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Journal of Homosexuality

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Agap Christian Reconciliation Conversations: Exploring the Intersections of Culture, Religiousness, and Homosexual Identity in Latino and European Americans
Peter Barbosa a; Hector Torres b; Marc Anthony Silva b; Noshaba Khan b a California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt College, San Francisco, California, USA b Children and Adolescent Psychiatry Center, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin/Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA Online publication date: 11 January 2010

To cite this Article Barbosa, Peter, Torres, Hector, Silva, Marc Anthony and Khan, Noshaba(2010) 'Agap Christian

Reconciliation Conversations: Exploring the Intersections of Culture, Religiousness, and Homosexual Identity in Latino and European Americans', Journal of Homosexuality, 57: 1, 98 116 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/00918360903445913 URL:


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Journal of Homosexuality, 57:98116, 2010 Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC ISSN: 0091-8369 print/1540-3602 online DOI: 10.1080/00918360903445913

Journal 1540-3602 0091-8369 Homosexuality WJHM of Homosexuality, Vol. 57, No. 1, November 2009: pp. 00

Agap Christian Reconciliation Conversations: Exploring the Intersections of Culture, Religiousness, and Homosexual Identity in Latino and European Americans
California School of Podiatric Medicine at Samuel Merritt College, San Francisco, California, USA

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Children and Adolescent Psychiatry Center, Childrens Hospital of Wisconsin/Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA

To understand how homophobia manifests itself through a Latino cultural lens of identity, a program was designed to address the issues connecting homosexual identity, culture, and Christianity. The program included screening of one of two documentary films about lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) identity and family relations. This was followed by group sharing and biblical reflections. Participants (N =122) were asked to complete measures of homophobic attitudes and qualitative appraisal of the program. Pearson product moment correlations analyses revealed that age
This work was completed in part through the gracious financial support of grants from: (a) The E. Rhodes & Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Philadelphia, PA; (b) Horizons Foundation (; and (c) David R. Stern Memorial Fund of the Agape Foundation Fund for Nonviolent Social Change ( h.html). The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support these foundations provided, without which this work would not have been possible. In addition, the authors express gratitude for the contributions to this research by Garrett Lenoir, Dr. Dee Mosbacher, Bert Williams, Bob Offer-Westort, Steve Nava, Angel Jr. Cintrn, Zwazzi Sowo, Naomi Prochovnick, The Courage To Love Institute, Rev. Ann B. Day, Rev. Jeannette Zaragoza, Rev. Alfonso Roman, Rev. Jan Griesinger, Dr. Scot Foster, Yerba Buena Restaurant in Condado, Puerto Rico, the Council for Hispanic Ministries of the United Church of Christ (, and the Board of Directors of Woman Vision and EyeBite Productions ( Address correspondence to Peter Barbosa, California School of Podiatric Medicine, P.O. Box 14010, San Francisco, CA 94114, USA. E-mail: 98



and political ideology were related negatively to homophobia. Eighty-five percent found the program to be very useful or useful and 95% indicated that they would recommend it to others. The complexities of the intersections of Christianity, culture, and attitudes toward homosexuality in an individuals identity were examined. The data illustrates a positive trend in changing attitudes towards homosexuality in the Latino Christian community. KEYWORDS homosexuality, attitudes toward homosexuality, religious beliefs, religious prejudices, Christianity, Hispanics, Latino/Latina culture, De Colores, agape

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In the United States, non-Anglo lesbians, gay, and bisexuals (LGBs) exist as minorities within minorities. Many report that intense and often conflicting loyalties to both minority communities cause them to be marginalized in each. The same phenomenon afflicts religious LGBs, since many churches hold homophobic beliefs. For non-straight Latinos, both ethnic status and the powerful influence of religion bear the seeds of homophobia. Little quantitative or qualitative data exist about this growing population within the context of religiosity, cultural identity, and attitudes toward homosexuality. The intervention described in this study was designed to understand both quantitative and qualitative data about this largely ignored population.


