Prefer to watch? Below is the full interview with special guest Dr. Marie Fang. Dr. Fang is a clinical psychologist in San Diego passionate about empowering folks who are often misunderstood or marginalized by the church. She loves helping folks explore and affirm who they are, whether it be aspects of their gender, sexuality, faith, or values. You can learn more about what she does at Affirming Christian Counseling. Dr. Fang served as the original inspiration for this article.
The LGBTQIA+ community and major religions have often been at odds with each other. This conflict can create hardship for members of the religious community, particularly those that are also part of the LGBTIA+ community.
We’ll explore the tension between sexual relations and the influence of religion, how it affects those caught in the middle, and how we can create a space that allows for both religion and gender and sexuality to coexist without hardship, pain, or discrimination.
No matter how you may feel, change is possible!
We'll work side by side to uncover the challenges and patterns that keep you from living the life you desire.
The “Typical” Religious Perspective on Sexuality and Gender
It’s no secret that the relationship between religion and sexual relationships has been contentious. For many conservative religious people, sex may be seen as a dirty, sinful act that should only be engaged within the confines of heterosexual cisgender marriage. And while there are a few religions that are more open-minded about sex, sexuality, and gender, the vast majority still view it as a taboo subject.
The reason “typical” is in quotes is that, though there are common views, a lot of variety exists among religions, their practitioners, and their institutions. Some religions, such as Christianity, view sex as a sacred act that should be reserved for marriage between a man and a woman, while others, such as Hinduism, view it as a natural and normal part of life. Still others, such as Islam, have a more complex view of sex and sexuality, seeing it as both a natural and normal part of life but also something that should be used for procreation between husband and wife in order to avoid sin. All of this is cis-dominated and heteronormative.
No matter what the religion, there are usually strict guidelines about sex, sexuality, and gender. For example, many religions believe that premarital sex is a sin, and that sex outside of marriage is an even bigger sin. There are also usually strict rules about who you can have sex with. For example, many major religions forbid same-sex or same-gendered relationships and have an exclusively gender-binary narrative.
So, while there is no one answer to the question of how religions view sex, sexuality, and gender expression, it is safe to say that it is often seen as a taboo subject.
What About the LGBTQIA+ Community?
The LGBTQIA+ community has long been the target of discrimination and violence from religious groups. This is often justified using religious doctrine that condemns being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender as a sin. This has led to many LGBTQIA+ people feeling unwelcome in religious communities, and has contributed to a feeling of isolation and exclusion.
Recent years have seen a growing movement within some religious groups to be more inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community. This has been driven in part by a growing acceptance of being gay in society, and by a desire to be more compassionate and understanding. However, there are still many religious groups that actively discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people, and the impact of this can be very damaging.
LGBTQIA+ people who are rejected by their religious communities can often feel isolated and alone. This can lead to mental health problems and can make it difficult to form healthy relationships. It can also make it harder to access support and advice from within the LGBTQIA+ community.
The impact of religious doctrine on the LGBTQIA+ community is complex and multifaceted. It can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion and can be damaging to mental health.
In some cases, it can lead to an unhealthy “us vs them” mindset where the religious individual separates themselves from their faith because of how unwelcoming it was of their identity. For some, this dichotomy creates a struggle because they want to hold on to their faith, but are repeatedly shunned by the members of their faith. They’re seemingly faced with an impossible decision of embracing who they are OR practicing their faith. However, times are changing, though not fast enough, some religious institutions are making great strides toward a more inclusive outlook.
A Healthier More Inclusive Take On Religion
The LGBTQIA+ community has long been marginalized by religious institutions, despite the fact that many religious texts and teachings actually support equality and inclusion for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. However, this is slowly beginning to change, but there is still much work to be done. We’re starting to see more ways in which religious institutions are starting to be more inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community:
1. Being open and welcoming.
This may seem obvious, but it is still worth stating. Some religious institutions ensure their doors are open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Everyone is welcome in their space. This goes beyond just embracing members of the LGBTQIA+ community, but also including them in religious services, in the clergy, and in celebrating same-sex marriage.
2. Using inclusive language.
When referring to members of the LGBTQIA+ community, they use language that is inclusive and respectful. This includes using the correct pronouns and avoiding offensive terms.
3. Offering support and resources.
Many members of the LGBTQIA+ community face discrimination, violence, and rejection from their families. Some religious institutions are offering support and resources to help those in need. This can take the form of anything from financial assistance to counseling, and providing a safe space.
4. Educating others.
Educating its members about the unique experiences and needs of the LGBTQIA+ community. Reminding their faithful that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are also a valid part of the community and God loves them and all of them, not just parts. As well as discussing some of the challenges the community faces.
5. Speaking out against discrimination.
In addition to educating their members, they also speak out when someone among their faithful is discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These religious leaders lead by example and show their support for the LGBTQIA+ community by standing up against hate.
Embracing Your Sexuality and Gender while also Holding On To Your Faith
No matter what religious doctrine someone follows, it is important to remember that everyone should be treated with respect. Just because someone is part of the LGBTQIA+ community does not mean that they are any less of a person. Everyone should be able to live their life the way they want to, without fear of discrimination or violence.
With that understanding, this journey of navigating faith and sexuality is very personal. For some, the answer is to turn away from religion. They don’t want or need religion in their life. If this works for you and it’s brought you peace and happiness, that’s fantastic.
For others, it’s about finding a group where they feel secure and can still exercise and express their faith and study religion on their own terms. It may not involve the same conventions or level of organization that more traditional religious institutions employ. This can be anything from getting together with a trusted group and doing bible studies or practicing ceremonies or studying religious texts that are important to your religion.
It’s also possible to find more conventional religious institutions, like a church or a temple, that is welcoming of members of the LGBTQIA+ community. They may be harder to find, but they do exist. If that’s where you feel most comfortable expressing your faith, then seeking them out is the option for you.
What’s most important is to remember that being a member of the LGBTQIA community and desiring to have faith in your life is possible and nothing is wrong with you for wanting or needing this. There are many other people and religious spaces that will respect and embrace you and also allow you to practice your faith. You deserve respect and to live your life on your terms without discrimination. If you are struggling, counseling is always an option, just remember to find an inclusive therapist. If you don’t feel you need it, or aren’t ready just yet, below are some resources that may help you on your journey in navigating faith, gender, and sexuality.