The Role of Spirituality and/or Religion for Queer Individuals Negotiating Homonegative Beliefs and Values in Coming Out
Mount Saint Vincent University
This dissertation investigates how out individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer who have been raised in a homonegative Christian faith and have experienced internal conflicts between their sexual identities and religious and/or spiritual identities learned homonegative beliefs and values, and how they negotiated those beliefs and values during their coming out processes. It also explores the role of spirituality and religion during the coming out process. The data for this research were gathered through interviews with eight individuals who grew up in homonegative Christian environments and made the decision to come out as lesbian, gay, or queer. The dissertation draws upon transformative learning theory as a framework to analyze and discuss the learning processes involved in coming out. Queer theory, transformative learning theory, feminist theory and critical theory provide the framework for analyzing the participants’ coming out narratives. Despite enormous pressures from their families, religious communities, peers, and the broader culture to conform to heterosexual norms, through a complex learning/unlearning process, participants disentangled themselves from oppressive values and beliefs, and began aligning their outer lives with their inner realities. The findings of this study demonstrated the learning processes and the specific intrinsic and extrinsic factors that facilitated and enabled those processes. This thesis explains how participants moved from uncritical acceptance of external authority to self-authorship. This research will be useful to faith communities, families, friends, allies, and helping professionals, including educators to support queer members, and to queer communities to support the spirituality of their members. It will also be helpful to educators interested in understanding issues related to identify conflict, particularly for lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer persons.
Queer theory, transformative learning theory, unlearning, spirituality, homonegative Christian religion.