Summary of LGBTQ Mormon research published in 2020
In 2020, we saw a handful of important developments in the study of LGBTQ Mormons. The first review article of previous research was published, providing an easy introductory point for people who are new to this research. Further, we saw the 2nd and 3rd recorded studies of suicidality among LGBTQ Mormons. Two strong qualitative studies were published in 2020 with similar conclusions: LGBTQ Mormons experience tension by virtue of being both LGBTQ and Mormon that can’t be easily resolved or wished away. In total, five new studies of LGBTQ Mormons were published in 2020.
Moving forward, several questions remain. McGraw noted that religious/spiritual struggles were particularly important for understanding suicidality among LGBTQ Mormons; however, it is not clear which struggles are most impactful or how we might address these struggles. Similarly, studies highlighted the difficulties of navigating LGBTQ and Mormon identities, but no studies so far have looked at a group of LGBTQ Mormons who feel like they have successfully navigated these identities. There are also more questions remaining for church leaders and family/friends regarding how to best support LGBTQ Mormon loved ones.
Angoff and Colleagues
Angoff and colleagues used a large, representative sample of youth in Utah (49,425 teens in 8th through 12th grade), to better understand how religious, sexual, and gender identity might impact nonsuicidal self-injury (e.g., cutting). They found that LGBTQ youth reported somewhere between 3 and 11 times higher rates of self-injury than cisgender and heterosexual youth. Although being LDS helped protect heterosexual and cisgender youth from self-injury, being LDS was not protective for LGBTQ youth.
Other studies have pointed out that LGBTQ youth suffer at greater rates than cisgender and heterosexual youth; however, Angoff and colleagues’ observation that LDS-affiliation was not protective for LGBTQ youth is new. Their results join others’ in questioning the benefits that LGBTQ youth glean from church membership. Nonetheless, no specific harms of LDS-affiliation were noted among LGBTQ youth.
In his master’s thesis, Ben Bradley reported on interviews with 15 LGBTQ Mormons who are active in the church, wondering how church rhetoric impacts identity and relationships for these individuals. He concluded that because of rhetoric from the largely white-centered Church, many LGBTQ Mormons prioritize their divine identity (i.e., child of God) and de-emphasize an LGBTQ identity (i.e., same-sex attracted, experience gender dysphoria). He noted that doing so may lead to relational, mental, and spiritual health issues.
In many ways, this study replicated what others have noted about the struggles of being an active LGBTQ Mormon. However, Bradley’s thesis does a handful of things well or for the first time: a) it showcases with quotes the competing pulls for loyalty that LGBTQ Mormons experience from LGBTQ and LDS communities, b) it surveys LGBTQ Mormons who are still active in the church, and c) focuses on how the Whiteness of the church may influence its treatments of LGBTQ members.
Chakravarty & English
Chakravarty and English also interviewed LGBTQ Mormons (18 to be exact, most of which seemed not to currently be active) and focused on how LGBTQ Mormons negotiated their LGBTQ and LDS identities to fit in, belong, and lead authentic lives. They found that their participants had to create their own understanding of their faith, sexuality, and gender and that crafting these new understanding often involved renegotiating relationships with church members and the church as an institution.
Like Bradley’s thesis, Chakravarty and English’s paper is a rich source from which to understand the personal experiences of LGBTQ Mormons. Their findings seem to be most clearly applicable for LGBTQ Mormons who may not consider themselves active in the church but who are wrestling to understand how being Mormon fits into their lives in the past and present. This article does a great job showing how LGBTQ Mormons had a difficult time choosing one identity over the other and illustrates the personal struggles of LGBTQ Mormons in negotiating these aspects of their identity.
In his master’s thesis, James McGraw looked at which kinds of religious/spiritual struggles predicted suicidality in a sample of 404 LGBTQ Mormons that were fairly evenly balanced between current and former Mormons. He found that religious/spiritual struggles—including feeling rejected by church members, worrying about actions being morally wrong, and being angry with God—were strong predictors of suicidality, predicting suicidality about twice as well as internalized homonegativity.
Before McGraw’s study, no one had examined religious/spiritual struggles as they influence health among LGBTQ Mormons. Although McGraw didn’t differentiate kinds of religious/spiritual struggles or look at why LGBTQ Mormons were experiencing these struggles, his thesis is an important encouragement for researchers, church leaders, and family/friends to pay particular attention to the religious/spiritual struggles experienced by LGBTQ Mormons.
McGraw and Colleagues
In addition to his master’s thesis, McGraw published a review of research on LGBTQ Mormons in 2020. This review focuses on how history and doctrine may influence the church’s position on LGBTQ issues. It also summarizes 19 quantitative studies and 14 qualitative studies that were published before 2020. This review is a fantastic place to start to understand what has been written so far about LGBTQ Mormons in the psychological literature.