Integration in the Study of Homosexuality, GLBT Issues, and Sexual Identity

By Yarhouse, Mark A. | Journal of Psychology and Theology, Summer 2012 | Go to article overview

Integration in the Study of Homosexuality, GLBT Issues, and Sexual Identity


Yarhouse, Mark A., Journal of Psychology and Theology


This article examines integration in the areas of homosexuality, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) issues, and sexual identity. It provides a brief account of where we have been as a field in our attempts to bring together a Christian worldview and the study of these issues. It then moves to a discussion of where we are going as a field, as well as the challenges and opportunities that exist for Christians interested in the integration of faith and the scientific study of homosexuality, GLBT concerns, and sexual identity.

There has been relatively little integration scholarship from Christian psychologists on the topics of homosexuality, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) issues, and sexual identity as, say, compared to theoretical integration or worldview integration. Even in the area of clinical integration, we have seen much less writing on GLBT issues and related themes as compared to protocols for addressing God image or forgiveness. Perhaps few Christian psychologists see it as an ideal career path, or perhaps it reflects to some extent the sense in which the broader mental health field may not see Christian perspectives as furthering our understanding of GLBT concerns. This perception was recently challenged somewhat when at least three evangelical Christians served as reviewers of the 2009 APA task force report on appropriate therapeutic responses to sexual orientation (APA, 2009). In any case, this area of scholarship continues to be one in which many challenges exist for integration. But there are opportunities, too, for engagement from a Christian perspective. In this article I explore some of the ways in which Christians have engaged the topics of homosexuality, GLBT issues, and sexual identity, as well as where I think we are heading in our integration discussions.

Integration on Homosexuality and Sexual Identity: Where Have We Been?

Ministry resources. It is noteworthy that most of what is available on homosexuality, GLBT issues, and sexual identity are not scholarly resources, nor are they empirical studies. Rather, they are books written from the perspective of people who claim that God has brought them out of homosexuality. I see these as primarily ministry resources, but I think they belong in the discussion of integration resources because they have historically dominated the landscape, perhaps as a result of the gap in the integration literature. The ex-gay movement has tended to send the message of hope for healing of homosexuality (and a change to hetero-sexuality). That message has been widely criticized by mainstream GLBT community and the stories of "ex-ex-gays" and vilified in the media and entertainment. The message of healing and heterosexuality from ex-gay ministries has been tempered to some degree in recent years, perhaps in response to criticisms by the main-stream GLBT community and research suggesting less frequent and less dramatic change in attraction or orientation for most who attempt such change (Jones & Yarhouse, 2007).

Scholarly review articles. Most of the scholarly integration materials on homosexuality, GLBT issues, and sexual identity have been review articles. The topics have included what causes homosexuality, whether homosexuality is a psychopathology, the mental health correlates to homosexuality or a GLBT identity, whether sexual orientation can change, critical reviews of the construct of homophobia and related themes, and so on (1) (e.g., Jones & Yarhouse, 2000).

We have also seen several integration books on human sexuality with a chapter dedicated to the topic of homosexuality from various disciplinary perspectives (e.g., Balswick & Balswick, 2008; McMinn, 2004; Smedes, 2004). Books by theologians have informed Christian integration, either by providing clarity as to biblical theology (e.g., Gagnon, 2001) or navigating different ways to respond to those who identify as GLBT (e.g., Grenz, 1998). …

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