Listening to Sexual Minorities
Students arrive on campus with various boxes of belongings to unpack, some heavy, some tidy, some more valuable, some more private. For many students, two of these boxes could be labeled "My Faith" and "My Sexuality"—and these two can be among the most cumbersome to handle. How to balance the two without having to set one down? How to hold them both closely, both securely, but still move forward to settle in with new friends in a new environment? How to keep from dropping one or the other, spilling its embarrassing contents for all to see?
Such can be the struggle for any student, but especially for any sexual minority who identifies or struggles with an LGB+ identity or same-sex attraction on a Christian college campus. For these students their faith and their sexuality often feel both tender and in acute tension. Who is God making them to be? What do they need to grow in to develop faithfully, and what might they need to leave behind? How can they truly flourish?
The research team of Yarhouse, Dean, Stratton, and Lastoria draw on their decades of experience both in the psychology of sexual identity and in campus counseling to bring us the results of an original longitudinal study into what sexual minorities themselves experience, hope for, and benefit from. Rich with both quantitative and qualitative data, their book gives an unprecedented opportunity to listen to sexual minorities in their own words, as well as to observe patterns and often surprising revelations about life and personal development both on campus and after graduation.
Listening to Sexual Minorities will be an indispensable resource not only for counselors and psychologists but also for faculty, student-development leaders, and administrators in higher education as well as leaders in the church and wider Christian community who want to create an intentional environment to hear from and contribute to the spiritual flourishing of all.
"The last chapter alone titled 'Summary, Recommendations, and Conclusions' will be invaluable for educators, counselors, pastors, youth workers, and the secular public who want to understand LGB+ emerging adults who deeply value and live out their faith. This book gives a framework to understand that Christian LGB+ men and women are navigating their sexual identity and lives differently than the prevailing cultural narrative, and Christian leaders and mentors should want to know how that is going for them. This book allows us to listen in to the actual voices and stories of students on Christian college campuses. We find out how much they value their faith. We find out that having people to walk with them who are willing to listen, understand, and guide is invaluable. Good guides find out about the people they shepherd. And this book is an essential guidebook for the men and women who guide and mentor students."
"This groundbreaking book is a must-read for all who care about faith-based schools and the LGBTQ students who are a part of these communities."
"The research and insight found in Listening to Sexual Minorities: A Study of Faith and Sexual Identity on Christian College Campuses is profoundly timely and relevant—not just for Christian educators, but for all of us who are committed to loving and sharing life with the many sexual minority individuals in our families, churches, and communities. One of the greatest hindrances to this end is that although many strong opinions abound, there are few opportunities to listen and bear witness to the actual stories, experiences, and complexities of our sexual minority friends and colleagues—especially those who are professing Christians. Yarhouse, Dean, Stratton, and Lastoria have assembled a scholarly, comprehensive, readable, and human introduction to the stories of such individuals; I highly recommend it because the world needs to hear what they have to say."
"Just as a plane requires both wings to fly, so too the gospel cannot soar in a culture without the two wings of truth and grace. No other issue confronting the twenty-first-century church in America requires the need for both wings than the intersection of human sexuality and genuine Christian faith. Without sacrificing the wing of truth, Listening to Sexual Minorities helps lift the wing of grace. Where the church has excelled at telling, this book excels at listening. Thankfully, Listening to Sexual Minorities is not a theological or political treatise telling believers what they should believe or do. Gratefully, it is an archive of conversations, thoughts, and feelings, gleaned from individuals within our churches and institutions, with whom most members will never speak, let alone listen."
"Professor Mark Yarhouse and his collaborators continue their remarkable efforts to produce informative, original, and even-handed empirical research into the life experiences of Christians experiencing same-sex and other non-normative sexual attractions. This book reports on the results of a study of remarkable breadth and comprehensiveness. It offers understandable syntheses of the complex findings and wise, biblical suggestions based on the findings for implementation by Christian educational institutions and churches. It is a unique and valuable contribution deserving the attention of thoughtful Christian leaders everywhere."
"Loving our neighbors should always involve listening to them. This carefully researched study does us all an immense service by giving us the opportunity to listen in to the varied experiences of people we often haven't been listening to carefully enough."
"For more than forty years I’ve worked with college students. The complexities of the issues they deal with personally are exciting, challenging and (at times) overwhelming. Some of the most difficult issues they face are found at the intersection of faith and sexuality. Within the Christian university context those intersecting issues take on an additional dimension for LGB+ students because of the cultural tensions surrounding these issues. Listening to Sexual Minorities is a gold mine of research, wisdom, and practical application in understanding more accurately the journeys of sexual minority students. The student stories embedded in each chapter range from encouraging to heart wrenching. For campuses seeking to take both faith and sexuality seriously, working through Listening to Sexual Minorities will be time well spent."
"Issues of sexuality are at the forefront of American culture. Navigating this conversation can be difficult for those who aren't equipped to understand the complexities of human sexuality. Listening to Sexual Minorities provides a much-needed framework for having these important discussions. While grounded in academic research, this book also provides much-needed, practical insight for those navigating these conversations. This book is a must-read for anyone serious about honest dialogue related to sexual minorities on our Christian college campuses."
"This is exactly the kind of book to serve as a catalyst for discussion in the Christian community, especially on college campuses. Its power comes in large part from its concreteness and its foundation in empirical experience, and it brings to life a category that many in the Christian community (and perhaps even in the LGB+ community) are not fully aware of: individuals who fully own their identity as Christians and their identity as sexual minorities. The students’ own stories draw attention to ways in which our policies and our theology—as currently articulated—are not rich enough to encompass reality. So, by beginning with lived experience rather than theology or policy, the book humanizes the issues and requires something of us that an abstract discussion does not. It is also a book that focuses on ministering to the needs of these students. By seriously reckoning with the pastoral dimension of these issues, readers may take greater courage to move beyond and enter into other dimensions of the situation. Finally, this book is an implicit call for more work to be done. From those who believe there is something of deep importance in the traditional Christian understanding of sexual ethics, more work needs to be done to explain that importance in terms that make sense within a broader conversation. I believe we owe this to those who are the subject of this book—and who are currently left alone to work out the painful tension they feel between two identities they truly own. I believe we owe this to those in the LGB+ community who want to understand why many conservative Christians seem willing to risk relationships and community for what appears to be an abstract doctrine. I believe we owe this as a matter of faithful witness to the gospel—in a culture that increasingly sees religious freedom as simply code or cover for bigotry."
1. The Tension: Faith and Sexuality
2. A Closer Look: Understanding the Population
3. Milestones and Identity
4. Identity Development
5. Faith and Sexuality
6. How Sexual-Minority Students Fit into Their College Campuses
7. How They Move from College to Postcollege
8. Summary, Recommendations, and Conclusions