From “Every Sunday I cried in church” to “I'm doing my own thing”: A constructivist grounded theory study of gender and sexual minority college students’ departure from Christianity



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While LGBTQ+ individuals have witnessed rapidly increasing support from the majority of Americans in the last decade, a firm resistance remains in the Christian community as many see the LGBTQ+ human rights movement to be contradictory to their religious beliefs regarding sexuality, gender, and marriage. This conflict is also reported by gender and/or sexual minorities (GSM), who attempt to resolve the conflict between their GSM and religious identities by altering their religious beliefs or losing their Christian identity. Furthermore, trends among the GSM population point to a growing majority of non-religiously identified individuals, specifically those who are less likely to identify as Christian. Previous research has focused on the harmful consequences Christian communities’ anti-LGBTQ+ views have had on GSM adults and their religiosity, including internalized homonegativity and social rejection. However, little is known about GSM college students’ progression away from Christianity. In this grounded theory study, I explored the unique processes by which eighteen GSM college students departed from Christianity. Analysis of the interviews revealed a shared narrative, as participants raised in the faith encountered a number of negative experiences and emotions, which led to incongruency with one’s religion. While participants faced intense emotional reactions in their departure from the faith, they ultimately forged a new religious/spiritual path and found greater acceptance for their GSM identity after departing from the Christian faith. The findings can benefit those working with GSM youth through providing a greater understanding of the challenges GSM individuals face in Christian spaces and knowledge on the developmental process of religious departure.



Gender and sexual minorities, Christianity, Religious departure, College students