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"We are God's Children, Y'All:" Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Lesbian- and Gay-Affirming Congregations

Krista McQueeney
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/sp.2009.56.1.151 151-173 First published online: 1 February 2009

Abstract

This article examines how lesbian, gay, and straight-but-affirming members of lesbian- and gay-affirming churches in the South challenged a deep-rooted Christian belief in homosexual sin. Data are taken from 200 hours of participant observation and 25 in-depth interviews in two Protestant churches: one predominantly black, working class, lesbian, and evangelical, and the other mostly white, middle class, heterosexual, and liberal. I identify three strategies lesbian, gay, and straight-but-affirming church members used to accommodate—but not assimilate—to heteronormative conceptions of the "good Christian." First, some black lesbians minimized their sexuality as secondary to the Christian identity. Second, most lesbian and gay members—both black and white—normalized their sexuality by enacting Christian morals of monogamy, manhood, and motherhood. Third, a small group of black lesbian/gay and white, straight-but-affirming members moralized their sexuality as grounds for challenging homophobia in the church. Using these strategies, church members both resisted notions of homosexual sin and reproduced a "politics of respectability" (Warner 1999) among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Findings shed empirical light on two issues in the social problems literature: (1) the inseparability of race and gender from sexual identity; and (2) the importance of an intersectional analysis in assessing the possibilities of faith-based strategies for sexual equality.

  • identity
  • intersectionality
  • religion
  • sexuality
  • heteronormativity

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