense of
self, such that they feel divided between the acceptable and the
unacceptable parts of who they are as deemed by others (Hillier,
Mitchell, & Mulcare, 2008). Literature conceptualizes a weakened
sense of self as involving a lack of understanding of oneself or
impoverished self-definition; the tendency to base one’s own
thoughts, feelings, and perspectives on those of other people or
deciphering oneself through others; fluctuations in one’s values,
feelings, and opinions; and even a tenuousness of being—a dubi-
ous or shaky sense of personal existence (Flury & Ickes, 2007).
Considering these elements, establishing a concrete and positive
identity would seem to hinge upon LGB individuals developing a
cohesive and congruent sense of self, and crucially, a view of self
that is less vulnerable to the prescriptions of others.
Research accordingly indicates that possessing a weaker sense
of self is associated with greater identity impairment, poorer self-
esteem, and the general propensity to construe oneself through the
opinions and attitudes of others (Flury & Ickes, 2007). On the
other hand, among LGB persons, those who possess a stronger and
more positive self and sexual identity tend to show greater accep-
tance of their sexuality and exhibit less IH (Chow & Cheng, 2010;
Elizur & Mintzer, 2001). For LGB Christians, a stronger sense of
self may mean that individuals are less likely to internalize homon-
egative religious doctrines, being less inclined to define them-
selves by the prejudicial views of others, and more inclined to
guide their lives via an autonomous, internal locus of control (e.g.,
Roseborough, 2006;Yip, 2002).
Furthermore, the sense of self features that LGB Christians
possess may reflect the religious internalization styles by which
they operate. Internalization styles describe the ways in which
individuals come to take on external beliefs, doctrines, and behav-
iors as their own. Ryan, Rigby, and King (1993) outline two types
of internalization among religious individuals. The first, “identifi-
cation,” is regarded as a healthy style of internalization. Here,
individuals thoughtfully and freely integrate religious teachings
into chosen and personal values. These values are lived out auton-
omously and willfully, as meaningful elements of their lives.
“Introjection,” however, is seen as less healthy because beliefs are
internalized as a way of avoiding guilt or shame, or from fear of
losing the approval of oneself or others. Individuals adopt values
and behaviors less volitionally, as a way of appeasing these inter-
nal pressures and conflicts (e.g., praying to God to avoid feeling
guilty). As such, introjection is thought to be associated with a
weaker, less coherent sense of self, and with poorer mental health
outcomes (see Ryan et al., 1993). Of particular relevance to the
current study, if LGB Christians internalize their religious beliefs
in this way—from self-and other approval-based pressures—they
may be more prone to viewing their sexuality negatively, in line
with mainstream religious prejudice.
Although several studies have described the conflict that can
arise when religious and sexual identities collide, the factors im-
plicated in such conflicts have not been widely explored. Nor has
the impact of religious prejudice versus affirmative religious sup-
port been widely measured. Similarly, it is not known whether
Christian religious LGB persons subsequently differ from nonre-
ligious LGB persons on inherent mental health indicators, such as
IH. Considering the homonegative nature of many religious envi-
ronments, together with the self and social support factors outlined
previously, the following hypotheses (from general to specific)
were formed:
Hypothesis 1: First, among LGB persons generally,itwas
hypothesized that higher levels of IH and distress would be pre-
dicted by (a) lower levels of outness around one’s sexuality, (b)
less connection with the LGB community, and (c) a poorer sense
of self.
Hypothesis 2: More specifically, it was hypothesized that LGB
Christians would report both higher levels of IH, and more distress
over their sexuality, than nonreligious LGB persons.
Hypothesis 3: Assuming support for Hypothesis 2, it was further
hypothesized that among LGB Christians, higher levels of IH and
distress would be predicted by (a) perceiving one’s religious and
family environments as more homonegative, and (b) possessing
higher levels of religious introjection.
Meyer and Wilson (2009) describe the difficulties inherent in
sampling sexual minority populations because random and fully
representative samples are almost impossible to obtain. To im-
prove the breadth of the current sample, a variety of recruitment
strategies were used including word of mouth and snowballing
techniques, advertisements on social networking Web sites, as well
as print and online advertisements in diverse LGB, religious, and
community organizations. To limit the likelihood of respondents
deducing hypotheses, which could otherwise make the study more
appealing to those with a grievance against religion, the content of
advertisements was kept as brief and general as possible. The
description indicated that the study sought to understand the lives
and experiences of LGB individuals, and was relevant to those of
both religious and nonreligious backgrounds.
The final Australia-wide sample consisted of 579 respondents
(51.6% male, 46.8% female, and 2.4% “other”) who identified as
either Christian or nonreligious, with ages ranging from 18 to 74
years (M31.76 years, SD 11.73 years). Although a variety of
ethnic backgrounds were present in the sample, 76.2% of respon-
dents identified as White Australian. Most respondents identified
as either “gay” (45.8%), “lesbian” (26.1%), or “bisexual” (17.1%)
although 8.6% identified as other (e.g., “queer”) and 2.4% identi-
fied as “straight.” Relationship status varied with 44.9% of respon-
dents currently in a same-sex relationship, 7.8% in an opposite sex
relationship, 2.9% in multiple relationships, and 44.4% not in any
relationship. At the time of respondents’ first awareness of their
same-sex attraction, 74.4% reported a Christian affiliation, com-
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
pared with only 40.9% who reported a Christian affiliation cur-
rently. It was evident from those who opted to provide denomina-
tional data that a broad spectrum of denominational affiliations
existed in the sample. As a result, an immensely diverse range of
Christian backgrounds were represented that included various
Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox traditions, as well as main-
stream, liberal, conservative, Evangelical, Pentecostal, and funda-
mentalist divisions.
An online survey contained several scales together with exten-
sive demographic items. These items covered age, sex and gender
information, ethnicity, sexual and relational history, as well as past
and current religious and family background data. Short-answer
options were also included for Christian respondents who wished
to describe their denominational affiliations, past and current. In
addition, an individual’s level of LGB community connectedness
was gauged using a single-item measure “How much do you feel
personally connected to, and a part of, the LGB community?” with
responses given on a 7-point Likert-type scale (1 no connection
at all to 7 extremely connected). Same-sex attraction was
confirmed using five items spanning sexual attraction, behaviors,
and fantasies, as well as social and emotional preferences. Re-
sponses were again recorded on a 7-point Likert-type scale where
1opposite sex only to 7 same sex only. Respondents also
indicated on a 7-point Likert-type scale how much distress they
experienced when thinking about their sexuality and religious
beliefs (1 no distress at all to7extremely distressed), both
currently and at the time they were first aware of their same-sex
attraction, with the option for extended response.
Factors were created for key religious and family background
questions in the survey (“How would you rate your current reli-
gious environment generally in terms of issues of same-sex sexu-
ality?” from 1 rejecting to5affirming,“How would you rate
your current family environment generally in terms of issues of
same-sex sexuality?” from 1 rejecting to 5 affirming,“How
important is religion to your parents/family in everyday life cur-
rently?” from 1 completely unimportant to 7 extremely
important,“How important is religion to you in your everyday life
currently?” from 1 completely unimportant to 7 extremely
important,“How would you rate your level of current religious
involvement?” from 1 no involvement at all to7extremely
involved). Responses to these items were subjected to exploratory
factor analysis (EFA) to avoid multicollinearity among items that
were highly related and measured very similar constructs. Princi-
pal components analysis was used to reduce these items to sets of
uncorrelated components, selecting for Eigenvalues of at least 1.0
(using varimax rotation with Kaiser normalization). The first
emerging component, referred to as the “prominence of religion
(PR), included the latter two items assessing how central religion
was in one’s life (eigenvalue 1.9, accounting for 37.1% of total
variance). The second emerging component, referred to as one’s
perceived environment”(PE), incorporated the three remaining
items addressing the homonegativity (and religiosity) perceived in
one’s religious and family circles (eigenvalue 1.6, accounting
for 31.5% of total variance).
The Outness Inventory. The Outness Inventory (OI;
Mohr & Fassinger, 2000) was used to measure the degree to which
LGB respondents were open about their sexuality with different
people in their lives. The three-factor structure includes 10 items,
measuring outness to one’s “family,” “world” (heterosexual
friends, strangers, and workplace personnel), and “religion.” These
are rated via an 8-point Likert-type scale (1 person definitely
does not know about your sexual orientation status to 7 person
definitely knows about your sexual orientation status, and it is
openly talked about-with the option of nonapplicable). Cronbach’s
coefficients for family, world, and religion factors were reported
to be .74, .79, and .97, respectively, and were slightly better in the
current study at .82, .82, and .96, respectively. Given that each of
these factors measured the same underlying construct, a single
factor from the three was chosen for use in the current study to
avoid multicollinearity when conducting statistical analyses. Be-
cause outness to family and religion would appear to measure
somewhat more circumscribed domains of outness, and because
many respondents would undoubtedly have missing data on family
and religious factors because of their life circumstances, the world
factor seemed to be the most suitable choice. Not only did the
world factor offer a better indication of outness in life more
generally, but individuals could also choose not to be out in family
or religious contexts for a number of potentially adaptive reasons
(e.g., to avoid being thrown out of home, the potential loss of
financial support, or religious employment ramifications) despite
being comfortable and open about their sexuality otherwise.
