Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Sharon G. Horne

Second Advisor

Sharon Lamb

Third Advisor

Heidi M. Levitt


Identity conflicts between sexuality and spirituality faced by religious lesbian and gay people have been described in literature, along with various methods to resolve such conflicts, including sexual orientation change efforts and identity integration. But a dearth of literature exists regarding celibacy as a means of resolving identity conflict. This study employed grounded theory to investigate the psychological and spiritual wellbeing of 12 current and former gay Christian celibates (GCCs). Results revealed how celibacy could harmonize sexuality and Christian spirituality, benefiting some celibates by providing them peace, satisfaction, and spiritual vibrancy. However, for many others, celibacy instigated dissonance between their beliefs and their sexual desires and behaviors, leading to substantial challenges and harms that negatively affected their wellbeing. Participants, especially ex-celibate participants, described psychological, emotional, social, sexual, and spiritual harms. Implications for mental health practitioners working with clients struggling with conflicts between sexual and spiritual identities are discussed.


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