Skip to main content

Shouting it Out”: Religion and the Development of Black Gay Identities

We’re sorry, something doesn't seem to be working properly.

Please try refreshing the page. If that doesn't work, please contact support so we can address the problem.

Abstract

Using an intersectional framework, this paper analyzes the behavioral and interactional responses to anti-gay religious teachings among young Black gay men. Drawing on 26 semi-structured interviews and 18 months of ethnographic observation data, I highlight the role non-religious youth development organizations play in the negotiation of contradictory religious and sexual identities among young Black gay men. My findings illuminate new patterns in the understanding of personal narrative reconciliation while simultaneously highlighting new directions for research in the roles that youth-led spaces play in socialization practices. While previous research on religion and sexuality has relied primarily on interview data, this study uses ethnographic data to supplement interviews with youth to further elucidate the community building and collective negotiations of religious teachings. Ultimately, I argue that these young Black gay men work collaboratively to repurpose religious messaging in order to justify their sexualities; to reinforce positive behaviors and explain everyday occurrences with religious exclamations (e.g., call and response, shouting); and to create new religious communities.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    All names of people and places have been changed to maintain participant confidentiality.

  2. 2.

    Shouting is a religious practice often found within Black churches that as been linked to African dances. In contemporary Black Christian churches, this dance is often linked to the Holy Spirit and one being taken over with the spirit, to the point joyous movement (see Holmes 2004).

  3. 3.

    Call and response is associated with the Black church and is a collective experience where the pastor or preacher is encouraged and his/her message reinforced through the vocal expressions of the congregants (see Costen 2010).

  4. 4.

    Associated with the LGBT African American House/Ballroom community, balls are a form of competitive performances where “houses” and individuals compete in a variety of categories (see Bailey 2013).

  5. 5.

    Here “kid” is used to mean gay or homosexual (see Hawkeswood 1996; Johnson 2008)

References

  1. Alder, Stephen C., et al. 2007. Perspectives on efforts to address HIV/AIDS of religious clergy serving African American and Hispanic Communities in Utah. The Open AIDS Journal 1(1): 1–4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Altman, Lawrence K. 1982. Clue found on Homosexual’s Precancer Syndrome. The New York Times.

  3. Arnett, Jeffrey Jensen. 2007. Emerging adulthood: what is it, and what is it good for? Child Development Perspectives 1(2): 68–73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bailey, Marlon M. 2013. Butch queens up in pumps: Gender, performance, and ballroom culture in Detroit. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Barnes, David M., and Ilan H. Meyer. 2012. Religious affiliation, internalized homophobia, and mental health in lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 82(4): 505–515.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bender, Courtney. 2003. Heaven’s kitchen: Living religion at God’s love we deliver, 1st ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  7. Bowleg, Lisa. 2008. When black + lesbian + woman ≠ black lesbian woman: The methodological challenges of qualitative and quantitative intersectionality research. Sex Roles 59(5–6): 312–325.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Boxer, Andrew. 1996. Children of horizons: How gay and lesbian teens are leading a new way out of the closet. Boston: Beacon.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Buchanan, Melinda, Kristina Dzelme, Dale Harris, and Lorna Hecker. 2001. Challenges of being simultaneously gay or lesbian and spiritual and/or religious: A narrative perspective. American Journal of Family Therapy 29(5): 435–449.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Cantu, Lionel. 2009. The sexuality of migration: Border crossings and Mexican immigrant men. New York: NYU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Clarke, J. Michael, Joanne Carlson Brown, and Lorna M. Hochstein. 1989. Institutional religion and gay/lesbian oppression. Marriage & Family Review 14(3–4): 265–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Collins, Patricia Hill. 2000. Gender, black feminism, and black political economy. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 568(1): 41–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Colvin, Christopher J. 2011. HIV/AIDS, chronic diseases and globalisation. Globalization and Health 7(1): 31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Costen, Melva W. 2010. African American Christian worship, 2nd ed. Nashville: Abingdon.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1991. Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review 43(6): 93–118.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Crichlow, Wesley Eddison Aylesworth. 2004. Buller men and batty bwoys: Hidden men in Toronto and Halifax black communities. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Festinger, Leon. 1962. A theory of cognitive dissonance. Redwood City: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Foster, Michael L., Emily Arnold, Gregory Rebchook, and Susan M. Kegeles. 2011. “It’s my inner strength”: Spirituality, religion and HIV in the lives of young African American men who have sex with men. Culture, Health and Sexuality 13(9): 1103–1117.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Frye, D. 2014. Annual update of the epidemiologic profile of HIV. Presentation to the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV, Los Angeles, CA.