The Sense of Self Scale. The Sense of Self Scale (SOSS;
Flury & Ickes, 2007) is a 12-item, single-factor scale assessing the
fragility and instability that individuals experience regarding their
sense of who they are, their beliefs and opinions, and their feelings
about themselves. Responses are recorded using a 4-point Likert-
type scale ranging from 1 very uncharacteristic of me through
to 4 very characteristic of me. A weaker sense of self has been
associated with lower self-esteem, greater fear of rejection, greater
identity impairment, and more borderline personality symptomol-
ogy, demonstrating good convergent validity. Cronbach’s was
reported to be .86 with a test–retest reliability of .83. Although a
lower coefficient of .67 was obtained in the current study,
confirmatory factor analyses (CFA) produced reasonable goodness
of fit indicators (TLI 0.926, CFI 0.939, RMSEA 0.067)
verifying that the scale was suitable for use in its current form. A
significant overall CFA
result (CMIN 235.723, p.0001)
was not surprising nor considered problematic given that this
statistic is very much affected by sample size.
The Christian Religious Internalization Scale. The
Christian Religious Internalization Scale (CRIS; Ryan et al., 1993)
contains 12 items measuring the religious internalization styles of
individuals across two factors: identification, and introjection.
Items are scored on an 8-point Likert-type scale from 1 not at
all true to 7 very true (with the option of nonapplicable).
Reported coefficients across three studies varied for both iden-
tification, .82, .69, and .79, and introjection, .82, .82, and .64.
However, CFA did not sufficiently support the established factor-
loading patterns, resulting in a two-factor solution that retained
nine of the original items. The resulting coefficients were .96
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(identification) and .95 (introjection), suggesting excellent internal
The “Age Universal” I-E Scale-12. Measures of reli-
gious orientation are among those most widely used and reported on
in literature examining religious involvement. Of note, having an
intrinsic religious orientation has previously been linked with possess-
ing higher levels of IH, and in turn the propensity to seek out
conversion therapy (Tozer & Hayes, 2004). As such, it seemed
appropriate to include the Age Universal I-E Scale-12 (IE-12; Gor-
such & Venable, 1983;Maltby, 1999) alongside key religious vari-
ables in the study to ascertain whether it demonstrated any additional
utility in predicting outcomes. This particular measure is a shortened
and revised version of the Religious Orientation Scale (Allport &
Ross, 1967). It contains 12 items spanning three factors measuring
different religious orientations: intrinsic (religion involves deeply held
convictions that are personally lived out); extrinsic-personal (such that
religion is a source of comfort); and extrinsic-social (whereby religion
provides social benefits). Responses are made on a 3-point Likert-type
scale (1 yes,2not certain, and 3 no) allowing use among both
religious and nonreligious individuals. To accommodate religious
variation among respondents, the wording “church” was adapted to
“place of worship.” Maltby (2002) reported good internal reliability
for each of the three factors (intrinsic .87, extrinsic-personal .83,
and extrinsic-social .87), and this was also the case for the
current sample (intrinsic .91, extrinsic-personal .83, and
extrinsic-social .87). The potential for multicollinearity among
these factors, however, meant they needed to be subjected to
principal components analysis, which reduced them to a single
uncorrelated component as a result.
The Internalized Homonegativity Inventory. The
Internalized Homonegativity Inventory (IHNI; Mayfield, 2001)is
a 23-item scale that assesses gay men’s negative attitudes toward
their own homosexuality, and homosexuality in general. The scale
is particularly useful in that it overcomes a number of serious
content validity flaws apparent in other measures of IH. The
three-factor structure spans “personal homonegativity” (e.g., “I
feel ashamed of my homosexuality”; ␣⫽.89), the “morality of
homosexuality” (e.g., “I believe it is morally wrong for men to be
attracted to each other”; ␣⫽.70), and reverse-scored “gay affir-
mation” (e.g., “I am proud to be gay”; ␣⫽.82) with an overall
coefficient of .91. Responses are scored on a 6-point Likert-type
scale from 1 strongly disagree through to 6 strongly agree.
The wording of items was also made inclusive for both male and
female same-sex attraction. However, because CFA did not report
optimal factor-loading patterns, the final three-factor structure
included all items of the personal homonegativity (␣⫽.92) factor,
and retained four items on both the gay affirmation (␣⫽.73) and
morality of homosexuality (␣⫽.73) factors.
The full details of the study were reviewed and approved by the
Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee. The
full questionnaire was administered online to enable privacy and
anonymity, and was accessible via URLs imbedded into online
advertisements, or displayed on printed flyers. Upon accessing the
survey, respondents were directed to an information page explain-
ing the survey would require 30 min to complete, that partici-
pation was voluntary, and that respondents could choose to enter a
prize draw to win one of four double movie passes as a small token
of thanks. Respondents were required to confirm that they were 18
years or over and currently living in Australia, before they could
continue. Respondents first completed demographic information,
including the OI, before answering the SOSS, IE-12, CRIS, and
IHNI scales, in that order. To avoid missing data, respondents were
required to answer all questions on each Web page before they
could advance to the next page, and consent was indicated by
choosing to submit responses at the conclusion of each set of
Data and Analyses
Data were analyzed using SPSS 19.0, and AMOS was used for
CFA. Across all 579 respondents, the mean same-sex orientation
score was 5.8 with a SD of 1.3 (minimum possible mean score
1, completely heterosexual orientation; maximum possible mean
score 7, completely homosexual orientation), indicating a rea-
sonably high degree of same-sex attraction. Those respondents
who claimed a non-Christian religious affiliation (Muslim [n2],
Hindu [n2], Jewish [n3], Buddhist [n20], Other non-
Christian [n102]) were not included in current analyses. The
remaining respondents were classified as “nonreligious” (n148;
those with no current or prior religious identification), “former-
Christian” (n194; those who previously identified as Christian
when first aware of their same-sex attraction, but who no longer
reported any religious affiliation), or Christian (n237; those
with a Christian identification both currently and when first aware
of their same-sex attraction). Because almost no respondents had
“become” Christian after having no religious affiliation in the past,
this category was not included. Data relating to denominational
affiliation was also not included in analyses for several reasons,
most notably because an extremely broad denominational spec-
trum was evident among respondents, and even respondents re-
porting similar current affiliations nevertheless reported divergent
histories of affiliation previously, and vice versa. In addition, many
participants described themselves as nondenominational, multide-
nominational, unsure, or alternatively opted not to describe their
affiliation in extra detail. Furthermore, because many items were
relevant to religious individuals only, to avoid a listwise deletion
of cases from missing data these religiosity measures were only
included in analyses that separately examined Christian
For statistical reasons, the demographic variable “identity” (cat-
egorizing respondents as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or straight/other)
could not be used in original form because it was impossible to
disentangle the effects of sexual identity (e.g., lesbian) from the
variable of sex (e.g., female). Because most male and female
respondents already identified as gay and lesbian, respectively, a
separate variable for bisexuality was assigned to see if this identity
variable had any additional effect beyond simple male and female
categories. Unlike gay and lesbian identities, bisexuality was not
confounded with sex given that both males and females could
identity this way.
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Outcome variables. Data from nonclinical community-
based LGB samples often tend toward lower levels of IH and
psychopathology (e.g., Gold, Dickstein, Marx, & Lexington, 2009;
Herek et al., 1998). Unsurprisingly then, the outcome variables in
the current study (IH scores; current religion-sexuality distress
[RSD]) were also skewed in this way and treated as ordinal rather
than numeric. As such, RSD was collapsed into three ordinal
categories where 1 no distress at all,2very little distress, and
3somewhat to extremely distressed. This meant the measure
remained applicable to both religious and nonreligious respon-
dents, and because many nonreligious respondents nevertheless
reported some degree of religion-sexuality distress, it was suitable
for inclusion as an outcome variable. Each numeric IH scale was
also divided into a smaller number of response categories, with
cut-points determined such that a minimum of three categories
were retained for an adequate representation of data variability.
The lowest number of cases in a category was 83, which allowed
for stable parameter estimates.