The term homophobia will be used to describe negative attitudes, feelings, and behaviors toward those who identify as LGB. Although the utility of the term has been criticized (Herek, 2004; MacDonald, 1976; Neisen, 1990), and although other terms have been proposed, such as heterosexism, homonegativity, and biphobia, when applied exclusively to bisexuals (e.g., Finnegan & McNally, 2002), the term homophobia has the longest history (e.g., Wienberg, 1972), appears consistently in the literature, and is generally understood within academic communities and laypeople. Thus, homophobia will be used to describe negative attitudes toward LGB individuals throughout this article. Homophobia occurs on micro and macro levels. At the micro level, homophobia manifests in an interpersonal context with those holding homophobic attitudes as a belief that LGBs are sinful, bad, evil, or morally corrupt. These feelings can result in fear, disdain, hatred of LGB people and their culture, which can cause verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse directed at LGBs because of their sexual orientation. Homophobia also


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exists at the macro level. Institutionalized homophobia is reflected by cultural views and policies regarding homosexuality. These attitudes denigrate non-heterosexual identities and historically has criminalized same-sex sexual behavior. While same-sex sexual behavior is no longer legally punishable in most states, individuals who identify as LGB continue to be denied basic rights and privileges afforded to heterosexuals. For example, only two U.S. states allow marriage between same-sex partners. The prohibition against marriage between same-sex couples in most states denies these couples significant legal and financial benefits accorded heterosexual married couples, including substantial tax benefits, rights of inheritance, and access to spousal benefits. Furthermore, many states have a history of hostility toward gay parents (Lambda Legal, 2007), which has caused difficulty in adoptions. This has been the case for homosexual Floridians who have tried to adopt children but have been denied due to their sexual orientation (Florida Senate, 2007). Furthermore, LGBs who are open about their sexual orientation are prohibited from serving in the U.S. military; many U.S. states offer no legal protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Religion and Homophobia

During the past few decades, advances have been made in the depathologizing and decriminalization of homosexuality. When the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed the diagnoses of homosexuality from the DSM-II (APA, 1973) and ego-dystonic homosexuality from the DSM-III-R (APA, 1987), it helped to bring about a level of awareness and tolerance in communities regarding homosexuality. Nonetheless many organized religions disregard these developments and continue to view homosexuality as sinful, deviant, indecent, and immoral. Organized religions that view homosexuality as immoral promote prejudice against LGBs at both institutional and individual levels within their communities. Historically, religion has been defined broadly and viewed as a dynamic process including both individual and institutional factors (Pargament, 1999). According to this definition, religion encompasses ones personal relationship with a higher power, shared beliefs, and organized rituals associated with the practice of that relationship. Some contemporary scholars consider religion and spirituality as different concepts with religion referring to extrinsic, organizational, ritualistic, and ideological components, and spirituality referring to intrinsic, personal, and experiential elements of faith (Pargament, 1999). Nonetheless, while some research has examined religion and spirituality as separate constructs, most research examining the intersection of religion and political attitudes has not considered spirituality as a separate variable and this article follows suit. A substantial body of research has linked religious affiliation, beliefs, and practices to homophobia on a personal level. For example, Catholic



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and Protestant college students tend to hold negative attitudes toward gays and lesbians due in part to their upbringing and value system (Johnson, Brems, & Alford-Keating, 1997; Malcomnson, Christopher, Franzen, & Keyes, 2006; Rowatt et al., 2006; Schwartz & Lindley, 2005). Conservative Protestants (e.g., Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Evangelicals) were the least tolerant of homosexuality when compared to mainstream Protestants (e.g., Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians), Catholics, and other religions (Burdette, Ellison, & Hill, 2005). Clinical literature has also linked religious beliefs and practices to homophobia by suggesting that individuals who had strong affiliation to their religion were more inclined to believe that homosexuality was a choice (rather than biology) and, therefore, displayed more homophobic attitudes (Malcomnson et al., 2006). The belief and practice of biblical literalism, religious fundamentalism, and right-wing authoritarianism were associated with hostile and negative attitudes toward homosexuality among Muslims, Hindus, Jews (Hunsberger, 1996), and Christians (Burdette et al, 2005; Rowatt et al., 2006; Schwartz & Lindley, 2005). While intrapersonal homophobic attitudes have been found in a variety of religions, increased strictness and adherence to doctrine appears more significant in the endorsement of homophobia. Homophobia exists on the institutional level of religion as well. For example, the Catholic Church espouses respect for the homosexual as an individual while at the same time condemns same-gender sexual behavior. The Vatican considers homosexuality intrinsically immoral and contrary to the natural law and prohibits those who practice or support homosexuality from attending or teaching in a seminary (Congregation for Catholic Education, 2005). Additionally, the Catholic Church officially opposes same-gender marriages and any legal recognition of same-gender unions (Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, 2003). Other Christian denominations espouse similar beliefs.