  20. Fuist, Todd Nicholas, Laurie Cooper Stoll, and Fred Kniss. 2012. Beyond the liberal-conservative divide: Assessing the relationship between religious denominations and their associated LGBT organizations. Qualitative Sociology 35(1): 65–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Fullilove, Mindy Thompson, and Robert E. Fullilove. 1999. Stigma as an obstacle to AIDS action the case of the African American community. American Behavioral Scientist 42(7): 1117–1129.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Glick, Sara Nelson, and Matthew R. Golden. 2010. Persistence of racial differences in attitudes toward homosexuality in the United States. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (1999) 55(4): 516.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Han, Chong-suk. 2007. They don’t want to cruise your type: Gay men of color and the racial politics of exclusion. Social Identities 13(1): 51–67.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Hancock, Ange-Marie. 2007. When multiplication doesn’t equal quick addition: Examining intersectionality as a research paradigm. Perspectives on Politics 5(01): 63–79.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Hawkeswood, William G. 1996. One of the children: Gay black men in Harlem. Oakland: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Holloway, Ian W., et al. 2014. Acceptability of Smartphone application-based HIV prevention among young men who have sex with men. AIDS and Behavior 18(2): 285–296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Holmes, Barbara Ann. 2004. Joy unspeakable: Contemplative practices of the black church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Hunter, Marcus Anthony. 2010. All the gays are white and all the blacks are straight: Black gay men, identity, and community. Sexuality Research & Social Policy 7(2): 81–92.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Icard, Larry D. 1986. Black gay men and conflicting social identities: Sexual orientation versus racial identity. Journal of Social Work & Human Sexuality 4(1–2): 83–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Johnson, E. Patrick. 2008. Sweet tea: Black gay men of the south, 1st ed. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Koenig, Harold G., Linda K. George, and Bercedis L. Peterson. 1998. Religiosity and remission of depression in medically ill older patients. American Journal of Psychiatry 155(4): 536–542.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Kubicek, Katrina, et al. 2009. “God made me gay for a reason”: Young men who have sex with men’s resiliency in resolving internalized homophobia from religious sources. Journal of Adolescent Research 24(5): 601–633.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Laumann, Edward O., John H. Gagnon, Robert T. Michael, and Stuart Michaels. 1994. The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

  34. Leong, Pamela. 2006. Religion, flesh, and blood: Re-creating religious culture in the context of HIV/AIDS. Sociology of Religion 67: 295–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Lewis, Gregory B. 2003. Black-white differences in attitudes toward homosexuality and gay rights. Public Opinion Quarterly 67(1): 59–78.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Manalansan, I.V., and F. Martin. 1996. Double minorities: Latino, black, and Asian men who have sex with men. In The lives of lesbians, gays, and bisexuals: Developmental, clinical and cultural issues, ed. Ritch Savin Williams and Kenneth Cohen, 393–415. Fort Worth: Harcourt, Brace and Co.