Given the nature of the outcome variables, ordinal logistic
regression models were used to predict levels of IH and RSD.
Logistic regression analyses produce coefficients that show the
effect of a one-unit increase on the log(odds) of an event occurring.
In the case of ordinal logistic regression, this refers to the
log(odds) of an outcome being in a higher category of the depen-
dent variable (e.g., higher levels of IH or RSD), rather than a lower
category. Results are usually denoted in terms of odds ratios (OR),
which show how the odds of an outcome being in a higher (rather
than a lower) category of the dependent variable change with a
one-unit increase in the independent variable. For interpretative
purposes, these will be described in terms of positive and negative
General Analyses (All Respondents):
Hypotheses 1 (a bc) and 2
Nonparametric correlations (see Table 1) confirmed that out-
come variables were typically correlated with general predictor
variables of interest. Hence, for the overall analyses, the variables
sense of self (SOS), outness,LGB community connectedness,as
well as age,sex, and bisexuality were entered into the model
together with past and current religious identification. Variables
were entered into the model one at a time, but removed if they
added no significant effect in predicting IH or RSD. Religious
identification was retained in the model regardless because it was
central to hypotheses (contrasts were coded 0 nonreligious,1
former-Christian, and 2 Christian with SPSS treating the high-
est numbered category as the reference category). Age,sex (female
treated as reference category), and bisexuality (bisexual—vs. non-
bisexual—as the reference category) were also retained as control
variables across analyses. The latter was included as a control in
every analysis to account for any additional effect of bisexual
identity over and above that of being simply male or female
(categories confounded with being gay and lesbian, respectively).
Hence, similar to sex, it was thought best to control for the effect
of this variable uniformly across all analyses. Considering the
large sample size and the number of different analyses, the overall
significance level was set at ␣⫽.01 (␣⫽.01/3 for follow-up
contrasts) to exercise some control over Type I error.
Table 1. Spearman’s Correlations for Predictor (General, Religious, and Control) and Outcome Variables
Variable (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15)
(1) P.H. (IH) 1.000 .395
.050 .327
.074 .055 .383
(2) Morality (IH) 1.000 .257
.058 .180
.076 .354
(3) G.A. (IH) 1.000 .194
.042 .088
.022 .028 .274
(4) Distress (RSD) 1.000 .176
.036 .105
.041 .009 .359
.005 .335
(5) Sense of self 1.000 .263
.052 .147
.083 .090 .205
(6) Outness (world) 1.000 .302
.072 .042 .275
.078 .085 .323
(7) LGB connect. 1.000 .059 .062 .101
.027 .006 .007 .232
(8) Age 1.000 .049 .207
.105 .288
.086 .193
(9) Sex
1.000 .221
.047 .021 .244
.072 .145
(10) Bisexuality
1.000 .059 .036 .122 .078 .081
(11) Introjection 1.000 .243
(12) Identification 1.000 .545
.005 .460
(13) Prom. religion 1.000 .003 .501
(14) Perc. environ. 1.000 .063
(15) Int.-ext. 1.000
Note. P.H. personal homonegativity; G.A. gay affirmation; RSD religion-sexuality distress; LGB connect LGB community connectedness; Prom. religion prominence of religion; Perc.
environ. perceived environment; Int.-ext. intrinsic-extrinsic religious orientation.
Sex: 0 male, 1 female.
Bisexuality: 0 Not bisexual, 1 bisexual.
p0.001 Sig. (two-tailed).
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Personal homonegativity (IH). In predicting personal
homonegativity, the overall model was statistically significant,
(8) 188.206, p.0001, with a Nagelkerke Pseudo R
of 0.31. The test of parallel lines was not significant,
16.446, p.442, indicating that the assumption of proportional
odds was met. The deviance goodness-of-fit statistic, a test of the
discrepancy between predicted and actual values, was also not
(1627) 1310.486, p1.000, suggesting the
model fit well. Table 2 outlines the Wald’s
values, ORs and
95% confidence intervals (CI) for significant predictors of per-
sonal homonegativity, which remained in the model. These in-
cluded SOS, which was positively associated with personal
homonegativity, as well as outness and LGB community connect-
edness, which were negatively associated with personal homon-
egativity. Sex was also a significant categorical predictor, as was
religious identification with follow-up contrasts revealing a sig-
nificant difference between nonreligious and Christian respon-
dents, OR 2.3, 95% CI: 1.5–3.5, Wald’s
(1) 15.029, p
.0005. No significant differences existed between nonreligious and
former-Christian respondents, or between former-Christian and
Christian respondents, although the latter contrast was approach-
ing significance, Wald’s
(1) 5.252, p.020. In summary,
identifying as a Christian (relative to being nonreligious), being
male, being less out about one’s sexuality, having less connection
with similar LGB others, and having a poorer sense of self pre-
dicted higher levels of personal homonegativity. Hence, Hypoth-
eses 1 (a, b, and c) and 2 were supported for the primary IH factor
of interest.
Morality (IH). In predicting the “morality” factor of IH,
the overall model was also statistically significant,
82.636, p.0001, but featured a smaller NPR of 0.18. Both the
test of parallel lines,
(6) 5.096, p.532, and the deviance
goodness-of-fit statistic,
(1028) 724.307, p1.000, were
not significant, again suggesting the model fit well. Table 2
outlines significant predictors in the model, including outness,
which was negatively associated with the morality factor of IH,
and sex.Religious identification was also significant overall
with follow-up contrasts confirming differences existed be-
tween Christian and nonreligious respondents, OR 3.4, 95%
CI: 1.9–5.9, Wald’s
(1) 17.466, p.0001, and between
Christian and former-Christian respondents, OR 2.8, 95%
CI: 1.7–4.6, Wald’s
(1) 17.542, p.0001. However, no
significant difference existed between nonreligious respondents
and former-Christians. Overall then, Christians (relative to
nonreligious and former-Christian respondents), and males (rel-
ative to females) viewed homosexuality as more immoral, as
did those who were less open about their sexuality, on average.
Hence, support for Hypothesis 1a (but not 1b or 1c) and
Hypothesis 2 was found for the second IH factor of morality.
Gay affirmation (IH). In predicting the gay affirmation
factor of IH, again the overall model was significant,
88.596, p.0001, with an NPR of 0.16. In confirming assump-
tions and model fit, the test of parallel lines was not significant,
(14) 8.437, p.865, nor was the deviance goodness-of-fit
(1,616) 1378.216, p1.000. This factor was
reverse-scored such that higher scores indicate higher levels of IH
(and less affirmation). Significant predictors (see Table 2) included
outness and LGB community connectedness, both of which were
negatively associated with IH. Sex was also significant, however
religious identification was not, Wald’s
(2) 0.466, p.792.
In summary, being male, being less open about one’s sexuality,
and having less connection with LGB others was predictive of
lower levels of gay affirmation, and therefore, higher levels of IH.
Hence, with regard to gay affirmation, support was found for
Hypotheses 1a and 1b only.
Current RSD. The overall model was also significant when
predicting levels of RSD,
(7) 179.429, p.0001, with an
NPR of 0.32. Both the test of parallel lines,
(7) 9.984, p
.190, and the deviance goodness-of-fit statistic,
911.227, p1.000, were not significant. RSD was predicted by
SOS, which was positively associated with distress, and by out-
Table 2. General Analyses (All Respondents): Significant Predictors of IH and RSD
Predictor Estimate (SE) Wald
df Sig. Odds ratio 95% CI for OR
Personal homonegativity (IH)
SOS 1.028 (.144) 50.990 1 .0001 2.8 2.1–3.7
Outness .293 (.050) 34.734 1 .0001 0.7 0.67–0.8
LGB connectedness .163 (.047) 12.246 1 .0005 0.8 0.77–0.9
Sex .756 (.168) 20.317 1 .0001 2.1 1.5–3.0
Religious identification 15.481 2 .0004
Morality (IH)
Outness .222 (.058) 14.908 1 .0001 0.8 0.7–0.9
Sex .900 (.220) 16.752 1 .0001 2.5 1.6–3.8
Religious identification 27.517 2 .0001 —
Gay affirmation (IH)
Outness .259 (.048) 29.599 1 .0001 0.8 0.7–0.85
LGB connectedness .225 (.046) 23.952 1 .0001 0.8 0.7–0.9
Sex .470 (.163) 8.308 1 .0039 1.6 1.2–2.2
Religion-sexuality distress (RSD)
SOS .523 (.157) 11.146 1 .0008 1.7 1.2–2.3
Outness .163 (.053) 9.548 1 .0020 0.8 0.77–0.9
Religious identification 107.946 2 .0001 —
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ness, which was negatively associated with distress (see Table 2).