Religion and Healthy Sexual Identity

Although the negative associations between religion and homosexuality have been documented, there is a paucity of research on the potential benefits of religious affiliation among LGBs. Research suggests that internalized homophobia is associated with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and poor body image (Igartua, Gill, & Montoro, 2003, Reilly, & Rudd, 2006). However, research on the relationship between religious affiliation and internalized homophobia has produced mixed findings with regard to mental health concerns among LGBs. Some research suggests that acceptance by ones faith group is negatively correlated with internalized homophobia (Lease, Horne, & Noffsinger-Frazier, 2005), while other research produced no statistical significant differences between these variables among gay men (Wagner, Serafini, Rabkin, Remien, & Williams, 1994).


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These contradictory findings may be related to differences in the way religiosity is used by researchers and experienced by research participants. For example, Tan (2005) reported that higher self-esteem, lesser feelings of alienation, and acceptance of ones homosexuality was predicted by existential well-being (i.e., how one feels about life) but not religious well-being (i.e., how one relates to God). In sum, it appears that intrinsic positive attitudes toward life and affiliation with religious groups who accept homosexuality is associated with less internalized homophobia and more positive psychological well being for at least some LGBs.

Culture, Religion, and Homophobia Among Latina/os

In the U.S., non-Anglo LGBs are double minorities, that is, ethnic and sexual minorities in a primarily Caucasian, heterosexual society. Their double minority status often results in double stigma, which creates multiple layers of oppression and discrimination (Greene, 1994). Many ethnic minorities LGBs report intense and often conflicting loyalties among two or more minority communities because their sexual orientation and physical attributes causes them to be between to opposing sides of the same coin. For example, ones ethnic minority community may be non-accepting of sexual minorities, while concurrently, ones sexual minority community may be non-accepting of ethnic minorities (e.g., Morales, 1992). Such marginalization in each community may lead many LGBs to conceal important aspects of their identities in order to survive in each group (Chan, 1992; Greene, 1994). It is suggested that a powerful form of heterosexist oppression takes place within Latino culture, leaving many gay and lesbian members feeling pressure to remain closeted in those communities to avoid the ridicule and outcast status that would result from open acknowledgement of their identity (Espin, 1984). In addition, ethnic minority members commonly report discriminatory treatment in gay and lesbian bars, clubs, and other social gatherings within the gay and lesbian community (Morales, 1992). Although discrimination comes from both perspectives for ethnic minority LGBs, these individuals often feel their ethnic communities may serve as important havens against racism and provide them with social support. The homophobia in these communities make LGBs more vulnerable and perhaps more inclined to remain closeted within their ethnic communities and hence invisible to them (Chan, 1992). For these individuals, it is imperative to form a strong sense of individual identity and self-consciousness to survive amid the different sources of discrimination. There have been theories and studies on the most effective ways for this to be attained. The minority identity development model for ethnic minorities captures the fluidity of the process and describes its phases in a clear and concise way (Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1979). Cass (1979) developed a similar theoretical model in reference to homosexual