    Google Scholar 

  37. McAdams, Dan, and Brad Olson. 2010. Personality development: Continuity and change over the life course. Annual Review of Psychology 61: 517–542.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. McGuire, Meredith B. 2008. Lived religion: Faith and practice in everyday life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  39. Moore, Mignon R. 2006. Lipstick or timberlands? Meanings of gender presentation in black lesbian communities. Signs 32(1): 113–139.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Moore, Mignon R. 2010a. Articulating a politics of (multiple) identities. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 7(2): 315–334.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Moore, Mignon R. 2010b. Black and gay in LA. In Black Los Angeles: American dreams and racial realities, ed. Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramon, 118–212. New York: NYU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Moore, Mignon. 2011. Invisible families: Gay identities, relationships, and motherhood among black women. Oakland: University of California Press.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Moore, Mignon R. 2012. Intersectionality and the study of black, sexual minority women. Gender and Society 26(1): 33–39.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Morris, Aldon D. 1986. Origins of the civil rights movement. New York: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Negy, Charles, and Russell Eisenman. 2005. A comparison of African American and white college students’ affective and attitudinal reactions to lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals: An exploratory study. Journal of Sex Research 42(4): 291–298.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Nelson, Timothy J. 1996. Sacrifice of praise: Emotion and collective participation in an African-American worship service. Sociology of Religion 57(4): 379–396.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. O’Brien, Jodi. 2004. Wrestling the angel of contradiction: Queer Christian identities. Culture and Religion 5(2): 179–202.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  48. Ocampo, Anthony C. 2012. Making masculinity: Negotiations of gender presentation among Latino gay men. Latino Studies 10(4): 448–472.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Oxman, T.E., D.H. Freeman, and E.D. Manheimer. 1995. Lack of social participation or religious strength and comfort as risk factors for death after cardiac surgery in the elderly. Psychosomatic Medicine 57(1): 5–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. Pardini, Dustin A., Thomas G. Plante, Allen Sherman, and Jamie E. Stump. 2000. Religious faith and spirituality in substance abuse recovery: Determining the mental health benefits. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment 19(4): 347–354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Pattillo-McCoy, Mary. 1998. Church culture as a strategy of action in the black community. American Sociological Review 63(6): 767–784.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Pitt, Richard N. 2010. “Killing the messenger”: Religious black gay men’s neutralization of anti-gay religious messages. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 49(1): 56–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Rodriguez, Eric M., and Suzanne C. Ouellette. 2000. Gay and lesbian Christians: Homosexual and religious identity integration in the members and participants of a gay-positive church. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 39(3): 333–347.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Schnoor, Randal F. 2006. Being gay and Jewish: Negotiating intersecting identities. Sociology of Religion 67(1): 43–60.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Shallenberger, David. 1996. Reclaiming the spirit: The journeys of gay men and lesbian women toward integration. Qualitative Sociology 19(2): 195–215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Smith, Justin, Emma Simmons, and Kenneth H. Mayer. 2005. HIV/AIDS and the black church: What are the barriers to prevention services? Journal of the National Medical Association 97(12): 1682–1685.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Talvacchia, Kathleen T., Michael F. Pettinger, and Mark Larrimore (eds.). 2014. Queer Christianities: Lived religion in transgressive forms. New York: NYU Press.

    Google Scholar 

  58. Thumma, Scott. 1991. Negotiating a religious identity: The case of the gay evangelical. Sociology of Religion 52(4): 333–347.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Timmermans, Stefan, and Iddo Tavory. 2012. Theory construction in qualitative research from grounded theory to abductive analysis. Sociological Theory 30(3): 167–186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  60. Wagner, Glenn, James Serafini, Judith Rabkin, Robert Remien, and Janet Williams. 1994. Integration of one’s religion and homosexuality. Journal of Homosexuality 26(4): 91–110.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  61. Walker, J.J., and B. Longmire-Avital. 2013. The impact of religious faith and internalized homonegativity on resiliency for black lesbian, gay, and bisexual emerging adults. Developmental Psychology 49(9): 1723–1731.

  62. Ward, Elijah G. 2005. Homophobia, hypermasculinity and the US black church. Culture, Health and Sexuality 7(5): 493–504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. Wilcox, Melissa M. 2009. Queer women and religious individualism. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Yip, Andrew K.T. 2003. The self as the basis of religious faith: Spirituality of gay, lesbian, and bisexual Christians. In Predicting religion: Mainstream and margins in the west, ed. G. Davie, L. Woodhead, and P. Heelas, 135–146. Aldershot: Ashgate.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Yip, Andrew K.T. 2005. Queering religious texts: An exploration of British non-heterosexual Christians’ and Muslims’ strategy of constructing sexuality-affirming hermeneutics. Sociology 39(1): 47–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  66. Yip, Andrew Kam-tuck, Sarah-jane Page, and Michael Keenan. 2013. Religious and sexual identities: A multi-faith exploration of young adults. Farnham: Ashgate Pub Co.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Zinn, Maxine Baca, and Bonnie Thornton Dill. 1996. Theorizing difference from multiracial feminism. Feminist Studies 22(2): 321–331.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This article would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of my participants, many of whom gave feedback on original drafts. I thank Stefan Timmermans for his helpful feedback throughout this entire project, as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Qualitative Sociology and the anonymous reviewers for their insightful suggestions.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Terrell J. A. Winder.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Winder, T.J.A. “Shouting it Out”: Religion and the Development of Black Gay Identities. Qual Sociol 38, 375–394 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-015-9316-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Sexuality
  • Religion
  • Identity development
  • Community
  • Organizations