Religious identification was also significant with follow-up con-
trasts revealing that the odds of Christians scoring in a higher
category of religion-sexuality distress were almost 18 times the
odds of nonreligious respondents, OR 17.7, 95% CI: 9.6–32.6,
(1) 84.603, p.0001, and more than 4 times the odds
of former-Christians,OR4.5, 95% CI: 3.0 –6.7, Wald’s
52.442, p.0001. Furthermore, despite no longer claiming a
religious identity, former-Christians still experienced significantly
more religion-sexuality distress than those who had never been
religious, OR 3.9, 95% CI: 2.1–7.4, Wald’s
(1) 18.137, p
.0001. In summary then, identification as a Christian (relative to
nonreligious and former-Christian respondents) or as a former-
Christian (relative to nonreligious respondents), being less open
about one’s sexuality, and having a poorer sense of self, were all
predictive of higher self-reported levels of distress. Hence, Hy-
potheses 1a and 1c, as well as Hypothesis 2, were supported.
Supplementary Analyses (Christian
Respondents): Hypothesis 3 (a b)
Because Christian respondents reported significantly more dis-
tress and IH (for two of three IH factors) than others in the sample,
the second stage of analyses investigated which personal, reli-
gious, and environmental factors were contributing to these sig-
nificantly different outcomes. Further ordinal logistic regression
analyses were therefore conducted for Christian respondents alone.
Variables that were significant in general analyses (SOS,outness,
and LGB community connectedness), control variables (age,sex,
and bisexuality), as well as religiosity measures (PR,PE, introjec-
tion, identification, and intrinsic-extrinsic religious orientation)
were entered into the model one at a time. Nonparametric corre-
lations between these variables are presented in Table 1.
Personal homonegativity (IH). In predicting personal
homonegativity among Christian respondents, the overall model
was significant,
(6) 55.615, p.0001, with an NPR of 0.29.
Both the test of parallel lines,
(12) 6.006, p.916, and the
deviance goodness-of-fit statistic,
(522) 395.837, p1.000,
were nonsignificant. Table 3 shows the Wald’s
values, ORs and
95% CIs for significant predictors of personal homonegativity
among LGB Christians. These included SOS, which was positively
associated with personal homonegativity, whereas LGB community
connectedness was negatively associated with personal homonega-
tivity. PE was also negatively associated with personal homonega-
tivity, however, because PE was created using factor analysis, the
factor weightings of the underlying items must also be considered.
The rotated component matrix assigned a positive weighting to the
two items measuring the nature of one’s religious and family
environments, in contrast to the negative weighting assigned to the
item regarding the importance of religion to one’s family. This
indicates that for PE, higher personal homonegativity was associ-
ated with perceiving religious and family environments as being
less affirming of same-sex sexuality, and with religion being of
more importance to one’s family. As indicated above, higher
personal homonegativity among Christians was also associated
with possessing a poorer sense of self, and having less connection
with the LGB community. Hence, Hypothesis 3a (but not 3b) was
supported for personal homonegativity.
Morality (IH). In predicting the morality factor of IH
among Christian respondents, the model was also significant over-
(6) 53.502, p.0001, with an NPR of 0.30. Neither the
test of parallel lines,
(6) 5.545, p.476, nor the deviance
goodness-of-fit statistic,
(346) 305.949, p.941, were sig-
nificant. Table 3 outlines predictors that remained in the model.
Religious introjection was positively associated with viewing ho-
mosexuality as immoral. PE was also significant, as was PR,
which contained two underlying items weighted in the same di-
rection, regarding the importance of religion to an individual and
their involvement in it. Taken together, homosexuality was viewed
as more immoral when Christian respondents were more involved
in religion, or viewed religion as more personally important.
Homosexuality was also viewed as more immoral by Christians
who reported less affirming religious and family environments, or
who rated religion as being of more importance to their family.
Because Christians reporting a higher level of introjection also
viewed homosexuality as more immoral, Hypotheses 3a and 3b
were supported for this factor.
Current RSD. Finally, in predicting RSD among Christian
respondents, the overall model was again significant,
39.104, p.0001, with an NPR of 0.22. The test of parallel lines,
(5) 1.406, p.924, and the deviance goodness-of-fit statistic,
(351) 340.807, p.642, were both nonsignificant. Once
again, religious introjection and PE were significant predictors in
Table 3. Supplementary Analyses (Christians): Significant Predictors of IH and RSD
Predictor Estimate (SE) Wald
df Sig. Odds ratio 95% CI for OR
Personal homonegativity (IH)
SOS .741 (.260) 8.126 1 .0044 2.1 1.3–3.5
LGB connectedness .302 (.083) 13.273 1 .0003 0.7 0.6–0.9
Perceived environment .620 (.159) 15.293 1 .0001 0.5 0.4–0.7
Morality (IH)
Introjection .469 (.170) 7.588 1 .0059 1.6 1.1–2.2
Perceived environment .663 (.167) 15.757 1 .0001 0.5 0.4–0.7
Prominence of religion .731 (.182) 16.149 1 .0001 2.1 1.5–3.0
Religion-sexuality distress (RSD)
Introjection .489 (.167) 8.615 1 .0033 1.6 1.2–2.3
Perceived environment .759 (.166) 20.870 1 .0001 0.5 0.3–0.6
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the model (see Table 3). Results, therefore, indicate that among
Christians, a greater degree of religious introjection is predictive of
higher levels of religion-sexuality distress. Furthermore, higher
levels of distress are predicted by perceiving one’s religious and
family environments as less affirming, and by reporting religion to
be of greater importance to one’s family. Again, Hypotheses 3a
and 3b were supported, in predicting RSD.
Considering (a) that mainstream Christian religion has often
been connected with pervasive homonegative prejudice, and (b)
the psychological ramifications that prejudice in general can forge,
it was hypothesized that LGB Christians would report higher
levels of IH and distress over their sexuality than their nonreligious
counterparts. This result was generally obtained for both outcome
measures of interest, in support of hypotheses, and in line with
previous studies outlining the distress and conflict when religion
and sexuality collide (D’Augelli, 2002;Hillier et al., 2010). Such
results are among the first to specifically demonstrate that LGB
Christians are more at risk of certain psychological vulnerabilities
than the general (nonreligious) LGB population. This finding is
remarkable considering the disproportionately high mental illness
rates already evident in LGB communities, not taking religious
identification into account (e.g., Rossen et al., 2009;Thompson &
Johnston, 2003). Of note, religious identification was not a signif-
icant predictor of the gay affirmation measure of IH. However, this
is most likely a reflection of the weakness of the gay affirmation
factor given the relatively poor fit of its underlying items for the
current sample.
Of further relevance, former Christians who had apostatized
reported less current distress over their sexuality, and viewed
homosexuality as less immoral than those who still identified as
Christian. This makes intuitive sense should such distancing have
eliminated a potent source of prejudice. Nevertheless, even past
prejudice may cultivate enduring psychological harm, because
former Christians still reported higher levels of religion-sexuality
distress than those who had never been religious at all, in concor-
dance with the findings of Yakushko (2005). The results of the
current study, therefore, suggest that past religious affiliation is an
important variable to consider in religion-sexuality studies.
In examining the contributions of prejudice, it was hypothesized
that greater distress and IH among LGB Christians would be
predicted by higher levels of homonegativity within respondents’
religious and family environments—for the above measures where
Christians outscored their nonreligious counterparts. Results sup-
ported such predictions: The more individuals felt same-sex sex-
uality was rejected by those in their religious and family environ-
ments—and the more important they felt religion was to their
family—the more distress and IH they reported. This is in line with
broader literature on the mental health consequences of environ-
mental prejudice. In particular, both minority stress and sexual
stigma theories assert that chronically prejudicial environments are
not only highly stressful and disempowering for sexual minority
persons, but also foster the internalization of such prejudice (Herek
et al., 2009;Meyer, 2003). Consistent with these theories, the
flipside of current findings suggests that psychological outcomes
were in fact better where supportive religious and family environ-
ments existed. Past research (e.g., Lease et al., 2005) has similarly
shown that LGB persons had greater wellbeing within more af-
firming religious and family contexts. Barnes and Meyer (2012),
although restrictively operationalizing religious settings and affil-
iation, also found that LGB persons attending more gay-friendly
religious services had less IH than those who participated in
nonaffirming settings. Hence, safe and supportive spaces, where
LGB Christians and their sexuality are affirmed as inherently good
may provide a platform for healthy development.
