Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


This study addresses the issue of how gay men and lesbians reconcile conflicts between their religious beliefs and their sexual orientation. Christian faith traditions have commonly rejected minority sexual orientations as sinful, while modem social science has identified these sexual orientations as a normal part of the variety of human experience. This study consists of structured interviews with seven participants who have sought to resolve this conflict in different ways, namely through accepting their sexual orientation and adapting their religious beliefs or through accepting their religious beliefs and seeking to change their sexual orientation. The population includes three lesbians and two gay men who are actively involved in religious groups and a man and a woman who have sought to change their sexual orientation for religious reasons (these persons commonly call themselves Ex-Gays). One of the gay men and one lesbian also sought to change their sexual orientation at a time in the past. The interviews also address the motivations that the individuals cite for the choices that they made in reconciling religious beliefs and sexual orientation and their level of satisfaction with their current status in relation to these variables. The interviews are analyzed using a hermeneutic methodology adapted from Brown, Tappan, Gilligan, Miller and Argyris (1989).

An analysis of the interviews indicates that themes related to the rejection of a minority sexual orientation (MSO) include the belief that homosexuality is wrong or sinful, fear of rejection due to having a minority sexual orientation, and severe emotional distress related to the first two themes. The themes associated with affirmation of a MSO include an awareness of God’s love, the experience of an affirmative religious community, and the development of alternative Biblical interpretations relating to homosexuality. The process of reconciliation of religious beliefs and sexual orientation was characterized by a rejection from a religious community, a period of self- and/or spiritual discovery, the experience of acceptance in a Christian community, a sense of emotional healing, and, for those who came to affirm a MSO, a realization that a change of sexual orientation was not possible and a change in religious beliefs. A proposed model for the reconciliation process includes a personal decision to move toward a desired direction, leaving a community of faith or an identity, an experience of grief at what has been lost, creating a new identity, and reconciliation with what has been lost.

The discussion includes implications of this research for the present controversy over the ethics of sexual orientation conversion therapies and implications for counseling.