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Christianity Is Complex to LGBTQ+ People–But These Facts Are Certain

LGBTQ+ Baptist Pastor
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock

Depending on who you ask, Christianity is complicated in the LGBTQ+ community. Some groups have noticeably benefited from their religion, whereas others have been hurt.

Christianity is a complicated topic among LGBTQ+ people, but there are still groups in the community that embrace their faith — sometimes to the detriment of their health, and sometimes to their benefit.

Nearly two-thirds of LGBTQ+ people who were raised Christian no longer identify with the religion, according to a new study from Utah State University and the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles School of Law. Among those who remain, adults report more internalized homophobia and transphobia.

Those who are older, Black, cisgender men, and/or live in the South were more likely to continue to identify as Christian as adults, the report found. Among those who stayed Christian, more reported having a history of conversion therapy than those who left or who were never part of the religion.

Those who were never raised Christian reported coming out to family and friends at younger ages than those who were, and those who left Christianity were more likely to report being bullied in childhood than those who stayed Christian.

While the experiences of LGBTQ+ people who have identified as Christian at some point in their lives differed from those who have not, the groups did not differ in health indicators, including stress and well-being. Both groups were out to family and friends at similar rates, and both reported a "sense of connectedness" to the LGBTQ+ community, including in levels of social support.

However, there were some groups who notably benefited from their Christian faith, as well as some who did not. Black LGBTQ+ people were more likely than their White counterparts to be raised Christian, and less likely to leave Christianity. Out of the 87 percent of Black LGBTQ+ people who were raised Christian, 54 percent stayed Christian.

“Some LGBTQ people, for example, Black LGBTQ people, maintain their connection to Christianity despite minority stressors because the social, cultural, and religious support outweighs the negative experiences,” co-author Ilan Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute, said in a statement.

“For other LGBTQ people, the heightened experience of minority stressors within Christian environments may contribute more to stigma than support, leading them to distance themselves from their religious faith and communities, sometimes seeking LGBTQ-affirming religious or spiritual environments," he continued.

This rang true for transgender people, as the report found that those who were never Christian experienced less discrimination than those who were raised Christian. This has swayed transgender adults away from the religion, in contrast to LGB adults. LGB people who were never Christian experienced higher psychological distress than LGB people who remained Christian.

This phenomenon is not unique to the LGBTQ+ community, as the study suggested that "religiosity may have a protective effect." Regardless, researchers believe this information surrounding Christianity in the queer community could benefit healthcare providers when working with LGBTQ+ patients.

“The finding that LGBTQ people are likely to have been raised in a religious background, regardless of their current identification, may be particularly helpful to therapists with LGBTQ clients,” said lead author Tyler Lefevor of Utah State University. “Therapists may want to encourage clients to articulate the pieces they find valuable about religion (e.g., believing, bonding, behaving, belonging) and either grieve or strive to maintain these aspects.”

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at the Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel 'Someone Else's Stars', and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.