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identity formation. Casss model proposes six stages of development that individuals move through in order to acquire a fully integrated identity as a gay or lesbian person (Espin, 1993). While the two models are not identical, they describe a similar process that must be undertaken by people who must embrace negative or stigmatized identities. The main issue at stake with these models is finding a way for ethnic minority LGBs to form a positive, integrated identity. As discussed below, they face many pressures and issues in reconciling their place in the world. These psychosocial pressures and obstacles to identity development likely stem in part from traditions and generations of beliefs about homosexuality. Because of this, homosexuality may become a token of the acculturation wars between the generations (Gonzalez & Espin, 1996). The values of familism (i.e., strong kinship ties), religion, and machismo (i.e., conformity to traditional male gender roles) may serve as a way of fending off assimilation, and some parents may view gayness as a product of the erosion of traditional Old World values and a move toward the dominant culture (Tremble, Schneider, & Appathurai, 1989). Motivated by this viewpoint, parents and elder generations will often dictate and emphasize the importance of family and tradition in everyday life. The family plays a critical role in Latina/o culture, and familism stands as the one core cultural value that transcends all others (Marin, 1989). For Latina/os, the family serves as a protective structurea buffer against the socioeconomic and political pressure of immigration, acculturation, and racism. Thus, for Latina/o LGBs, identification with the LGB community may be a costly move away from family and the underpinnings of economic, political, cultural, and religious identity (Almaguer, 1993). The Catholic Church, a significant influence on Latin culture, supports traditional family dynamics and condemns homosexuality while promoting sexuality in the service of procreation (Tori, 1989). For many LGB Latina/os, the prohibitions of the church are a source of alienation. Catholic popes have actively condemned homosexuality, and because a pope is considered infallible and in communication with God, his condemnation brings guilt and anxiety to many Catholic LGB people (Caraballo-Dieguez, 1989). Another obstacle gay Latina/os face is the cultural perspective on sexual roles. For many Latino men, homosexuality is structured by sexual aim rather than sexual object choice and depends heavily on gender role (Almaguer, 1993). The passive role is more strongly denigrated within Latino/a culture, rather than the same-gender nature of the encounter. In simpler terms, stigma accrues from the display of feminine attributes and not as much from the male /male engaging in homosexual sex (Lancaster, 1988). This is because machismo is highly valued and respected within Latina/o culture. Machismo refers to a code of virility and masculine conduct that prizes honor, respect, and dignity, as well as aggressiveness, invulnerability, and sexual prowess (Staples & Mirande, 1980).

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Considering the myriad sources of culturally ingrained heterosexist notions that Latina/os have to deal with, it is logical that LGB Latina/os face social discrimination from multiple directions. Social discrimination has a negative impact on levels of social support and self-esteem. Not surprisingly, psychological symptoms of distress are more prevalent among those who are both socially isolated and harboring a low sense of self-worth (Diaz, Ayala, Bein, Henne, & Marin 2001).

This study was primarily designed as an intervention to start a dialogue with emphasis on issues related to homosexuality from a Latino Christian cultural perspective. Given the homophobic attitudes among many religiously affiliated heterosexuals, particularly Christian groups, and because of the negative psychological consequences from double stigma among Latina/o LGBs, the current study was undertaken. Research has traditionally focused on Anglo communities of faith that have held either extremely conservative or liberal religious beliefs. Lesser attention has been given to moderate communities of faith with regard to attitudes toward homosexuality and, as it relates to religious communities of color, research is scant. In many communities of color, faith exploration and faith commitments are integrated into ones overall sense of identity and concurrently define critical aspects of the entire cultural expression. The controversial issue of identifying as or responding to a homosexual in the community is directly related to the implications of religiosity for identity construction. This controversy seems to be even stronger among communities of color where religiosity and culture are so intimately related. In order to address personal and cultural roots of homophobia within religious communities, individuals participated in the Agap Christian Reconciliation Conversation Program (Agap Program), a program designed to address homophobia while respecting and affirming theological and cultural concerns. The program was intended as a tool for social activism and transformation.

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METHODS Participants
The target populations were faith communities and communities of color, with primary emphasis on Latina/o communities of Christian faith. Participants were recruited via direct solicitation to members of the Council of Hispanic Ministries (CHM) and the Council on Racial and Ethnic Ministries (COREM) of the United Church of Christ (UCC). Various other religious and



nonreligious groups were also invited to participate, as listed below (see Procedures section). Recruitment took place starting in the fall of 2004 and continued through December 2006.


