An Integral Approach to Sexual Identity: Beyond Religion and Science


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In every culture in any given time period, some people have engaged in same-sex behaviors and some people have forged same-sex relationships. In the past 150 years, Western biomedical and psychological discourses have created the idea that sexual orientation is a defining trait of the individual, and that the people of the world can be divided by sexual orientation according to some biological characteristic. This newer “scientific” view of sexuality is supposedly in opposition to conservative religious views of same-sex sexuality. Fundamentalist views of sexual orientation have been used to justify exclusion, harassment, discrimination, and even violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

This article proposes an integral approach to sexual identity development that broadens the discussion beyond science and religion or nature versus nurture. A four-quadrant exploration of the research on the origins of sexual identity reveals much more complexity and highlights potential points for social justice interventions as well as ideas to enhance personal spiritual transformation.