Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Counseling

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Mark Pope, Ed.D.


Susan Kashubeck-West

Wolfgang Althof

Mary Lee Nelson


Over the past two decades, a substantial number of scholarly studies have examined the confluence of religious and sexual minority identities (Kocet et al., 2011; Love, Bock, Jannarone, & Richardson, 2005; Rodriguez & Ouellete, 2000; Schuck & Liddle, 2001). Religious identity was often framed within a traditional Judeo-Christian context. A major limitation of this body of work is the neglect of spiritual identity as a construct separate from religious identity. Many Protestant, Judaic, Islamic, and Catholic doctrines regard homosexuality and gender non-conformity as deviant and view the expression of same-sex attraction as errant and immoral (Haldeman, 2002). While reconciliation of the conflict between religious identity and sexual orientation identity has been related to a number of psychological challenges (Burgard, Cochran, & Mays, 2005; Drabble, Midanik, & Trocki, 2005; Lease et al., 2005; Schuck & Liddle, 2001) little is known about the convergence of spiritual identity, distinctly defined as separate from religious identity, and sexual orientation identity. This qualitative inquiry, using the in-depth phenomenological interview protocol proposed by Seidman (2006) and a grounded theory data analysis described by Strauss and Corbin (1998), investigated the process by which 9 gay men from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds constructed spiritual identities outside the realm of institutionalized religion. The findings illustrate a developmental course that led participants from primarily religious identities rooted in a faith of origin to individually constructed spiritual identities that encompass ethical, philosophical, and metaphysical understandings and practices. Results are discussed in terms of potential transferability of the findings with particular attention to expanding the cultural competence of counselors and educators who work with gay men and issues related to religion and spirituality. Limitations of the study and future directions in research are also addressed.

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