Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Southern Studies


Southern Studies

First Advisor

Darren Grem

Second Advisor

Simone Delerme

Third Advisor

Kathryn McKee

Relational Format



This thesis addresses the double-marginalization of white queers living in Bible Belt communities by examining the symbolic annihilation of queer identities in country music. Bible Belt queers face unique obstacles and have different needs than queer communities elsewhere due to the cultural context of their communities. The urban-centric (“metronormative”) standards of queer identity and visibility presented in the media do not translate to their lived experiences. Moreover, while white, non-urban southerners possess a source of popular-media expression through country music, queer identities are noticeably absent. The invisibility of Bible Belt queers in the media perpetuates a cycle of hostility and sexual stigma that negatively affects queer individuals, most notably those living in the American South. I argue that, due to the socializing function of media representations, an openly queer country artist could be a powerful vehicle for negotiating -- or perhaps changing -- the social atmosphere of sexual stigma in the Bible Belt. However, the value systems that propagate sexual stigma and hostility towards queerness are also replicated in country music. Using questionnaires and secondary literature, I examine such value systems and the experiences of queer individuals in the country music industry and contextualize the production-content-audience chain, thereby revealing possible points of intervention for successfully introducing queer expressions. The results of this thesis confirm the prevalence of sexual stigma in the region and genre and the potential benefits of an openly queer country artist.



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