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Although this kind of testifying is relatively commonplace in the Bible Belt, I had never before encountered a stranger who felt entitled to judge me as sinful, and tell me so, based on my sexual orientation.

I grew up in Massachusetts in a politically progressive family and was unaccustomed to this kind of interaction. So, even though I had lived in Kentucky for 11 years by this point, I had not experienced much homophobia.

Pray the gay away : the extraordinary lives of Bible belt gays

My experience as a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, surrounded largely by lesbians, led me to believe that this sort of homophobia had ended. I was both surprised and troubled by this encounter—the abomination incident—in Shortly thereafter began the presidential election season with an anti-gay marriage amendment on the Kentucky ballot.

At this point, the homophobic discourse in the public sphere amped up considerably.


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Marrying a same-sex partner was compared to marrying a dog, horse, child and cousin. Homosexuality was constructed as polluting and contagious.

Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays

Since I had found my relatively small encounters with stranger homophobia so disturbing, I began to wonder how such attitudes affected gay people who grew up in the region. Sign In or Create an Account.

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Interview with Bernadette Barton, author of Pray the Gay Away - From The Square

Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind.


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  8. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men can still be fired from some places of employment in many regions of the Bible Belt for being a homosexual. In Pray the Gay Away , Bernadette Barton argues that conventions of small town life, rules which govern Southern manners, and the power wielded by Christian institutions serve as a foundation for both passive and active homophobia in the Bible Belt.

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    She explores how conservative Christian ideology reproduces homophobic attitudes and shares how Bible Belt gays negotiate these attitudes in their daily lives. Drawing on the remarkable stories of Bible Belt gays, Barton brings to the fore their thoughts, experiences and hard-won insights to explore the front lines of our national culture war over marriage, family, hate crimes, and equal rights. Pray the Gay Away illuminates their lives as both foot soldiers and casualties in the battle for gay rights.

    Pray the gay away : the extraordinary lives of Bible belt gays