Participants completed a researcher-authored demographic form that asked participants to disclose sociodemographic variables such as age, gender, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, and political ideology. HOMOSEXUALITY
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Participants completed the Homosexuality Attitudes Scale-Short Form (HAS-SF), a modified version of the original Homosexuality Attitudes Scale (HAS; Kite & Deaux, 1986). The instrument assesses peoples stereotypes, misconceptions, and anxieties about homosexuals. The short form contains 10 items. Responses are coded on a 5-point scale ranging from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). The measure employs a onedimensional factor and yields a global homophobia score with low scores representing more favorable attitudes toward homosexuals and high scores representing less favorable attitudes. According to Kite and Deaux, the original scale has excellent internal consistency (a >.92), and good testretest reliability (r = .71). Regarding convergent validity, the scale correlates positively (r = .50) with the Feminis Scale (FEM) (Smith, Ferree, & Miller, 1975), a measure of attitudes toward feminism, as well as the Attitude Toward Women Scale (Spence & Helmreich, 1978). The HAS was correlated less with the agency/communion scales of the Personal Attributes Questionnaire (Spence, Helmreich, & Stapp, 1974) and was unrelated to the male and female scales of the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Bem, 1974), the Self-Monitoring Scale (Snyder, 1974), the Marlowe-Crown Social Desirability Scale (Crowne & Marlowe, 1960), and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965). APPRAISAL

Participants completed an Appraisal of Program form, which was designed to obtain quantitative and qualitative data regarding their impressions and opinions about the intervention. For quantitative portions of the survey, participants were asked to rate on a numeric scale questions such as Did you benefit from this workshop? and Would you recommend the workshop to others? For the qualitative portion, participants were asked, in an open-ended format, questions such as What was your favorite part of this


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event? and How would you change this presentation? Qualitative answers were examined for common themes.

The study was approved by the Board of Directors (the Institutional Review Board equivalent) of EyeBite Productions, the nonprofit organization primarily sponsoring the Agap Program ( Recruitment occurred during the fall of 2004, and participation in the Agap Program took place from January 2005 through December 2006. In 2005, Agap Program presentations were conducted in Puerto Rico, including groups of the Puerto Rican Episcopal Church and the Metropolitan Community Church. In the United States, presentations were conducted during the General Synod of the UCC, the COREM Convocation 2005, the National Gathering of the Coalition for LGBT Concerns of the UCC, and two separate yearly gatherings of the National Association of Catholic Diocesan Lesbian and Gay Ministries. Additionally, two presentations were conducted in nonreligious settings. These gatherings included the San Francisco chapter of the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and La Raza Cultural Days, a program sponsored jointly by the local chapter of the Latino Sigma Lambda Beta International fraternity and the Chicana/o Latina/ o Community Office of the University of California Davis Cross-Cultural Center. The basic format of the Agap Program is a 1.5-hour workshop based on a flexible script. In religious settings, the workshop featured a discussion of biblical readings concerning inclusiveness, the search for wisdom and understanding, and the all-inclusive love as described by Paul (biblical New Testament author) using the Greek word agap. In addition, two internationally screened award-winning documentary films were shown and discussed as part of the Agap Program. Each film was approximately 30 minutes in length and directly addressed LGB identity and family relation issues through a particular cultural lens. The documentary Straight from the Heart (Woman Vision, 1993) was presented to primarily Anglo-Europeans while De Colores (EyeBite Productions, 2001) was chosen for primarily Latina/ o groups (see Appendix A). These films have been effective in reaching audiences on a visceral level. For many participants, these films empower the viewers to consider their fears as applied to LGB individuals and draw the viewers away from generalizations, abstractions, and stereotypes about LGB people. The Agap Program included an introduction, video screening, discussion, and completion of measures. On religious settings, the introduction includes a prayer and biblical reflection. The biblical reflections included passages from John 4, Matthew 22, and John 13, which address the themes of the Samaritan Woman and Jesus Story, wisdom and discernment, and the

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Greatest Commandment, respectively. The introduction and biblical reflections were followed by the video screening (Straight from the Heart or De Colores). After watching the video, participants were given the opportunity to discuss their thoughts and feelings, first in pairs and later with the entire group. After approximately 20 minutes of discussion, participants are lead through an activity called Look for browns, remember reds . . . As part of the activity, the facilitator asks participants to look around the room and notice everything in the room that is brown. Then participants are asked to close their eyes and with their eyes still closed name (to themselves) everything in the room that is red, then blue, then yellow. The participants then are asked to open their eyes and notice if they have missed any of the items in the room that were red, blue, or yellow. The activity is then discussed and as part of the discussion the facilitator states:
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Youve heard the saying, what you see is what you get? What we focus in on is what we see, what we experience, and what we get. So, when you looked around the room, focusing only on brown, you tend to miss all the other colors. It did not mean they werent hereyou just didnt see them. So, sometimes when we focus in only on one specific aspect about other people, then that is all we end up seeing and experiencing, even though everything else is still therewe are just not seeing it. We all have filters that we look at other people through. What we can do is become aware of what our focus is, where we are putting our attention, and what experience it is giving us.

