The Love/Hate Relationship between Religion and the LBGTQIA Community
This research will analyze the ever complicated relationship between members who identify as Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex and Asexual and various religious groups. The LGBTQIA acceptance movement is quite new to say the least, and there are still many barriers keeping them from reaching total acceptance. It is highly doubtable that any demographic will ever be completely accepted by another, however the lengths that many religious groups go to shun those who identify as anything other than heterosexual could be viewed as extreme. This research will explore the root of these thoughts and feelings as well as different avenues of acceptance and ways that the two communities have attempted to find common ground.
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Religion is defined as the belief or worshiping of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God according to most dictionaries. There are several systems of faith and worship practiced all over the world, each with their own similarities and differences alike. One theme in particular that is common amongst many religious groups is the ongoing difficulty with accepting members who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex and Asexual. Those who identify within these groups are marginalized in many ways, struggling internally and externally with the many hurdles they must jump in everyday life. Religion can be viewed as a security blanket in many ways. For those who identify as a member of the LGBTQIA community that sense of security can be stripped away in the blink of an eye simply because of their sexual self. Many believe that one has multiple identities within themselves, your religious self, sexual self, the self you are with your work colleagues and even the way that you interact with family and friends. Cross examination of these identities typically do not happen in religious settings so why scrutinize someone for their sexual self.
As mentioned earlier those who identify within LBGTQIA community are already marginalized in many ways and suffer intolerance and scrutiny in their day to day lives. This is due to the harsh political and religious views of those who fail to acknowledge how diverse sexuality has become. There is a certain level of phobia associated with anyone who does not identify as heterosexual, this a longstanding theme and has truly festered over the years. To combat the hate that they received individuals within the community created the Pride Movement. This movement started in the summer of 1970 and has been gaining momentum every since. The pride movement was created to provide a safe space for those who identify within this community, a place where they could be out and open without fear of judgement or event violent backlash. In the beginning there were only four letters in the acronym, (L) Lesbian, (G) Gay, (T) Transsexual and (B) Bisexual. Over the years this acronym grew and went on to include the ‘QIA’ community as well. Researchers, scientist and psychologist began to look at sexuality as more of a spectrum, acknowledging the fluidity of the matter. Unfortunately the religious world did not grow and accept nearly as fast.
For some individuals their choice in love can mean then being shunned or disowned by their families and religious groups and for others it can mean outcomes such as monetary fines, spending the remainder of their lives in jail or in extreme cases death. What seems like a basic human right is an everyday challenge for some. When the Pride Movement gained momentum in the 70’s they often used the tag line ‘Love is Love’. This is still widely used and supported today to encourage those affected by the hatred spewed towards the LGBTQIA community. In recent years LGBTQIA support and advocacy has sky rocketed, those who identify with this community are encouraged now more than ever to be out and open with their sexuality. Even if one does not identify with this community, they are encouraged to show their support and be an ally to those who are. In a world filled so much hatred and judgment it is extremely important that everyone bands together for the greater good of society.
This research with explore the relationship between the religious LGBTQIA community and the Islamic religion and culture, Jewish faith and culture, African American church life and culture, the experience within the United States as a whole as well as the experience of coming out in Christianity. The research will dive deeper into these individual groups stories to hopefully further explain their thoughts and feelings on the ways that they are treated as well as their responses to this treatment. These are all very different experiences however they do not and could not speak to the experiences of the entire community as every story is unique in its own way.
In research done by Brenda Beagan and Brenda Hattie 35 adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexuals shared their religious experiences and internal conflicts. Their ages, sexes, races and religious back grounds all differed greatly. The purpose of their research was to examine and identity conflicts between their religious and sexual selves and the ways in which they responded to these conflicts. “Religion and spirituality are fraught with tension for many LGBT people, as most mainstream religions denounce variance in sexual orientation and gender identity to some degree (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 93)”. This notion is known to be true for many individuals within the LGBTQIA community. The shame an uneasy feelings that come about when their religious and sexual worlds collide, leads to unwavering negative thoughts and outcomes. This research examines the severity of these outcomes based on many different religions and the level of commitment by the individuals.
The research reported that the most intense identity conflicts were experienced by LGBTQIA Christians. Because of the extremely concreate gender roles taken on by most conservative Christians, transgender individuals can be left to feel as if they truly do not have a place within the religion. For these reasons they are more likely to become uninvolved in their religions and eventually stop attending worship all together. This leaves the possibility of researching and collecting data, scarce and in turn leaves those who identify as transgender underrepresented in many ways. “Like other LGBQ people, they are less likely to be involved with organized religion than the general population (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 94). It is often an misconception that member of the LGBTQIA community are not religious, when in all actuality they simple practice under wraps. They do this due to the responses typically received by their religious peers.
“The theme that dominated interviews concerns the ways faith traditions negatively affected LGBTQ people, including shame, guilt, sex negativity, disconnection from body, and severing of relationships to self and others (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 98)”. The research consistently shows that the negative ideas often harbored by this community stemmed from a religious place, the same place they sought comfort. The level of severity of these themes very from religion to religion. “None of the Jewish participants experiences religious or spiritual shame in relation to being LBGTQ (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 98) The Jewish participants even reported a less intense religious upbringing. “Some had heard no teachings about homosexuality while growing up; one suggested that while Jewish teachings assumed heterosexuality, they were not overtly homophobic (Beagan Hattie 2015 pg. 99)”. In comparison to the Christian faith were gender roles are largely concrete, the Jewish faith takes on a more fluid approach, putting their LGBTQIA followers somewhat at ease.
