- Integrating sexual and religious identities can be challenging due to religiously based discrimination.
- There are limited assessment tools for clinicians and researchers working with LGBTQ+ religious populations
- The 5-item SMRII Scale was recently developed to measure the integration of sexual and religious identities.
- The SMRII Scale can assist clinicians working with LGBTQ+ individuals from religious backgrounds.
Integrating one's sexual and religious identities can be a challenging experience, especially for individuals who face discrimination from their religious communities due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, research has shown that many people with minoritized sexual identities also hold religious identities and can benefit from finding ways to integrate both aspects of their identities.
To better understand this process of sexual and religious identity integration, I collaborated with colleagues at Utah State University (Lefevor), Palo Alto State University (Huynh), CUNY (Rodriguez), and Adelphi University (Luong) to develop a new self-assessment tool called the Sexual Minority and Religious Identity Integration (SMRII) Scale, published in the Journal of Homosexuality. The study involved 1,424 participants from three different subsamples: Latter-day Saints (LDS), Muslims, and the general sexual minority population.
The goal of this brief 5-item scale is to provide a reliable and valid measure of how individuals integrate their sexual minority and religious identities. The first item, identity integration importance, addresses individuals’ self-assessments of the importance of integrating these identities into their self-identity. The second item, social role of identity integration, examines the role of social connections and interpersonal relationships in identity integration. The third item, communal acceptance of identity integration, considers the acceptance or rejection of these integrated identities by one's communities. The fourth item, identity purpose, measures an individual's belief that their life's purpose is related to both their sexual and religious identity. Lastly--the fifth item, identity integration comfort, explores how at ease individuals feel with their integrated identities. Together, these items provide a comprehensive understanding of the primary facets of religious and sexual identity integration. This understanding can help clinicians and researchers better support individuals in navigating their complex identities.
We developed the SMRII as there are limited assessment tools available to clinicians when working with LGBTQ+ individuals from religious backgrounds. Prior to the SMRII, researchers and clinicians were limited to utilizing two different identity assessments—one measure for sexual identity and another for religious identity. However, the dialogical relationship between the two identities could not be comprehensively assessed in this way and psychologists were often left with questions regarding LGBTQ+ individuals’ experiences of identity conflict, mediation and integration.
Moreover, there is a significant LGBTQ+ training gap and many clinicians report feeling unprepared for discussions around the intersection of sexuality and religion. This can make it challenging to address the colliding identities of these individuals. While some clinical approaches have been developed, they often focus on adapting existing therapeutic methods rather than utilizing tools specifically designed for sexual and religious identity integration.
The Sexual Minority and Religious Identity Integration (SMRII) Scale aims to fill this gap and serve as a starting point for person-centered, culturally sensitive therapeutic reflection and dialogue. This brief 5-item scale can be used as an evaluative measure and can help align the clinical process with clients' values. Coupling the SMRII with sexual identity therapeutic frameworks can provide a more informed, multifaceted context for therapeutic discussions sensitive to both sexual and religious identities.
In summary, the SMRII Scale can be a useful tool for clinicians working with individuals with minoritized sexual identities from religious backgrounds. It can help align the clinical process with clients' values and provide a context for therapeutic discussions that are sensitive to both sexual and religious identities. By utilizing this scale and other therapeutic frameworks, clinicians can better support individuals in navigating the complexities of their intersectional identities.
Psychologists must recognize that people with minoritized sexual identities can also meaningfully hold religious identities and benefit from finding ways to integrate both aspects of their identity. With the help of tools like the SMRII Scale and LGBTQ+ inclusive therapeutic practices, individuals can better understand themselves and collaboratively find ways to navigate the complex intersections of their identities.
Etengoff, C., Lefevor, T., Huynh, K.D., Rodriguez, E.M., Luong, E. (2023). Development and Validation of the Sexual Minority and Religious Identity Integration (SMRII) Scale. Journal of Homosexuality. Online first https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2023.2201870