At the end, the facilitator reviews previous discussions and asks participants to share their thoughts on the following questions: What parts of the video touched you the most and why? Who did you identify the most with? and What lessons can be shared with your church, family, friends or community? Finally, participants are asked to complete the evaluation measures.

RESULTS Sample Characteristics

The sample included 122 participants. The sample was rather evenly distributed between females (53%) and males (47%). Less than 1% identified as transgender. Thirty-three percent (33%) were between the ages 18 and 25; 7% were between 26 and 35; 21% were between 36 and 45; 19% were between 46 and 55; 10% were between 56 and 65; and 12% were 66 or above. Participants were predominantly Hispanic (50%), followed by White (43%), multiracial (4%), Asian (3%), and Native American (1%). Participants were mostly heterosexual (55%), followed by gay (25%),


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lesbian (11%), bisexual (6%), and queer (3%). Participants classified their political ideology as liberal (60%), moderate (31%), or conservative (9%). Participants identified their religious affiliation as Christian (84%), other (7%), none (6%), Jewish (2%), or Muslim (<1%).

Pearson product moment correlations were conducted on variables of interest (see Appendix B). Data analysis revealed that age (r = .27; p = .002) and political ideology (r = .32; p < .001) were negatively associated with homophobia. However, the trend was statistically significant for females only (age r = .35; p = .005; political ideology r = .49; p < .001). Homophobia was also negatively correlated with political ideology (r = .33; p = .017) among White participants, but not among minority participants. Finally, homophobia was negatively associated with age (p =.001) and political ideology (p = .040) among straight identified participants, but not among gays, lesbians, bisexuals, or queers. Additional analysis of the data by subcategories shows significant negative correlation between homophobia and political ideology among the following groups: Hispanic female participants (N = 27; p = .026); straight female participants (N = 44; p < .001); straight Hispanic participants (N = 26; p < .001); straight White female participants (N = 17; p = .048); non-straight Hispanic male participants (N = 18; p = .017); and non-straight Hispanic female participants (N = 22; p = .001). Furthermore, a significant negative correlation was found between homophobia and age (N = 44; p = .010) among straight female participants.

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Participants Appraisal of the Program Results

In terms of participants perceptions of the effectiveness of the workshop, 85% of the participants responded that they found the workshop to be very useful or useful. Furthermore, 95% of the participants indicated that they would recommend a similar presentation to others. The response to the qualitative questions of this instrument revealed trends that most of the participants shared. Of particular interest were the consistent responses for the need to have more dialogue. Some of the other steady positive responses were (a) the enjoyment of the documentary film as the tool to begin the conversation; (b) the cultural focus of the dialogue; and (c) the effectiveness of the Look for browns, remember reds exercise. Many responses from the participants were related to the issue of identity and its intersection with religion, culture, and homosexuality. Examples of written responses include the following:
Favorite part: The cultural focushow people can be of their cultures and gaynot separate identities.



I felt affirmation of the way I look at the world. One of the things I think is pertinent is that there is a difference in families culturally. Perhaps an additional issue is that some cultures dont value family as much and dont care to work toward acceptance and love. The clergy helped to weave these stories with scripture that to each of us proclaiming the new covenant of Christs message to love as God loves all of usunconditionally. Have a bit more theology.

Examples of written comments translated from original Spanish responses include:

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It served to create more consciousness within myself about how difficult it is for this group to be who they are. It helped to make us aware of many of our realities. The film made me see the importance in Latino families about that they should bring unconditionally to sons and daughters who are gay. It made us think and auto-evaluate to become good allies. It made me reflect about how much I still have to go to become a true ally. The documentary is very pertinent to our cultural reality and it includes a variety of Latino voices. It presents the LGBT situation in a real way and with hope.

