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Gay, lesbian, and queer individuals with a Christian upbringing: Exploring the process of resolving conflict between sexual identity and religious beliefs.

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Denise L. Levy Ph.D. LCSW, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Institution
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site: http://www.library.appstate.edu/
Advisor
Patricia Reeves

Abstract: The role that religious faith plays in individuals’ lives can be very important, often providing emotional and social support. However, religious beliefs can come into conflict with other aspects of people’s identities, such as sexual orientation. Research to date has focused on the eventual outcomes of the conflict between sexual identity and religious beliefs, rather than examining the process by which individuals resolve this conflict. The purpose of this study was to understand the process by which gay, lesbian, and queer identified individuals with a Christian upbringing resolve the conflict between their sexual identity and religious beliefs. There were four research questions directing this study: (a) how do participants define the conflict between their sexual identity and religious beliefs? (b) what personal and contextual factors shaped their efforts to resolve this conflict? (c) what is the process by which individuals resolve this conflict? and (d) how do participants describe their resolution of this conflict? This qualitative study utilized a grounded theory approach and included in-depth interviews with 15 participants who were selected using maximum variation and theoretical sampling. The sample included gay, lesbian, and queer identified individuals with a Christian upbringing, and was diverse in terms of age, gender, religious background, and current faith identification. Interview transcripts were coded using grounded theory methods of open, focused, and axial coding. Additionally, I utilized the constant comparison technique and memo writing throughout the analytic process. Analysis led to a substantive theory of the process by which gay, lesbian, and queer identified individuals with a Christian upbringing resolve the conflict between sexual identity and religious beliefs. This process includes an awareness of the conflict, an initial response to the conflict, a catalyst of new knowledge propelling participants forward, steps of working through the conflict, and a resolution of the conflict. The entire process of conflict resolution was affected by two core categories: personal factors of reflective abilities, strength and resiliency, anger, creativity, and humor; and contextual factors including family, community resources, and church doctrine.