Background: Individuals with a strong religious affiliation often have a negative propensity toward homosexuality, which in turn can affect the coming out process if gay (Wilkerson, Smolenski, Brady, & Rosser, 2012). Further, gay men who are religious often avoid gay community engagement and engage in riskier sexual behaviours (Lassiter & Parsons, 2015; Meanley, Pingel, & Bauermeister, 2016).
Research Question: The current analysis aimed to establish whether internalized homophobia is a mediating variable between men who have sex with men’s (MSM) religious affiliation and involvement within the gay community.
Method: Participants (MSM = 257) from a larger study of MSM and heterosexual men’s attitudes towards sexual consent were asked to provide their current geographical location, age, and religion. Just above 40% of the MSM reported being religious. Additionally, participants were asked to complete the Internalized Homophobia Scale (Wagner, 1998), and the Identification and Involvement with the Gay Community Scale (Vanable, McKirnan, & Stokes, 1992). MSM were recruited via social media, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and Squirt.org. Three geographical regions (Canada, United States, and Western Europe) were included in this analysis. A simple mediation analysis was used to examine the relationships between religious affiliation, internalized homophobia, and involvement within the gay community.
Results: MSM who reported being religious were more likely to rate higher on internalized homophobia, and thus be less likely to engage with the gay community. However, just being religious without the presence of internalized homophobia was not a significant predictor of gay community avoidance. Thus, this model yields a large indirect effect of internalized homophobia. Geographical location was not found to affect one’s self-reported religious affiliation and future involvement within the gay community.
Conclusions: MSM who self-identified with a religious group tended to show an increased predisposition to internalized homophobia and decreased involvement within the gay community than those who identified as secular, regardless of geographic location.
Implications: The results of the present analysis can aid in better understanding negative self-views in MSM. Given that these MSM are less likely to engage with the gay community, the need for epidemiological and psychological support outside of gay communities is warranted. Future research should explore the influence one’s upbringing has on religious affiliation and internalized homophobia. The level of religiosity, parental acceptance, and support in the school environment could also be included in future studies. Further implications and directions will be discussed.