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Religion and Non-Heterosexual Identity: An evaluation of cognitive dissonance for religious lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. presented at the University of California, Irvine To Social Ecology Honors Research Colleagues By Jeanette Veatch Wayland May 14, 2005. Introduction.

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Religion and Non-Heterosexual Identity:

An evaluation of cognitive dissonance for religious

lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals.

presented at the

University of California, Irvine

To

Social Ecology

Honors Research Colleagues

By

Jeanette Veatch Wayland

May 14, 2005


Introduction
Introduction

Homophobia and heterosexism

are liturgical threads intricately woven into

the doctrine of traditional world religions.

Non-heterosexual relationships for members are

never condoned; in some religions, participants in lesbian, gay or bisexual relationships are condemned.




Impact of Religious Heterosexism on Society

Heterosexism is the belief that

heterosexuality is the only

natural, normal and acceptable

sexual orientation.

This is rarely asserted directly and usually manifests itself subtly within the institutions of society and the attitudes of heterosexuals.

Examples: setting aside certain societal benefits for heterosexuals

(right to marry, right to worship, right to adopt children,

right to file joint tax returns with partner, etc.)


We have seen the effects of religious heterosexism and homophobia on SOCIETY.

But, what effect does heterosexist and homophobic religious liturgy have on religious lesbian, gay and bisexual INDIVIDUALS?


We have never taken the time to ask... homophobia on

There is

virtually no research

that measures

this

construct

for

religious lesbian, gay and bisexual people.


Vicarious Learning homophobia on

(Bandura, 1977)


Cognitive Dissonance… homophobia on

but I am not heterosexual...how can I be both?

I’m a Catholic.

…is the psychological discomfort that results when one’s public behavior conflicts with his/her private beliefs. The longer this conflict is unresolved, the more likely we are to suffer emotionally.

Private

Beliefs

Public

Behaviors

(Festinger, 1957)


Hypotheses homophobia on

H1

A majority of religious lesbian, gay and

bisexual individuals will experience

cognitive dissonance attributable to their exposure to heterosexist religious liturgy throughout their childhood.

H2

This religious-sexual orientation dissonance may be correlated with mental health issues for religious lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals.

Buddhism

Christianity*

Hindu

Islam

Judaism


Methodology – Self Report Survey homophobia on

  • The survey consisted of forty-one quantitative questions including:

  • Subject’s age

  • Gender

  • Ethnicity Childhood religion and level of religiosity

  • Adult religion and level of religiosity

  • Sexual-orientation

  • Closeted status before and after sexual orientation awareness

  • Level of education

  • Current daily activities

  • Mental health issues attributable to religion-sexual orientation dissonance

  • One full page qualitative section where participants could write a narrative of their experience with religion.

  • 15-20 minutes to complete both the quantitative and qualitative sections.

  • The survey did not include questions regarding personal data (names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, or any identifying characteristics. Participation was completely anonymous and voluntary.

  • Surveys were distributed to LGB community centers, churches, and LGB internet list serves.


Gender of participant homophobia on

Female

40%

60%

Male


Participant's Self-reported Sexual Orientation homophobia on

Other

Bisexual

10%

26%

Lesbian

60%

Gay


Participant's childhood religion homophobia on

Assembly of God

Buddhism

Other

17%

Southern Baptist

40%

Catholicism

Presbyterian

13%

Non-Denominational

Christianity

13%

Methodist

Episcopal


H homophobia on 1: Did the incompatibility between religion and sexual orientation cause you emotional discomfort?

These findings lend support to H1

Extreme Emotional Discomfort

50%

Some Emotional

Discomfort

20%

20%

Missing data

10%

No Emotional Discomfort


These findings lend support to H homophobia on 2

Yes

60%

No

40%

H2: Did you experience any mental health issues as a result of this

religion-sexual orientation dissonance?


Of the 60% reporting mental health issues… homophobia on

58 % - Anxiety

50 % - Depression

40 % - Isolation

36 % - Low Self-Esteem

32 % - Thoughts of Suicide

21 % - Problems with Authority Figures

19 % - Sexual Behavior that you Later Regretted

13 % - Eating Disorders

11 % - Substance Abuse

11 % - Suicide Attempts

* % add up to greater than 100% – this question was a multiple response item


Where do we go from here? homophobia on

  • Future Research:

  • Larger sample

  • Greater heterogeneity in religion, ethnicity, education, gender, and region

  • Update the Survey to improve its reliability and validity

  • Personal Interviews with subject population

  • Increased resources to collect and analyze data

Theological changes?

Hopefully…

If orthodox religion expects to remain relevant in society, it must seek to serve all members of humanity – not just a select few.

Eventually, even those who benefit from heterosexism may tire of this hypocrisy.


Non-traditional Religious Denominations that are open and affirming to lesbian, gay and bisexual congregants:

Assembly of God* – Grace Assembly; www.umaffirm.org

Buddhist – dharma friends; www.web.net/~qdharma/home.htm

Christian* – Gay Christian Network;www.gaychristian.net

Catholic* – Dignity USA; www.dignityusa.org

Episcopal* –Integrity; www.integrityusa.org

Hindu – Gay Hindu;www.gayhindu.com

Islam – Queer Jihad; www.well.com/user/queerjhd

Judaism – Frum Gay Jews; www.OrthoGays.com

Lutheran* –Lutheran Lesbian & Gay Ministries (LLGM); www.llgm.org

Methodist* – Affirm; www.umaffirm.org

*Christian Denominations


Acknowledgements affirming to lesbian, gay and bisexual congregants:

  • Dr. Christine Browning, UCI

  • Dr. Valerie Jenness, UCI

  • Pat Walsh, M.A., MSW, UCI

  • Dr. David Dooley, UCI

Funding provided by:

UROP – Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program


Jeanette Veatch Wayland affirming to lesbian, gay and bisexual congregants:

[email protected]


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