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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