Apart from the impact of external prejudice, it was also hypoth-
esized that the manner in which LGB Christians internalized their
religious beliefs would be salient, such that higher levels of intro-
jection would predict greater distress and IH. In fact, the current
study is among the first to consider this predictor in the context of
religion-sexuality conflict, and is one of only a few existing studies
to explore both the personal and interpersonal characteristics that
predict distinctive outcomes among LGB Christians. This hypoth-
esis was partially supported such that Christians who reported
higher levels of introjection viewed homosexuality as more im-
moral, and felt greater distress over their sexuality. Given that
introjection is a less self-determined style of internalization (Ryan
et al., 1993), this finding may suggest that individuals are more
likely to adopt homonegative attitudes toward their sexuality be-
cause they feel they “ought” to, and because they would feel
guilty, conflicted, or anxious about religious disapproval if they
did not. Furthermore, homosexuality was viewed as more immoral
when LGB Christians were more involved in, and attached more
importance to, religion overall—that is, religion played a more
prominent role in their lives. Because a central component of
Christian religion is the provision of (often homonegative) moral
instruction, this result is not surprising among those more reli-
giously engaged. Examining the prominence of religion among
LGB individuals, rather than using circumscribed measures of
service attendance (e.g., Barnes & Meyer, 2012), is potentially
more informative because LGB persons typically attend services
less often than the general population (Herek et al., 2010). Addi-
tionally, measures of religious prominence, internalization, and
environment appeared to be more informative than traditional
measures of religious orientation. That is, when religious orienta-
tion was included in analyses alongside these variables, it failed to
predict IH or distress. Altogether, when reviewing religious vari-
ables, these results show that not only the nature of religious
environments, but also how one connects with and internalizes
teachings from these environments will influence the psychologi-
cal outcomes that LGB Christians experience.
However, the degree to which LGB individuals esteem, or
internalize, external religious doctrines may also depend upon their
general sense of self. For both Christians and non-Christians alike,
operating from a strong, cohesive, and internally grounded sense
of self may leave individuals less susceptible to the internalization
of homonegative discourse or doctrine, and more capable of re-
butting the prejudice of others. Hence, for LGB persons in general,
it was hypothesized that a stronger sense of self would be predic-
tive of less distress and IH. Results supported this hypothesis in
predicting both current distress and personal homonegativity in the
overall sample. Furthermore, among LGB Christians specifically,
a stronger sense of self was again predictive of less personal
homonegativity. Roseborough (2006) similarly reported stronger
sense of self characteristics among individuals with more highly
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
reconciled religious and sexual identities, who operated from a
predominantly internal locus of control.
Finally, it was hypothesized that being less open about one’s
sexuality, and having less connection with LGB others, would also
be predictive of greater distress and IH, for LGB persons in
general. Although higher levels of outness did predict less distress,
and lower scores on every IH factor, higher LGB connectedness
predicted only less personal homonegativity - among LGB persons
generally, and among Christians specifically. A sense of connect-
edness and solidarity may reduce feelings of isolation and buffer
against the stress of environmental prejudice, because the presence
of similar others has been found to assist the wellbeing of stigma-
tized individuals (see Frable et al., 1998). It may also provide
social support and affirmation, potentially missing from other
contexts. Nevertheless, such connectedness would ordinarily re-
quire a degree of openness to begin with, a factor long associated
with IH and distress (e.g., Rosser et al., 2008). Of course, the
benefits of openness may depend upon environmental constraints
and the support that is available at the time (Thompson & John-
ston, 2003). As such, not only the capacity for disclosure, but also
reactions to this disclosure, may influence mental health trajecto-
ries. Similarly, should disclosure have foreseeable harmful conse-
quences, a lack of outness may not always be reflective of IH.
Furthermore, in the overall sample, males experienced signifi-
cantly more IH on average than females. Although it could be
argued this was because the IHNI measure was originally devised
for use among gay men, this same pattern has been found in past
research (e.g., Herek et al., 1998) and makes sense when consid-
ering prevalent socializing influences. For example, masculine
ideals often discourage any form of femininity or softness—a
stereotype applied to gay men—such that males may actively
distance themselves from anything nonheterosexual to preserve a
strong sense of masculine identity (Herek, 1986). Accordingly,
studies repeatedly show that males are generally more negative
toward homosexuality than females (e.g., Hunsberger et al., 1999),
and especially toward gay men rather than lesbians (e.g., Herek,
2000). Taken together, this makes positive identity development
for same-sex attracted men a sizable challenge.
Overall, in view of these results, the current findings would
appear to have extensive implications. Most obviously, insomuch
as religious bodies practice discrimination around the religious
participation of LGB persons, or preach against the abhorrent
sinfulness of same-sex attraction, or situate LGB persons outside
all that is good and acceptable, then the mental health and devel-
opment of LGB persons is likely to be compromised. The same
may be said of any homonegative context, religious or otherwise,
where sexual minority persons are devalued. To the contrary,
supportive and compassionate religious and family environments
are likely to provide a platform for healthy identity integration.
This is not to say that improvements in wellbeing cannot also be
achieved through individualized treatment. In fact, the current
study points to a number of areas where this may be beneficial,
particularly in regard to addressing maladaptive sense-of-self char-
acteristics, challenging self-and other-based approval pressures,
and resolving the negative affects and attitudes that foster IH.
However, to concentrate on internal forces of conflict without
considering the external factors, policies, and systems that sustain
them may be addressing symptoms rather than sources of the
In this regard, clinicians must be able to discern—in addition to
organic factors—the challenges that environmental homonegativ-
ity presents for the mental wellbeing of LGB persons. In recog-
nizing these elements, it is imperative that clinicians do not over-
look or dismiss the significance of religion and spirituality among
their LGB clients; the deep-seated religious fears and convictions
these clients may firmly hold; the depth of loss that clients may
experience when alienated outside their foremost circles of belief
and belonging; and therefore, the painful and potentially harmful
disconnection that may result if clinicians direct clients to dissever
their religious identity. Rather than marginalizing this identity in
an effort to resolve inner conflict, clinicians might encourage
religious LGB clients to explore alternative religious expressions,
to consider affirmative religious contexts, and to develop more
self-determined styles of internalization. In local communities, a
number of LGB-affirming churches or networks may exist along
various denominational lines, which may prove a useful resource
for clinicians assisting individuals in this way. Such efforts may be
valuable for facilitating an identity-integrative wholeness where
this is considered meaningful for the client.
In line with current findings and literature, clinicians should also
be aware that LGB clients who present with negative feelings and
attitudes toward their sexuality may have limited social support
available, histories of rejection and devaluation, and may be at
greater risk of further mental health problems as a result of IH.
Where such IH is propped up by homonegative religious doctrines,
LGB clients may be more inclined to present for help in resolving
“unwanted” same sex attraction (e.g., Shidlo & Schroeder, 2002).
Those most vulnerable in this regard may be individuals with a
fragmented or weakened sense of self, who are more prone to
approval-based pressures, more susceptible to external religious
prescriptions, and more inclined to define their sexuality in line
with mainstream socioreligious prejudice. Here, in particular, cli-
nicians have an advocatory responsibility (Melton, 1989). Essen-
tially, clinicians must avoid perpetuating a negative therapeutic
legacy that in the past centered on ignorance around sexual diver-
sity, involved ethical and professional violations, and resulted in
ill-informed attempts at sexual reorientation often on religious
grounds (Ritter & O’Neill, 1989). To collaborate or assent with
clients in the devaluation of their sexuality would only sustain a
legacy of prejudice and reinforce the IH that these individuals have
Instead, clinicians assisting LGB clients should ideally have
competence working within an appropriate affirmative frame-
work. Gay affirmative therapy, for example, requires that cli-
nicians are not only supportive of LGB persons, but are also
properly informed on all aspects of working with LGB clients;
are able to recognize the pervasiveness of heterosexual privi-
lege; and are extensively educated on the history and enduring
impact of prejudice faced by sexual minority persons (Kort,
2008). It also means that clinicians must be able to examine and
combat their own sexual prejudices to avoid fostering harmful
therapeutic events. Where positive affirmation is not possible,
clinicians must—at the least—ensure they “bracket” their
homonegativity in the interests of client welfare and in line with
an empathic nondirective approach, or alternatively refer the
client to an appropriate affirmative practitioner. Encouragingly,
research suggests that practitioners are in general becoming
increasingly positive in their attitudes toward LGB clients and
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
less supportive of aversive reorientation techniques—although
female practitioners appear the most likely to take an affirma-
tive therapeutic approach (Kilgore, Sideman, Amin, Baca, &
Bohanske, 2005). Ultimately, because the current findings sug-
gest that additional layers of prejudice carry with them addi-
tional mental health risk, practitioners in general must be wary
of the ways in which their own homonegativity can oppress
their LGB clients.
