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The intersection of sexual and religious identity and its impact on internalized homonegativity in lesbian college students

1 December 2016


For religious lesbian college students, the interplay between their religious and sexual identities on college campuses may exacerbate experiences of internalized homonegativity as many religious organizations and religiously-affiliated colleges propagate negative messages about homosexuality. The present study explored the relationship between lesbian students’ sexual identity development, religiosity/spirituality, and experiences of internalized homonegativity. It was hypothesized that religious lesbian students are likely to experience conflict between their religious and sexual identities, thereby making it more difficult for them to successfully navigate the stages of sexual identity development, as well as experience heightened levels of internalized homonegativity. Moreover, it was believed that students who adopt spiritual, rather than religious, beliefs are likely to experience lower levels of internalized homonegativity, as the assumption was that spirituality would serve as a protective factor. Furthermore, an exploratory analysis was conducted to determine whether stage of sexual identity development or religiosity/spirituality is more significantly related to lesbian students’ experience of internalized homonegativity. The results indicated that religious lesbian college students are likely to experience conflict between their religious and sexual identities, often leading to higher levels of internalized homonegativity and abandonment of childhood religious affiliations in favor of atheism or spiritual beliefs. Location and type of college campus attended was found to be of minimal significance. Moreover, the sexual identity development process is more significantly related to degree of internalized homonegativity experienced, and therefore, serves as a larger protective factor than does adoption of spiritual beliefs.


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