A Snapshot of Black LGBQ+ Religious and Spiritual Life
Social science has long proven that the development of our identities is impacted by our parents are, the ZIP code where we were born, our household income, and society’s standards for what to think, feel, say, and do.
People with certain identities tend to experience more structural and interpersonal discrimination – and that can harm physical and mental health as well as psychological development. The impacts can be more intense for those with more than one minority identity. In the United States young people who identify as a racial, gendered, or sexual minority–or any combination–are at risk of mental health challenges due to discrimination. At the same time, efforts to support positive identity development can help to mitigate some of these challenges.
Springtide data on youth, faith, and mental health provide a glimpse into what young people may be experiencing as these elements intersect. When we compare those who identify as Black/African American and as LGBQ+ (non-straight) with their straight Black counterparts, we find some differences. This could be illustrating that the experience of religion and spirituality can look different for someone with more than one marginalized identity.
While the Black Church is a cultural staple of black community life and culture, it is also known for being unwelcoming to Black people who identify as non-straight. Many studies have cited how perceptions of being unwelcome, unsupported or experiences of outright rejection have negative impacts on mental health for these individuals. Our data show that young Black people tend to report higher rates of religiosity than any other racial group, but non-straight Black youth claim less affiliation and belief than straight Black youth, which may be a reflection of this longtime cultural reality.
Yet, the differences shown by our data between straight and non-straight Black young people doesn’t mean that non-straight young Black people don’t have thriving religious and spiritual lives. Many do. Many find faith and belonging in the religious traditions of their youth. More churches are becoming affirming of non-straight people, and many serve as active members. Others have opted to explore their religious and spiritual belief in spaces other than traditional churches. Our data show that for overall flourishing, religion and spirituality may help, whatever combination of minority identities that one might have. As societal views on the treatment of minorities change, Gen Z might have unprecedented freedom in how they shape their religious and spiritual lives.
What Black LGBQ+ Are Telling Us
The data below includes some of the thoughts and beliefs shared by more than 1,600 young Black people who identify as non-straight (LGBQ+).
Percentages are approximate due to rounding.