Limitations and Recommendations for
Future Research
Although the findings of the current study offer a number of
useful insights, several limitations also warrant discussion. Sta-
tistically, regression analyses cannot denote causality between
variables, and therefore, inferences about these relationships
cannot be interpreted as definitive. However, where certain
pathways are both intuitively and theoretically sensible, tenta-
tive directionality may be established. For example, in accor-
dance with minority stress theory, IH is more plausibly ex-
plained as a consequence of homonegative environments (as
echoed in the stories of respondents), rather than as an ante-
cedent of prejudice. Furthermore, since CFA did not provide
strong support for certain factor-loading patterns (e.g., IHNI
gay affirmation factor), results based upon such measures
should be interpreted cautiously. EFA did confirm, however,
that once small item changes were made, such factor structures
took shape as expected, with suitable internal consistency.
Additionally, assessing religion-sexuality distress using a
single-item measure may be considered overly simplistic. How-
ever, extended response options provided additional verifica-
tion of distress and conflict, alongside measures of IH. If
anything, these findings are likely to be a conservative indica-
tion of distress among LGB persons generally, because recruit-
ment required at least a small degree of discernable outness.
Those who were more closeted, or less connected with LGB
friends and organizations, were most likely undersampled.
Moreover, the skewed nature of the outcome variables suggests
that most respondents experienced relatively little IH or dis-
tress, suggesting that data from a more representative sample
would likely strengthen these results.
Furthermore, the current study relied upon respondents’ self-
classification as Christian or otherwise, and did not explicitly
capture the full variety of meanings associated with any partic-
ular religious label. To partly address this, items addressing the
prominence of religion in one’s life were included, although it
is remarkable that merely identifying with the broad label
Christian was indicative of poorer outcomes nonetheless. Sim-
ilarly, environmental prejudice relied upon respondents’ own
personal perceptions of their circumstances and could not be
independently verified. Nevertheless, it is these subjective per-
ceptions of homonegativity, informed by experience and obser-
vation, which are likely to influence how individuals feel about
themselves and their sexuality.
Taken together, these limitations provide a number of valu-
able avenues for future research. In particular, these research
themes and findings should be explored and corroborated using
further studies with large samples that are more representative
of LGB respondents at all stages of identity development. This
may require utilizing avenues other than LGB community
groups, organizations, and peer networks, because these meth-
ods cannot sample individuals who are highly “closeted” and
less connected with the LGB community. Additionally, the
literature would benefit from in-depth qualitative studies exam-
ining the psychosocial differences between conflicted and non-
conflicted religious LGB individuals. Ideally, this would shed
light on the factors that give rise to, sustain, and resolve this
Research in this area would also be aided by the development
of more robust measures of religiosity. Importantly, such mea-
sures should distinguish between religious and nonreligious
LGB individuals, while still enabling comparisons based on
denominational differences, levels of fundamentalism or bibli-
cal literalism, and degree of religious commitment versus nom-
inal affiliation. Attention should also be given to the develop-
ment of further research tools for assessing religion-sexuality
conflict and distress. On this matter, Rodriguez (2006) found
that when a single-item measure of “political view” was con-
trolled for, religious affiliation was no longer significantly
related to scores on a measure of conflict. As such, future
research should endeavor to assess political views when exam-
ining religious affiliation and conflict.
Given the results of the current study, assessing the mental
health of religious versus nonreligious LGB individuals more
broadly also seems warranted. Future studies should extend the
use of mental health measures to include indices of depression,
anxiety, shame, suicidality, and other outcomes commonly re-
ported in the broader mental health literature. Whereas Rodri-
guez (2006) noted poor mental outcomes among those poten-
tially experiencing identity conflict, Barnes and Meyer (2012)
found no main effect of nonaffirming religion on mental health
beyond IH. To ascertain whether any differences exist between
religious and nonreligious LGB individuals on common mental
health indices, and whether these outcomes are because of
levels of prejudice, robust measures of environmental homon-
egativity that are applicable to all respondents—not only reli-
gious individuals—may be required. Here again, future research
would be valuable in the development of these tools, and in
clarifying the relationship between religious prejudice, identity
conflict, and broader mental health.
In summary, it becomes apparent, as Rodriguez (2009, p.10)
noted, that causes of religion-sexuality conflict “are both ex-
trinsic, coming from outside of the individual and more depen-
dent on acceptance by others, and intrinsic, coming from within
the individual and generally held as internalized moral ideals.”
Intrinsically, Christians more likely to internalize homonega-
tive attitudes, and find their sexuality particularly distressing,
are those who lack the sense of self characteristics required to
volitionally determine their own systems of belief and morality
absent from guilt and anxiety. However, beyond the adoption of
one’s personal beliefs, the extrinsic attitudes, actions, and be-
liefs of others stand tantamount. The current study shows that
the distress and self-deprecation that LGB Christians exhibit is
concordant with the homonegativity they perceive from reli-
gious and familial others. Hence, although a number of thera-
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This article is intended solely for the personal use of the individual user and is not to be disseminated broadly.
peutic avenues exist for clinicians working with religious LGB
clients, more widespread mental health change may only be
realized with the rectifying of such prejudice in socioreligious
Keywords: prejudice; internalized homonegativity; homosexuality;
religion; distress
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... A significant body of research has found religion, and particularly conservative religion, to be associated with higher levels of IH (Crowell et al., 2015;Grey et al., 2013;Kulik, 2013;Quinn et al., 2015;Shilo & Savaya, 2012;Shilo et al., 2016;Sowe et al., 2014;Stern & Wright, 2017). However, this literature also largely relies upon religiously unaffiliated, inactive, or disaffected samples of sexual minorities and, as a consequence, may have limited validity for conservatively religious sexual minorities (Szymanski et al., 2008). ...
... Much research has linked IH to a variety of poor psychological and other health outcomes. Higher levels of IH have been associated with poorer selfesteem and sense of self, greater psychological distress, increased depression and anxiety, fewer social supports, greater sexual identity concealment, and greater psychosocial difficulties (Grey et al., 2013;Puckett et al., 2017aPuckett et al., , 2017bRosser et al., 2008;Sowe et al., 2014;Szymanski & Ikizler, 2013;Szymanski et al., 2008). IH has also been associated with poorer physical health but appears to be increasingly less related to externalizing behavior such as substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, and aggressive actions (Newcomb & Mutanski, 2010Pucket et al., 2017;Phan et al., 2020;Puckett et al., 2017aPuckett et al., , 2017b. ...
... Importantly, participation in church services appeared to moderate the effects of IH on depression, such that higher levels of IH engagement in religious activities were associated with reduced depression above its main effects. This trend may reflect that, due to the conflation between the constructs of IH and conservative religiousness (e.g., Sowe et al., 2014), those with higher IH were more likely to be religiously conservative and thus engaging with their faith may be particularly ego-syntonic. These results add further weight to the emerging literature finding positive effects of formal religious practice among some sexual minorities in both affirming and non-affirming faith environments (Barnes & Meyer, 2012;Barringer & Gay, 2017;Crowell et al., 2015;Shilo & Savaya, 2012). ...
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Results of path analysis involving sexual minority participants (N = 1317) from diverse sociopolitical contexts revealed health outcomes to be associated with internalized homonegativity and the resolution of conflict between religious and sexual minority identities. Contrary to expectations, several markers of religiousness were not directly associated with either improved or worsened health outcomes for depression or anxiety. However, religious activity moderated the influence of internalized homonegativity (IH) on depression such that IH was less strongly related to depression among individuals who frequently attended religious services than among individuals who infrequently attended religious services. These findings have special salience for advancing a more accurate understanding of conservatively religious sexual minorities and directing culturally sensitive research, clinical services, and public policy.
... The findings of this study are congruent with the salient points cited in the study of Sowe et al. (2014) concerning internalized homophobia. There was the internalization of negative family and community attitudes towards same-sex sexual attraction (Sowe et al., 2014). ...
... The findings of this study are congruent with the salient points cited in the study of Sowe et al. (2014) concerning internalized homophobia. There was the internalization of negative family and community attitudes towards same-sex sexual attraction (Sowe et al., 2014). Another challenge that the participants pointed out was the role of religion in perceiving same-sex relationships. ...
