The meanings and manifestations of religion and spirituality among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults

Perry N. Halkitis, Jacqueline S. Mattis, Joel K. Sahadath, Dana Massie, Lina Ladyzhenskaya, Kimberly Pitrelli, Meredith Bonacci, Sheri Ann E Cowie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study employed a mixed method approach in the effort to explore religious and spiritual practices among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, as well as the meanings ascribed to the terms religiosity and spirituality by LGBT adults. Data were collected via a cross-sectional survey consisting of open- and close-ended items among 498 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) identified individuals attending an annual Pride event in a large northeastern city. Both quantitative and qualitative findings suggested that consistent with other studies, spirituality was defined largely in relational terms (e.g., in terms of one's relationship with God and with self). Religion, in contrast, was defined largely in terms of communal worship and in terms of its negative influences in the lives of individuals and communities. For this sample of LGBT persons, spiritual identities were more pronounced than religious ones, and this pattern may be explained by their understanding of the spiritual self in relation to prosocial engagement and interconnectedness with others, the world around them, and the universe. Further, religious affiliation and practices were explained, in part, by the religion in which the individual was raised, level of educational attainment, as well as the developmental stage in which the person is currently situated. The findings highlight the reality that a substantial number of LGBT individuals may remain committed to religious and spiritual life, which may be related to a motivation to make sense of one's place in the world especially in light of societal misunderstandings and intolerance to LGBT individuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)250-262
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Adult Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • LGBT
  • Mixed methods
  • Religion
  • Spirituality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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