Identity processes and identity coherence among gay men of religious faith


Speaker: Dr Rusi Jaspal from De Montfort University

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Biography of Speaker 

Dr Rusi Jaspal has obtained degrees from the University of Cambridge, University of Surrey and Royal Holloway, University of London. He is currently Lecturer in Psychology at De Montfort University, Leicester, where he also leads the Self and Identity Research Group. Together with Dame Glynis Breakwell, he recently edited Identity Process Theory: Identity, Social Action and Social Change (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and is the author of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism: Representation, Cognition and Everyday Talk (Ashgate, 2014).

Seminar abstract 

In Britain, the social, political and legal positions of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual have improved, which has generally led to greater tolerance and acceptance at the social level. However, there is evidence that ethnic and religious minority non-heterosexual individuals can continue to face discrimination from within their ethnic and/ or religious communities. For instance, representations of homosexuality within British Muslim communities can often be negative and stigmatising, which may in turn result in decreased willingness to ‘come out’, as well as psychological ‘conflict’. This has led researchers to examine the identities and experiences of LGBT individuals of faith with a particular interest in how individuals manage, and sometimes reconcile, seemingly incompatible identities, norms, values and social representations.

Taking non-heterosexual British Muslim men as a case study, this paper discusses some of the ways in which qualitative research methods, such as interpretative phenomenological analysis, qualitative thematic analysis, and discourse analysis, have made fruitful contributions to understanding the sexuality-religion interface among this population. These methods have, collectively, elucidated some of the cognitive, emotional, social and discursive dimensions of the religion-sexuality interface. These methods have aided theory development, particularly in Identity Process Theory with the introduction of the psychological coherence principle. Moreover, some particular methods of data generation appear to have positive, therapeutic outcomes for participants facing social and psychological difficulties. More generally, it is argued that each qualitative method brings unique and important insights in accordance with its epistemological stance and that social psychologists should consider making fuller use of the plethora of qualitative research methods available to them in order to provide a more holistic account of their research areas.