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When Religion and Sexuality Collide - Australia forum on sexuality, education and health 2015 Western University

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When Religion and Sexuality Collide – the experience of LGBT people from faith backgrounds

The intersections of sexuality/gender identity and religion are volatile spaces. Resolving ones perceived conflict between faith and sexuality is rarely an easy journey.

LGBT people of faith and religion experience the usual issues of resolving their sexuality, coming out, finding their place in the community and learning what it means to live authentically in a predominately straight world, but for them, it is more challenging. Often there are additional layers, such as life purpose, family, culture and social network which add intensity and complexities to the conflict.

The impacts of faith/sexuality conflict can include

• Intense cognitive dissonance - the acceptance/ rejection of their sexuality has eternal consequences.
• Suicidality - this group have thoughts of, or attempts to suicide more often than those from non- faith backgrounds.
• Mental health issues. – faith/sexuality conflict causes anxiety, stress and depression.
• Trauma and grief - leaving the religion can be traumatic and the loss of family, friends devastating.
• Internalised homophobia - after coming out, years of negative conditioning and self-hatred continue to impact.
• Loss of purpose and self esteem - The new gay identity, initially, may not be as profound as the previous Christian identity.

Understanding the LGBT faith person’s background, beliefs systems as well as their unique issues is essential for community workers, service providers and educators.

This presentation draws on the presenters personal journey, 15 years working with LGBT people of faith and recent research.

• The specific issues faced by LGBT people of faith
• The complexities, various layers and how to separate issues of faith and sexuality
• Separate strategies to resolve belief system, sexual identity and scripture
• Additional support structures available

Presenter

Anthony Venn-Brown was a popular preacher in the mega-churches of Australia, such as Hillsong. His bestselling autobiography ‘A Life of Unlearning’ details his 22 years attempting to change his homosexuality through counselling, prayer, exorcisms, ex-gay/reparative/conversion therapy programs and 16 years of marriage. Anthony is now a respected LGBT community leader and was twice voted one of the 25 Most Influential Gay and Lesbian Australians. He is the co-founder of Freedom2b, Australia’s leading support network for LGBT people from Christian backgrounds. He is the founder and CEO of Ambassadors & Bridge Builders International. Anthony has presented at conferences in the USA, UK and Asia and provided training in Australia for LGBTI and religious organisations. Over the last 15 years, Anthony has also worked extensively, one on one, with individuals seeking resolution of faith and/or their sexuality.

Published in: Spiritual
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When Religion and Sexuality Collide - Australia forum on sexuality, education and health 2015 Western University

  1. 1. When religion and sexuality collide: The experience of LGBT people from faith backgrounds Anthony Venn-Brown Australia Forum on Sexuality, Education and Health
  2. 2. My Observations • Potential and real suicidality • Mental health issues • Self destructive behaviours • Obsessive behaviours and addictions • Fragmentation of self • Closet hokey pokey • Faith and/or sexuality conflict separate • HIV & STI infection • Two way discrimination
  3. 3. LGBT people of faith and religion have specific needs that have not always been identified or catered for. They experience the usual issues of resolving their sexuality or gender identity, coming out, finding their place in the community and learning what it means to live authentically in a predominately straight world. However, they often experience these things with greater intensity and also have additional issues to deal with. © Anthony Venn-Brown www.anthonyvennbrown.com
  4. 4. High Risk Group – Why? • Having a belief system that says your eternal destiny is determined by your acceptance or rejection of your homosexuality creates an intense cognitive dissonance. Coming out doesn’t necessarily solve the problems; it can create more • After coming out, internalised homophobia from years of negative conditioning and self-hatred continues to have impact © Anthony Venn-Brown www.anthonyvennbrown.com
  5. 5. High Risk Group – Why? • Many invested years attempting to conform to heterosexuality through secret struggles, heterosexual relationships, ‘ex-gay’/conversion style counselling; leaving them damaged and traumatised. • For many from faith backgrounds, accepting their sexual orientation means leaving the church/religion. Their entire social network is gone, along with church activities and service. Finding their place in the LGBT community can be challenging.
  6. 6. High Risk Group – Why? • Living a life of faith often includes a strong sense of mission, calling or purpose. Walking away from that can leave them with a huge void. • Grief and trauma are common themes. Extricating oneself from the religion can be traumatic; the loss of family, friends and faith devastating. The trauma and the grief are often unacknowledged but play out in depression, self-destructive behaviours and suicidiality. © Anthony Venn-Brown www.anthonyvennbrown.com
  7. 7. High Risk Group – Why? • Years of secrecy and denial can create unhealthy addictions, compulsions or obsessions. • Many have little or no knowledge of safe sex practices and are therefore at high risk of STI’s & HIV. • Although beliefs systems differ, people from strong Christian, Islamic or Jewish backgrounds can face similar issues © Anthony Venn-Brown www.anthonyvennbrown.com
  8. 8. Research Writing Themselves In 3 (WTi3) 2010. 3,134 SSAGQ young people aged 14-21 When religion was mentioned the key findings were: 1.More likely to feel bad about their same sex attraction. 2.More likely to have experienced social exclusion or had to tolerate homophobic language from friends. 3.More likely to report homophobic abuse in the home.
  9. 9. Research Writing Themselves In 3 (WTi3) 2010, 3,134 SSAGQ young people aged 14-21 When religion was mentioned the key findings were: 4.More likely to report feeling unsafe at home. 5.More likely to not be supported by their mother, father, brother, teacher or student welfare coordinator/counsellor, when disclosing their SSA. 6.More likely to report thoughts of self harm and suicide or to carry out self harm.
  10. 10. Research Sex and the Sinner: Comparing Religious and Nonreligious Same-Sex Attracted Adults on Internalized Homonegativity and Distress 2014 Babucarr J. Sowe, Jac Brown, and Alan J. Taylor Macquarie University Ordinal logistic regressions revealed that Christian LGB respondents possessed significantly more internalized homophobia (IH) than nonreligious respondents. Furthermore, perceiving greater homonegativity in one’s religious and familial environments predicted higher levels of distress and IH among Christians specifically.
  11. 11. Research Despite having apostatized, former Christians still reported greater religion-sexuality distress than nonreligious individuals, suggesting that the psychological effects of homonegative religious environments are potentially enduring. Across all respondents, IH was also greater for males, those who were less “out,” and those who possessed a weaker sense of self. Findings generally support the premise that religious homonegativity places LGB Christians at additional psychological risk, with particular regard to IH and religion-sexuality identity conflict, and that both personal and interpersonal characteristics may exacerbate this risk.
  12. 12. www.abbi.org.au info@abbi.org.au Creating understanding and acceptance for LGBTI people, empowering community members and building bridges with religious organisations and leaders.

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