Dealing with disparity : Identity development of same-sex attracted/gay men raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Salt Lake City, UT
University of Utah
Individuals with same-sex orientation often have a difficult time reconciling their sexuality with their religious views. Utilizing a qualitative methodology, this dissertation explored the process and pain of identity development when faced with the disparity between same-sex orientation and religion by focusing on the experiences of same-sex attracted/gay males raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).
Twenty-one same-sex attracted/gay males who were either raised in the LDS Church or identified as converts to the LDS Church served as participants. Participants were diverse with regard to their sexual orientation self-identifications (e.g., gay, bisexual, heterosexual) and their relationship with the LDS Church. Each individual participated in an in-depth, semistructured interview. Perspectives were obtained about experiences growing up in the LDS Church, the awareness of being same-sex oriented, and the process of dealing with these two identities. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Transcriptions were coded and analyzed for common themes and a grounded theory of identity development of same-sex attracted/gay individuals in the context of religion was outlined.
Individuals in the study described the journeys they undertook to develop an integrated and acceptable sense of identity. The identity-development process began with an early awareness of feeling “different” and experiencing overwhelming feelings related to this awareness. Participants also described the strategies they developed to cope with these overwhelming feelings. Identity development continued with a process of cycling in intense guilt and shame as participants attempted to change their same-sex attractions, spiraling downward with being unable to change, and finally being forced into making an identity choice. Resolutions participants developed to deal with the disparity between their sexuality and religious beliefs are presented. Issues related to coming out as gay are described. All 21 participants argued that there are many options for how individuals integrate their same-sex orientation and their religious “orientation” into their overall identities. Additionally, all 21 participants emphasized the importance of finding one's own “path” of identity development encompassing oftentimes painful decisions with respect to one's needs, wants, and values. Moreover, all participants desired that the choices they made in the process of self-determination be respected and honored.