Many mainstream Christian denominations are facing a serious struggle on how to best approach the treatment of openly self-identified homosexual congregants. Some denominations are facing the possibility of division, and some local congregations have disaffiliated (or been forcibly removed) from national denominations that disagree with their theological approach on the issue. When Latina/os face the same concerns, the layers of complexity appear more complicated, as cultural elements add an additional level of intricacy regarding gay, lesbian, and bisexual congregants. Latinos comprise about 14% of the U.S. population and are the fastest growing minority group. Furthermore, many reports indicate that Latina/os self-identify as Christians more than other groups living in this country.


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Even those who are not actively involved in the practice of Christianity live under the influence that Catholicism has had on so many elements of the culture. Traditional elements of Catholicism such as machismo and family values are prominent in todays Latina/o culture. These elements can create serious conflicts in their relation to identity development and societal attitudes towards homosexuality. Very little quantitative or qualitative data exist about this Latino growing population as far as the intersection of religiosity, cultural identity, and attitudes towards homosexuality. The intervention described in this study was designed to understand both quantitative and qualitative data about this largely ignored population. The study population consisted of 50% Latina/os, which was the primary target audience; 43% self-identified as European American/White. About a third of the participants were between the ages of 15 and 25 years old. Over half of the participants (55%) self-identified as straight/heterosexual and their political ideology was distributed as 9% conservative, 31% moderate and 60% liberal. The great majority of the participants (84%) identified as Christians. Pearson product correlation analysis revealed that age (p = .002) and political ideology (p = .001) were related negatively to homophobia. In other words, homophobia was lower among individuals who were either younger or who described themselves as liberals. When taking into consideration gender, the analysis of the data showed that homophobia was negatively correlated with age (r = 27; p = .005) and political ideology (r = .32; p < .001) among female participants, but not among male participants. Consequently, among female participants higher rates of homophobia was associated with being older or conservative, but the same was not true among male participants. These findings could be surprising and intriguing at first glance. However, based on these results it could be hypothesized that machismo in the Latino cultures is a principle that is traditionally ingrained and imbedded by the female anchor of the family structure. In other words, it is the mother who teaches the male son not to cry, not to do female chores, not to act like a woman, among other traditional traits of machismo. It could be hypothesized that the deep roots of machismo are passed on to the new generations by the teachings of the female mother figure, which carries the core values of cultural principles. If this theory is correct, our findings correlating higher homophobia associated with being older or conservative females and not males, would provide some explanation for the discrepancy based on gender. Possibly, as the mother feels the duty of passing on the traditions and moral principles of society (which, for most, would include machismo principles), Latina females feel a pressure to teach and educate their children on what they have learned from the previous generations. Furthermore, analysis by race and ethnicity indicated that homophobia was negatively correlated to political ideology (r = .33; p = .017) among White participants, but not among participants of other races or ethnicity (r = .21; p > .05).

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When taking into consideration sexual orientation, analysis of the data demonstrated that for straight participants, age (p=.001) and political ideology (p =.040) were negatively correlated with homophobia, whereas such association was not significant among gay, lesbians, bisexuals, and queers. Therefore, even though age and political ideology are associated with homophobia among straight participants, such factors were not associated with homophobia among non-straight participants. In other words, non-straight participants were less homophobic regardless of age or political ideology. When the data is analyzed under specific subcategories including sexual orientation, race, and gender, an interesting picture develops. Listed in order of significance based on Pearson product correlations, the following were significantly negatively correlated to homophobia: liberal political ideology among straight Latina/o participants (N = 26; p = .001); liberal political ideology among straight female participants (N = 44; p = .001); liberal political ideology among straight Latina female participants (N = 22; p =.001); age among straight female participants (N = 44; p = .010); liberal political ideology among non-straight Latino male participants (N = 18; p = .017); and liberal political ideology among straight White female participants (N = 17; p =.048). The data demonstrates that among the variables analyzed, liberal political ideology is the most common factor negatively correlated to homophobia. In other words, considering oneself as a liberal is the strongest predictor for a lower score on the homophobia scale. The most revealing aspects of the complexity of the intersection of religiosity, Latino culture, and homosexuality were shown in the qualitative data obtained from the participants appraisal of the program instrument. Religiosity plays a central role in identity; in the Latino community this role is predominantly based on the Christian religion. It is the opinion of the authors that within a Christian context, Catholicism seems to play an even more critical role, as it significantly influences culture, even for non-religious individuals. The elements of Catholicism and machismo, separately and/or together, mold the identity of Latinos to a critical level, especially when it relates to individual attitudes towards homosexuality. Discussions and group sharing following the program clearly showed the layers of complexity individuals experience in their identity when it comes to the intersections of Christian principles, culture, and attitudes toward homosexuality. Comments such as, Favorite part: The cultural focushow people can be of their cultures and gaynot separate identities show how the dual identity of homosexual and Latino can be experienced together, even though many in the community see them as separate. When a participant expresses, It helped to make us aware of many of our realities, the implication stands that awareness of the intersection of homosexual identity and culture is often lacking. The same can be said about the statement, It made me reflect about how much I still have to go to become a true ally.