This seemed to become a trend throughout the research, Christians seemed to take the harshest approach to the matter. “In general, the non-Christian participants did not experience internal conflict, guilt, or shame. This may be because they were not exposed to teachings about sin and evil, but it may also be because three of them (two Jewish, one atheist) identified as transgender (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 99). Those who were exposed to teachings of sin and evil shared drastically different thoughts. “For 18 of the 29 participants who were raised Christian, internal conflicts had been intense (16 were raised intensely Christian). Several described deep shame as they struggled to come to terms with their sexual orientation (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 99)”. The upbringing of the participants essentially served as their religious molds, dictating their thoughts and feelings about their religions and the ways in which they interact within them. Aside from their religious selves being affected their sexual selves were damaged as well. “Not surprisingly, given negative messages, many participants delayed sexual activity until relatively late in life, they simply avoided sex (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 99)”. Many members of the LGBTQIA community share this same truth, some even keep their sexual identifies under wraps for their protection more than anything.
In research done by Asifa Siraj, she explored the dynamic stories of Muslim lesbians and the ways in which Islam has negatively affected their religious and sexual selves. “Islam’s depiction of homosexuality is rigidly framed within a discourse of sin and deviation; this ideology is advocated in a number of Muslim countries; Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia through the legalized punishment of gay men and lesbian women (Siraj 2012 pg. 450) Muslim’s who identify as LGBTQIA often keep their silence to keep their safety, shame is replaced by fear. “The religious condemnation of homosexuality coupled with the social and cultural stigma keeps women who identify as Muslim and lesbian in the closet; as such they represent a hidden and inaccessible population (Siraj 2012 pg.455)”. The underlying issue here is that the Muslim lesbian population does indeed exist, as do other GBTQIA Muslims, they simply do so under wraps. The goal is to Evolve Islam in a way that at minimum, these populations can exist free of harm and punishment.
Siraj examined the lives of 5 Muslim lesbians, she went in depth focusing on each of their individual encounters with their faith the ways in which they coped with not being accepted for who they are. Throughout the research excerpts from interviews with the participants were provided. One of the participants, Amna, a 47 year old lesbian identifying Muslim stated “Islam is a way of life. My way of life may be different to other Muslims but I still have the basics of believing in one God and living with respect and honor (Siraj 2012 pg. 457)”. This is the ideology of a number of members of the LGBTQIA community that essentially they are no different, religiously speaking. The need to create clear and concise lines between the religious and sexual selves are quite clear here, however that is a task much easier said than done.
“Not only did participants deny or separate from parts of themselves, but some turned to their faith to banish unwanted desires (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 101)”. This is a common theme amongst the religious LGBTQIA community, particularly those who still closet their sexuality. Because many have been taught to hate or disown that part of themselves they often use religion as a means to banish or cloak that part of their identities. It is not uncommon for LGBTQIA religious followers to try and pray their sexual desires away, subconsciously associating shame with something that is meant to bring one pleasure. As could be imagined, overtime this can be detrimental to their emotional and mental well-being. “Several participants described detrimental effects on their self-esteem from persistent condemnatory messages. Daniel, for example, went to the altar weekly to try to cleanse himself of same-sex attractions, “I am an awful person, for me to be thinking like this every day (Beagan, Hattie 2015 pg. 103)”. This excerpt like many show the true psychological struggle that the participants as well as religious LGBTQIA community members battle with. The place that many find comfort, they often find hate and shame in.
Even in those religious environments where the LGBTQIA community is accepted, many feel that they are merely tolerated and largely under valued and underappreciated simply because of their sexual orientation and relationship choices. “By definition, a religious organization accepts all members; however, principally, both gay-affirming and open-affirming churches are not discriminatory in their practices (Chaney, Patrick 202 pg. 203)”. The idea is that in most religious settings you come as you are and will be accepted as you are. Members of this ever marginalized community know however that this is not entirely true. This has brought about the need for gay and open affirming institutions to make their beliefs and support efforts known.
- Asifa Siraj (2012) “I Don’t Want to Taint the Name of Islam”: The Influence of Religion on the Lives of Muslim Lesbians, Journal of Lesbian Studies, 16:4, 449-467, DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2012.681268
- Brenda L. Beagan & Brenda Hattie (2015) Religion, Spirituality, and LGBTQ Identity Integration, Journal of LGBT Issues in Counseling, 9:2, 92-117, DOI: 10.1080/15538605.2015.1029204
- Chaney, C., & Le’Brian Patrick. (2012). The Invisibility of LGBT Individuals in Black Mega Churches: Political and Social Implications. Journal of African American Studies, 15(2), 199-217. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43525420
- Thoreson, R. (2018, March 08). “All We Want is Equality” | Religious Exemptions and Discrimination against LGBT People in the United States. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/02/19/all-we-want-equality/religious-exemptions-and-discrimination-against-lgbt-people#
- Wilcox, M. M. (2003). Coming out in Christianity: Religion, identity, and community. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
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The Love/Hate Relationship Between Religion and The LBGTQIA Community. (2021, May 17). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/the-love-hate-relationship-between-religion-and-the-lbgtqia-community/