Robert Hedge

Date of Conferral





Counselor Education and Supervision


Laura R. Haddock


This study focused on understanding the lived experiences of men from a conservative Christian background who had disidentified as gay and subordinated their sexual identity to their spiritual identity. The study was intended to create understanding of the social, cultural, and valuative frameworks that informed and guided their attempts at resolving the conflict between spiritual and sexual identity. The study included three research questions: What are the emergent core themes associated with competing spiritual and sexual identities? How has the response of their faith community affected their struggle? How has the response of the gay community affected their struggle? Through the lens of postmodern theory that identity formation is socially constructed, the qualitative collective case study inquiry included interviews with six participants. The data were collected using semi-structured interviews and photo-elicitation. The interviews were divided into personal experiences, church experiences, and application of experiences. Using analytic techniques of pattern matching and explanation building, four emergent themes were identified: conflict; importance of faith; feelings of being alone, fearful, and misunderstood; and God is forgiving and loving. The photo-elicitation consisted of six photos, and participants responded to each photo. The interview responses were coded separately from the photo-elicitation responses to better understand the participants' journey in experiencing identity conflict and to identify their current experience of the conflict. The social change implications include generating information aimed at reducing stigma and negative perceptions for those who experience competing identities and to minimize the marginalization of this group of people.