Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Title

Place, Race, and Religion in the Local Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Movement of Memphis, Tennessee

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies

First Advisor

Jaime Harker

Second Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Third Advisor

Zandria Robinson

Abstract

This study observes the role of place in the local LGBT community and movement of Memphis, Tennessee. I gathered information from fifteen interviews, including LGBT Memphians, activists, preachers, and public figures to show what aspects of place have been the most significant in shaping the nature of the local movement, which has been growing since the early 2000s. I suggest that the conservatism, race, and religiosity of Memphis have played the most significant role. The first chapter demonstrates how LGBTs operate within a city that maintains pockets of openness, but remains largely LGBT-unfriendly according to interviewees. The second chapter observes the role of race and Memphis' history of racial division and how those factors influence the African American LGBT community and LGBT community as a whole. The final chapter demonstrates the intersections of activism and conservatism with regard to church involvement in the local movement. I show that place shapes the identity negotiations LGBT Memphians make in their daily lives, their political interests, and the movement's goals and strategies. I also demonstrate that racial division continues to plague Memphis and also divides the LGBT community, as LGBT issues live differently in black and white communities. Finally, I show how LGBT friendly churches in Memphis have functioned as a force of social change within the local movement, alleviating racial division, supporting the LGBT community, and helping to spread a Christian message of equality.

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