New Study Shows Latino and Black Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals (LGBs) are More Religious than White LGBs and More Likely to Attend Non-Gay-Affirming Religious Services

For Immediate Release
October 11, 2012

Contact: Laura Rodriguez, lrodriguez@rabengroup.com, (310) 956-2425

Attendance in Non-LGBT Affirming Religious Settings is Associated with Increased Internalized Homophobia

LOS ANGELES—Latino and Black lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) men and women are more religious than White LGBs, according to a new study by David M. Barnes, a doctoral candidate at  Columbia University and Ilan H. Meyer, PhD, Senior Scholar for Public Policy at the Williams Institute.  This greater religiosity was true by every measure, including likelihood to attend religious services, engage in prayer, and identify a religious affiliation.

Attending religious services in non-affirming settings compared to attending in affirming settings or not attending at all was linked in the study with higher levels of internalized homophobia. Both racial and ethnic minority LGBs were more likely than White LGBs to attend services in non-affirming  settings and this difference explained their higher levels, compared with Whites, of internalized homophobia (although only Latinos had statistically significantly higher levels of internalized homophobia than Whites).

“A majority of religious LGB people attend services in settings that do not affirm their sexuality and sexual identity,” said Barnes. “This is further evidence that clinicians working with LGBs need to  understand their patients’ religious backgrounds and current religious attendance.”

Past research has shown that LGB Americans as a whole are less religious than heterosexuals, a pattern also seen in this study.  By contrast, however, LGBs in this study reported higher levels of spirituality than participants in general population samples.

The study was conducted in New York City over an 11-month period in 2004 and 2005 using a community-based venue sampling approach.  Because responses were only collected in one U.S. city, the researchers note that the study’s findings cannot be generalized to all LGB Americans but they note that there is no reason to believe that these findings are unique to New York.

“The study does not account for recent social developments.  For example, in recent years we have seen efforts by Black civil rights leaders, such as Rev. Al Sharpton, to enhance acceptance of LGB people in the Black church.  More recently, President Obama’s support of gay marriages, and the support of LGB inclusive policies by Black and Latino civil rights group like the NAACP and MALDEF, could have significant impact on attitudes toward LGB people in Black and Latino communities.  It is important to study whether and how these historical shifts have changed the experience of Black and Latino LGBs in religious settings,” Dr. Meyer said.

The study, Religious Affiliation, Internalized Homophobia, and Mental Health in Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals will be published in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry.

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