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This article contributes to the emerging literature on gender studies, in general, and on the LGBTQ+ phenomenon, in particular. While the global society recognizes the rights of the third sex, other countries are reluctantly acknowledging while inadvertently stigmatizing LGBTQ+ individuals. Unfortunately, some Filipino same-sex couples were still the target of ridicule, criticism, and prejudice. In this paper, we analyzed via a biographical narrative the relationship dynamics of same-sex Filipino couples confronted with homophobia, heteronormativity, and discrimination. Biographical narratives established an excellent way of making theoretical sense of social phenomena such as gender studies. To do this, we interviewed same-sex couples from the provinces of Western Visayas, Philippines. The results revealed interdisciplinary perspectives that reflected the basis for engaging and maintaining such a relationship. A recurring essence across all identified perspectives that compelled same-sex couples to stay in a relationship was their mutual love. Mutual love becomes a strong driving force that keeps the relationship between same-sex couples all the more substantial while facing heterosexual society's disapprobation. The concepts of love and friendship, by extension, genuine same-sex relationship, when properly understood, can go beyond the border of human instinctual tendencies. Such impartial manifestation of love can extend across cultural differences and eventually build crossroads as avenues of sharing what one has without counting the cost. We recommend the need to further the campaign against homophobic views, albeit providing counseling intervention and psycho-education that help improve the psychological well-being of same-sex couples. Received: 16 August 2021 / Accepted: 16 November 2021 / Published: 3 January 2022
... The relationship between bisexuality and belonging has rarely been investigated in quantitative studies. Not surprisingly, the paucity of quantitative research conducted demonstrates bisexuality is related to lower levels of connectedness to the LGB community (Sowe et al., 2014). ...
... In addition to sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ þ being related to mental health among sexual minority adults, it is also related to internalized heterosexism. Research has shown higher levels of a sense of belonging to the gay community to be related to lower levels of internalized homonegativity among gay men (Davidson et al., 2017); higher levels of attachment to the gay community is related to lower levels of internalized homonegativity among gay and bisexual men (Moody et al., 2018); and higher levels of connectedness to the GLB community is associated with lower levels of internalized homonegativity among gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults (Sowe et al., 2014). Also, gay male students who were members of a college LGBT society reported lower levels of internalized homonegativity than students who were not members (Flood et al., 2013). ...
Depressive symptoms are a significant health concern among sexual minority women, with bisexual women at a higher risk than lesbian women. Internalized heterosexism is a key risk factor for depression among sexual minority women. Sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community is protective for lesbian women, but the limited research among bisexual women has shown inconsistent results. The current study investigated whether a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community was directly related to fewer depressive symptoms and indirectly related via lower levels of internalized heterosexism, and whether the indirect effect was similar for bisexual and lesbian women. A sample of 175 self-identified bisexual women and 311 self-identified lesbian women aged 18 to 61 years (M = 31.91, SD = 11.38) completed the Psychological subscale of the Sense of Belonging Instrument, the Internalized Homophobia Scale, and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Bisexual women reported higher levels of depressive symptoms and internalized heterosexism, and lower levels of a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community, than lesbian women. A sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community was directly associated with lower depressive symptoms and indirectly related via lower internalized heterosexism. However, sexual orientation moderated the indirect relationship. The indirect effect of a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community on depressive symptoms was significant for lesbian women but not bisexual women. Results imply that increasing a sense of belonging to the LGBTIQ + community may be beneficial for bisexual and lesbian women, but the pathways by which protection is afforded will differ.
... The role of religion in sexual minorities' wellbeing is still not clear, with studies reporting it as a positive resource in the lives of many LGBQ+ individuals (Rosenkrantz et al., 2016), while others indicating it as a risk factor for experiencing ISS (Lingiardi et al., 2012;Severson et al., 2014;Sowe et al., 2014;Nardelli et al., 2020). This lack of coherence in literature may depend on the fact that not all religious contexts are stigmatizing (Coley, 2017), and that some LGBQ+ people succeeded in reconciling their faith with their sexual identity (Beagan and Hattie, 2015). ...
... Finally, LGBQ+ people who had not CO to their religious community presented higher levels of ISS, confirming the potential harmful impact of religiosity in LGBQ+ self-perception (Barnes and Meyer, 2012;Lingiardi et al., 2012;Severson et al., 2014;Sowe et al., 2014;Nardelli et al., 2020). ISS entails an insidious process of self-stigmatization that leads to self-devaluation and internal conflict. ...
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The coming out (CO) process is fundamental for identity integration among LGBQ+ people, and its impact can vary greatly depending on personal and contextual factors. The historical, cultural, and social contexts in which LGBQ+ people develop their sexual identity can mediate the relationship between CO and health outcomes. The present study aimed at clarifying the CO process in three generations of Italian LGBQ+ people (young adults: aged 20–40 years; middle adults: aged 41–60 years; older adults: aged 61–80 years) by providing data on: (a) sexual orientation milestones, such as age of first awareness, age of first self-label, and age of first CO, as well as the rate of disclosure during different life stages; (b) the rate and average age of CO to significant others; and (c) CO within the religious context and its effect on participants’ minority stress experiences. A total of 266 Italian LGBQ+ people participated in the study, with ages ranging from 20 to 80 years ( M = 41.15, SD = 16.13). Findings indicated that, on average, the older adult group became self-aware, self-labeled, and disclosed their sexual identity at a significantly older age than the other groups. Older adults were also more Catholic and had CO more frequently to their Catholic community, relative to young and middle adults. CO within the Catholic context was associated with distal and proximal minority stressors, such as discrimination, vigilance, and internalized sexual stigma. Catholic community reactions to participants’ CO were distinguished through thematic analysis in three main types: unconditional acceptance, invitation to change, and open rejection. The present research extended current knowledge on CO and minority stress experiences in different generations of LGBQ+ people. Several differences emerged between generational groups on sexual orientation milestones, highlighting the potential impact of historical and cultural contexts in determining sexual minorities’ experiences related to sexual identity. It is recommended that mental health professionals working with LGBQ+ clients implement targeted interventions based on their clients’ multiple salient aspects, including age and religious background. Clinicians should also be aware of the potentially detrimental effects of CO within an unsupportive context, rather than encouraging CO tout court .
... If true, this may account for why religious coping would be negatively associated with well-being. Research shows that sexual minorities who belong to heterosexist religious communities have worsened mental health (Sowe et al., 2014), and those who belong to affirming religious communities have improved mental health (Lease et al., 2005). ...
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Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people of color (LGB POC) experience multiple forms of discrimination that are negatively associated with mental health. Models of discrimination describe how specific coping strategies may mitigate the impact of discrimination on mental health. In the current study, we tested seven specific emotion-focused coping strategies to determine which are most strongly associated with mental health outcomes in a sample of 356 LGB POC. Structural equation modeling was used to assess emotion-focused coping strategies (religious coping, behavioral disengagement, substance use, acceptance, focus on and venting of emotions, positive reinterpretation, and mental disengagement) as mediators of the indirect relations among heterosexism and racism with psychological distress and subjective well-being. Results showed that religious coping, behavioral disengagement, substance use coping, and acceptance coping were maladaptive responses to discrimination, with differences seen between racist and heterosexist discrimination. In particular, religious coping mediated the relation between heterosexism and well-being. Behavioral disengagement, substance use, and acceptance coping mediated the association between racism and psychological distress. Behavioral disengagement and acceptance coping mediated the relation between racism and well-being. Implications for research, practice, and policy are discussed.
... In line with the minority stress model, the potential negative psychosocial health effects of religiosity may be exacerbated among SMM due to the potential internalization of negative messages and sentiments related to same-sex attraction that might be propagated by religious leaders and community members, specifically in religious institutions that are unaccepting of sexual minority communities. Prior studies have shown homonegative religious experiences to be associated with internalized homophobia, lower self-esteem, and higher stress over same-gender attractions among sexual minority populations (Barnes & Meyer, 2012;Hamblin & Gross, 2014;Lassiter & Parsons, 2016;Shilo & Savaya, 2012;Sowe et al., 2014). A study that explored the associations between disclosure of sexual orientation and homonegative religious messages among SMM in the U.S. found that disclosing one's sexual orientation to church members was significantly associated with being exposed to homonegative religious messages (Jonathan Mathias Lassiter et al., 2019a, 2019b. ...
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We investigated the associations between social marginalization, psychosocial health, and religiosity among sexual minority men (SMM) in Nigeria (N = 406). We conducted bivariate and multivariable logistic regression. Factors associated with reporting a history of conversion therapy at a religious institution were: being HIV positive, having depressive symptoms, reporting suicide thoughts, and reporting inability to access medical care. Factors associated with increased odds of agreeing that sex between two men was a sin were: residing in Plateau, being Muslim, and higher levels of internalized homophobia. Our findings support the need for LGBT-affirming religious doctrine, which has implications for the health of LGBT communities.