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In general, the comments (both written and oral) and discussion following the Agap Program delineated the various layers of the struggle in forming identity from realities that have been perceived as conflicted. The historically strong stands against homosexuality from Christian churches as well as the many principles underlining machismo have guided many into an identity of homophobia. As the community experiences a new way of Christianity, some of these principles are challenged, and the religious foundation of identity could be placed into question. The dialogues started by this program provided much information about how religiosity and culture play a complex role in identity formation and attitudes towards homosexuality in the Latino community.

The primary goal of the intervention was to start a dialogue among participants with an emphasis on issues related to homosexuality from a Latino Christian cultural perspective. The showing of a documentary film was selected as a tool for opening up feelings, emotions, and thoughts that some participants may have otherwise had difficulty sharing. The dialogue that followed the majority of the presentations as well as the comments collected in the appraisal of program form showed that this goal was attained and that this community is in critical need of commencing and/or continuing this dialogue. The fact that 85% of the participants responded that they found the workshop to be very useful or useful and that 95% of the participants indicated that they would recommend a similar presentation to others is consistent with the analysis that this type of dialogue is needed in this community. Traditionally, Latina/os have been perceived as uniquely homophobic, with the stereotype of machismo commonly cited as one of the key cultural elements. The strong roots of Catholicism and Christianity in general in the identity development as a Latina/o also play a significant role in adult attitudes toward homosexuality. The responses from participants indicate that many in the community are prepared to commence a dialogue that can break down some of these homophobic foundations, even if such a dialogue is challenging. In conclusion, religious and cultural factors that drive individuals toward homophobic behavior do not need to be perceived as static; this program provides a possible tool for commencing dialogues that could lead to change. Understanding the uniqueness of the Latino community will allow for a more efficient and culturally appropriate means for reaching a target audience and for effective interventions. The convergence of religious beliefs with the cultural realities and practices characteristic of this community represent an area of much needed research and intervention. Further studies of the Latino community that describe qualitative aspects of how religiosity plays a central role in both identity and homophobic tendencies are of critical need.
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De Colores (EyeBite Productions, 2001) is a bilingual, 28-minute documentary about how Latina/o families are replacing the deep roots of homophobia with the even deeper roots of love and tolerance. Through moving personal stories, one learns about how Latina/o families are breaking cultural barriers and how love always prevails.


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Straight from the Heart

Straight from the Heart (Woman Vision, 1993) explores parents journeys to a new understanding of their lesbian and gay children by presenting simple stories about real people: a police chief who talks about how proud he is of his lesbian daughter; a Mormon couple whose son is believed to be the first gay man in Idaho to have died from AIDS; and a Black woman and her two lesbian daughters who had been accused of catching their lesbianism from White people. This video portrays prejudice against gays and lesbians as a form of bigotry inseparable from other manifestations of prejudice, particularly racism.


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TABLE Pearson product moment correlations of homophobia with age and political ideology Age Total Gender Male Female Race White Nonwhite
* p .05. ** p .001.

p 0.002 0.059 0.005 0.648 0.185

n 122 57 64 52 69

Political ideology 0.32** 0.02 0.49** 0.33* 0.21

p <.001 0.916 <.001 0.017 0.105

n 115 53 61 51 63

0.27* 0.25 0.35* 0.07 0.16