Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays [NOOK Book]

Overview

In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. Not only do most Bible Belt gays lack domestic partner benefits, lesbians and gay men ...
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Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays

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Overview

In the Bible Belt, it’s common to see bumper stickers that claim One Man + One Woman = Marriage, church billboards that command one to “Get right with Jesus,” letters to the editor comparing gay marriage to marrying one’s dog, and nightly news about homophobic attacks from the Family Foundation. While some areas of the Unites States have made tremendous progress in securing rights for gay people, Bible Belt states lag behind. 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. 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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Barton, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Morehead State University, explores the toll of homophobia on the lives of Bible Belt gays, and the ways in which they respond to that adversity. Describing the Bible Belt as a region of “compulsory Christianity,” Barton (Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers) argues that the influence of Christian institutions on secular life creates “a foundation for passive and active homophobia.” Barton draws on a trove of ethnographic data, including in-depth interviews with Bible Belt gays, visits to the Creation Museum and a local megachurch, attendance at an Exodus International conference for ex-gays, and her own experiences as an openly lesbian professor. Interview subjects share wrenching stories of being disowned by their families, and the immeasurable harm caused by attempts to reconcile identities as good, moral Christians with the unchangeable fact of their sexuality. As Barton notes, gay youth are overrepresented among homeless youth and at high risk of suicide. Though Barton documents numerous cases of religious-based abuse, she is tolerant of conservative Christians—“mostly nice people intent on doing good even if our definition of what that meant differed.” Although many of her subjects felt abandoned by their religion, others discovered that adversity strengthened their understanding of faith, God, and spirituality. (Nov.)
From the Publisher
"[The author] draws on a trove of ethnographic data, including in-depth interviews with Bible Belt gays, visits to the Creation Museum and a local megachurch, attendance at an Exodus International conference for ex-gays, and her own experiences as an openly lesbian professor... Though Barton documents numerous cases of religious-based abuse, she is tolerant of conservative Christians."-Publishers Weekly,

"The author’s tales of gay life in this area of the country, where anti-gay evangelical Protestantism holds sway, range from the harrowing to the mundane...[The book is] worthwhile reading for anyone interested in what it means to be gay in an overtly hostile environment."-Kirkus Reviews,

“Bernadette Barton takes us on a vivid inside tour of Bible Belt America that us privileged gay folks from more liberal parts of the U.S. have a hard time imagining or even knew existed. The stories she tells are riveting, heartbreaking, infuriating, yet ultimately uplifting.”-Eric Marcus,author of Making Gay History

"Very much worth reading, and at times moving, the book indicts the conservative wing of Christianity for promoting cruelty and intolerance."-Library Journal,

"I highly recommend Pray the Gay Away to anyone with an interest in contemporary queer experience, in Bible Belt Christianity, and the intersection of the two. I’d go so far as to say it’s required reading for anyone who cares about what it means to be gay in America today. Whether or not you’ve ever lived in the 'toxic closet' yourself, too many of our fellow citizens still wake up there every morning. We owe it to them to listen to the stories they have so generously shared."-Anna J. Cook,The Feminist Librarian

Library Journal
Barton's (sociology & women's studies, Morehead State Univ.) title refers to the fact that many Southern Christians believe that gayness will go away if one prays for that to happen. She explains that social and religious conservatism holds sway in much of the American South. Christian churches there are often bible-literalist and fundamentalist, and preachers routinely excoriate gays as the "spawn of Satan." Gays frequently are disowned by their parents, spurned by siblings, and shunned or "disfellowshipped" by other church members. The widespread belief in the South is that the "gay lifestyle" is a free choice, and not genetically determined, and that people who "choose" to be gay are the most abominable of sinners. Barton herself is gay and lives in civil union (approved in Vermont) with her partner of many years. VERDICT This book can be very hard to read on an emotional level. Many of the gay Southerners the author interviewed communicate their deep sense of oppression, betrayal, and rejection by the very people they most love: parents, family members, and spiritual guides. Very much worth reading, and at times moving, the book indicts the conservative wing of Christianity for promoting cruelty and intolerance.—James F. DeRoche, Alexandria, VA
Kirkus Reviews
Barton (Sociology and Women's Studies/Morehead State Univ.; Stripped: Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers, 2006) examines the experiences of gay people living in the Bible Belt. The author's tales of gay life in this area of the country, where anti-gay evangelical Protestantism holds sway, range from the harrowing to the mundane. This is not a book about random anti-gay violence; the majority of Barton's subjects were treated more brutally by their own families than by strangers. The author opens by stating that although she has "lived in Kentucky for 20 years, 17 of these in lesbian relationships," she "had not personally experienced…much homophobia until a spring day in 2003" when, after she told someone that she was a lesbian, he characterized homosexuality as an "abomination." It is unclear what conclusions readers are meant to draw from this episode, which sounds far less traumatic than much of what her subjects experienced at the hands of their own parents. One thing is clear: Being gay is difficult anywhere, and it's especially difficult in a place dominated by conservative Christian ideology. Barton's subjects' painful stories of rejection by their families and communities, as well as the earnest desire of most to reconcile their personal identities with the faith in which they were raised, are eloquent enough to arouse the sympathy of even avowed opponents of gay rights. The most compelling parts of the book are the lengthy quotes from Barton's intelligent subjects. The author's own voice is less commanding and too littered with academic jargon. Engaging subject matter and sympathetic protagonists do not entirely compensate for Barton's ponderous prose, but the book is still worthwhile reading for anyone interested in what it means to be gay in an overtly hostile environment.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814724422
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/1/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 468,415
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author


Bernadette C. Barton is Assistant Professor of Sociology and Women's Studies at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: "In the Eyes of the Lord" 1

1 Welcome to the Bible Belt 23

2 "My Parents Disowned Me": Family Rejection 43

3 "God Would Tell on Me": Losing their Religion 62

4 "They Don't Know Who I Am": The Toxic Closet 87

5 "Going Straight": The Ex-Gay Movement 116

6 "Prepare to Believe": The Creation Museum 151

7 "The Opposite of Faith Is Fear": Destruction and Transformation 173

8 "God Can Love All of Me": Living the Life 200

9 What the Future Holds 225

Notes 239

References 257

Index 267

About the Author 273

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