The purpose of this study was to understand counsel given to sexual and gender minority individuals by clergy in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (CJCLDS), the impact of that counsel, and individuals’ perceptions of meetings with clergy. Twenty-five current and former members of the CJCLDS who identify as sexual and gender minorities (SGM) participated in 30–60 min semi-structured interviews focused on their interactions with clergy in the CJCLDS. Participants reported receiving various forms of counsel, including encouragement to adhere to church doctrine, counsel focused on self-acceptance, messages that clergy would support congregants’ agency and self-determination, counsel focused on increasing faith, and no answers. Participants reported a variety of perceptions of meetings with clergy including wishing clergy were more educated on the experiences of SGMs, hurtful experiences, expectations of mistreatment, recognition that clergy are doing their best, and gratitude for clergy. Interactions with clergy had long-lasting and far-reaching consequences including loss of trust in religious leaders, restriction of church membership, disengagement from faith, engagement with faith, nuanced or lost beliefs, and impacts on mental health. Results suggest that Latter-day Saints clergy working with SGM individuals may be experienced as most effective when they provide safe and supportive spaces for congregants to share their experiences, use approaches that focus on self-determination and agency, seek education/training from CJCLDS-specific LGBTQ+ organizations, and recognize that many SGM congregants approach interactions with clergy with trepidation and fears of mistreatment.
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Meta-analyses suggest that religiousness/spirituality (R/S) is consistently and positively associated with health globally (average r = .15); however, the strength and direction of this relationship is much less clear among sexual minorities, and many sexual minorities experience tension in religious beliefs and spaces. To address this, we present results from the first meta-analysis of the relationship between R/S and health among sexual minorities. Using 279 effect sizes nested within 73 studies, multi-level meta-analyses suggest a small but positive overall relationship between R/S and health among sexual minorities (r = .05) with a substantial amount of residual heterogeneity. Moderator analyses clarify that this relationship is particularly positive when R/S is conceptualized as spirituality (r = .14) or religious cognition (e.g., belief; r = .10). The relationship between R/S and health disappears or becomes negative when participants are sampled from sexual minority venues (e.g., bars/clubs; r = .01). Minority Stress, Structural Stigma, and Causal Pathways Theory, provide some structure to understand results; however, none is able to fully explain results. We synthesize these theories to provide an initial theoretical explanation: the degree to which R/S promotes or harms sexual minorities’ health depends on (a) where the individual is in their sexual identity development/integration; (b) what their current R/S beliefs, practices, and motivations are; and (c) how well their environmental circumstances support their sexual and/or religious identities.
Sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) are at a heightened vulnerability for a range of adverse outcomes as a function of the bias and discrimination they face in their social environment. Many of these adverse outcomes, in turn, become added stressors for these individuals. The stressor-mediator-outcome model creates a visual representation of how many SGM persons find themselves embedded in a cycle of adversity. Religious experiences interweave into this cycle, often mediating the relationships between stressors and negative outcomes. The violence of discrimination and internalized stigma is mediated by the influences of religion/spirituality, which alleviate or exacerbate negative outcomes for SGM persons. A secondary cycle, employing the perspective of a parent, addresses the identification of an SGM child as a stressor. Religiosity carries the potential to mediate the resulting parental responses from rejection to acceptance. In the extreme case of child ejection, a sub-cycle of homelessness develops. Homelessness, in turn, becomes a stressor that often results in street violence and victimization for sexual and/or gender minorities. Implications for treatment and recommendations for future research are reviewed in each section of the chapter.
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In this article the author reviews research evidence on the prevalence of mental disorders in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals (LGBs) and shows, using meta-analyses, that LGBs have a higher prevalence of mental disorders than heterosexuals. The author offers a conceptual framework for understanding this excess in prevalence of disorder in terms of minority stress— explaining that stigma, prejudice, and discrimination create a hostile and stressful social environment that causes mental health problems. The model describes stress processes, including the experience of prejudice events, expectations of rejection, hiding and concealing, internalized homophobia, and ameliorative coping processes. This conceptual framework is the basis for the review of research evidence, suggestions for future research directions, and exploration of public policy implications.
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In this contribution, we elaborate on disapproval of homosexuality in 20 European countries. We mainly focus on the explanation of differences in the disapproval of homosexuality at the individual and the national level. Data from four waves of the European Social Survey are used, using multilevel techniques to test our hypotheses. Individual differences in disapproval of homosexuality can be derived from theories of socializing agents (religious institutions, schools) and socializing circumstances as well as from psychological theories on conventionalism and tradition. We find that religious people, people who support conventionalism, and those who attach to traditions disapprove of homosexuality more, whereas highly educated people disapprove less. Differences between countries can be explained by socializing circumstances of the national context as the countries' religiosity and laws on homosexuality turned out to be important determinants of the disapproval of homosexuality. We found that disapproval of homosexuality is the least in countries where law permits homosexuals to marry. In addition, people who live in more religious countries disapprove of homosexuality more than people who live in secular countries.
Although the Supreme Court's decision in Bowers v. Hardwick was a great disappointment to advocates for lesbians and gay men, the law in regard to gay rights remains unsettled. Organized psychology has an important role to play in rebutting erroneous stereotypes of homosexuals that long influenced mental health professionals' views and that continue to affect public policy and private prejudice.
Therapies designed to change sexual orientation have come under increasing scrutiny from the profession and the public. The proposition that sexual orientation can be changed therapeutically is widely questioned, and there is concern that such therapies reinforce social devaluation of homosexuality and bisexuality. At the same time, conservative religious individuals wish to seek treatment appropriate to them, which may include attempting to change or control sexual orientation. The ethical questions and clinical and social implications of this complex issue are discussed. Guidance to practitioners interested in this issue is offered, including references to policies of the American Psychological Association.
Objective: To systematically assess internalized homophobia and its correlates among gay men and lesbians. Design: A measure of internalized homophobia (IHP) was administered to a community sample of lesbians and gay men, along with measures of psychological well-being, outness, and perceptions of community. Results and Conclusions: Women's IHP scores were significantly lower than those of men. For lesbians and gay men alike, internalized homophobia was associated with less self-disclosure to heterosexual friends and acquaintances and less sense of connection to the gay and lesbian community. Lesbians and gay men with the highest IHP scores also manifested significantly more depressive symptoms and higher levels of demoralization than others, and high-IHP men manifested lower self-esteem than other men. IHP scores were not associated with disclosure to parents or the recency of developmental milestones for either lesbians or gay men.
The mental health problems of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (Igb) youths were studied using a sample of 542 youths from community settings. Information about the development of sexual orientation, problems related to sexual orientation, parents' reactions, and victimization based on sexual orientation was related to mental health symptoms and suicidality. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths were found to demonstrate more symptoms than a comparison group of adolescents. Over one-third of the sample reported a past suicide attempt. More symptoms were related to parents not knowing about youths' sexual orientation or with both parents having negative reactions to youths' sexual orientation. More than three-quarters had been verbally abused because of their sexual orientation, and 15 percent reported physical attacks. More than one-third said they had lost friends because of their sexual orientation. Youths who had experienced more victimization and who had lost friends reported more mental health symptoms. Mental health professionals are urged to attend to the distinct problems of these youths, especially dealing with conflicts with families and peers.
The papal magisterium counsels gay Catholics to join their sufferings to the Cross of Christ. This counsel raises questions concerning its assumptions about the complex reality of homosexuality, suffering as a dimension of human sexuality, and the meaning of the Cross. The implied theological anthropology may lead to the conclusion that a "crucifixion" of the homosexual inclination is required. While sexuality entails suffering, a theology of the Cross is needed that will also signal the possibility of Christian joy and hope realized in the form of self-giving love.
The "Religious Orientation" scale (Allport & Ross, 1967) has been widely used with adults to measure Allport's Extrinsic (E) and Intrinsic (I) religious orientations. Being designed for adults, the existing form is probably not suitable for evaluating religious orientations with children and young adolescents because of the reading comprehension level required. This article presents the development of an "Age Universal" form of the Religious Orientation scale. Results indicated that alpha internal reliability coefficients for Age Universal I and E scales are as high as those of the original scales. Correlations between original and rewritten forms of both I and E were as high as they possibly can be given the alpha reliabilities. Further analyses indicate that the Age Universal I-E scale is usable, with certain precautions, with both children (fifth grade and above) and adults.
Are the intrinsically religious less likely to help a person if that person's behavior violates conventional values? If so, is it because they have antipathy toward the person or toward the behavior? To answer these questions, 90 undergraduates were given the opportunity to help either of two same-sex peers win a monetary prize. About one peer, they knew nothing; from the other, they had received two self-disclosing notes. The first note either did or did not reveal that the discloser was gay; the second revealed that the discloser wanted the money for an activity that either would or would not promote homosexuality. Participants scoring high on measures of devout, intrinsic religion helped the gay discloser less than the non-gay, even when their help would not promote homosexuality. These results suggest that devout, intrinsic religion is associated with antipathy toward value violators, not just toward value-violating acts; it is associated with compassion that is circumscribed, not universal.