Faith Can Increase Resiliency in Black Sexual Minority Youth

Most people first become aware of their sexuality during their teen years. For sexual minority youth, recognizing their sexuality and embracing it may occur at different times. Because of the stigma associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals, many choose to conceal their sexuality. Others feel pressured by family members, community, or religious affiliations, to conceal their real sexual preference entirely. For black LGBs, it is unclear whether religious membership, which has been shown to be a protective factor for many risky behaviors and psychological problems, can actually help or hinder their well-being. In order to get a better look at how faith affects resiliency and feelings of worth in black LGBs, Ja’Nina J. Walker of the Department of Psychology at the University of San Francisco interviewed 175 black LBG young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. She wanted to determine how faith influenced their homonegativity, self-directed negativity resulting from being homosexual that could lead to maladaptive coping and risky behavior such as engaging in drug and alcohol use.

Walker found that the participants who had a strong religious faith had higher levels of resiliency. In fact, faith was an especially important factor in resiliency for the individuals with high levels of self-directed homonegativity. Without faith, the participants had difficulty overcoming challenges they faced as a result of their sexuality. Even though young adulthood is a time when people move away from traditional values, especially those of their parents, this study found that the participants who moved away from church involvement still had a strong desire for spirituality and faith. Also, the participants in this study were highly educated and many had college degrees or post-graduate degrees. Walker believes that education also contributed to resiliency in this sample of black adults. In an experimental test of this same sample of participants, Walker found that education increased resiliency in those at risk for, or with symptoms of, depression and anxiety. Taken together, these findings show that faith and education can help black LGBs smoothly integrate their social and moral identities. Walker added, “Successful integration of social identities contributes to physical and psychological well-being, including resiliency.”

Walker, J.’N. J., and Longmire-Avital, B. (2012). The impact of religious faith and internalized homonegativity on resiliency for black lesbian, gay, and bisexual emerging adults. Developmental Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0031059

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  • Laura

    January 3rd, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    This seems to be really great news for this population of individuals. Education really is the ticket to becoming what you want to be, and it makes sense that it would contribute to resiliency. I think that faith would just be the icing on the cake!

  • colby

    January 3rd, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    What is it about faith that is such a life saver? I have two adopted grandsons and have watched their journey with my daughter. They are both black and both struggled with their identities. We almost “lost” them to risky behaviors. But, when my daughter started taking them to church and they started getting involved in the youth programs, their lives really turned around. They are both very responsible men now with families of their own. I am so proud of them and my daughter!

  • Pete

    January 3rd, 2013 at 5:51 PM

    Faith really can help in so many ways. I have had personal experience with faith lending a hand when all seemed lost.For these youth,it can be very hard to conceal their identities.They can take refuge in faith.And they will hopefully overcome.Just hoping those that say gay people are irreligious will stop their mindless banter.

  • Linnea

    January 4th, 2013 at 1:53 AM

    totally not suprising to me at all cuz when i found faith everything changed for me.

  • M Pearson

    January 4th, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    This is an interesting study. Sometimes I ready studies and wonder why someone would want to know the answer to the question they are asking. But then, some “speak” to me and I wonder why someone hasn’t asked the question before. This is one of those times. I love that the answer is so simple yet so effective.

  • nan

    January 4th, 2013 at 4:13 AM

    It’s so funny that I came across this about faith because I also just read something recently that talks about just how much church involvement can imporve your life and that of your kids.

    Active church members and participants live longer lives, their kids live longer, they are far less apt to commit crimes and be in trouble with the law, lower chance of abusing drugs and alcohol, greater and faster chance of recovery from depression, etc etc.

    Don’t discount the power that this can have on your life in a way that is positive and good.

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