Queer Mississippi (Complete Collection)

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Abbeville (Miss.)


Dr. Gail Stratton has served as a professor in the biology department at the University of Mississippi since 1996. As of the end of the spring semester in which this interview was conducted, she will have retired. Stratton participated in Oxford’s first Pride Parade in 1992. She helped found the North Mississippi PFLAG in 2004, and she serves as a minister for Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Oxford. Stratton lives in Oxford with her wife, retired biology instructor Pat Miller. In the interview, Stratton discusses her childhood in Los Alamos, NM, where her father worked as a physicist for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and her mother worked in medical records in a doctor’s office. Her most vivid memories involve spending time outdoors, riding horses, pursuing independent science projects (including one on spiders that would fuel her lifelong professional passion), and playing on the summer softball team. Stratton marvels at how the conversations around sexuality have changed during her lifetime. As she was coming to terms with her sexual orientation during undergraduate and graduate school, the conversation was very much in the closet. She knew of people she presumed to be gay while she pursued her undergraduate degree at Carleton College, but she didn’t have the experience of speaking openly about it until she joined a bible group for gay and lesbian individuals during graduate school. That group led her to a crisis that nearly destroyed her, but ultimately led her to choose a path of life and love. We then discussed her relationship with her wife, fellow arachnologist Pat Miller, whom she met while Miller was still married to a man--Gary Miller, also an arachnologist. After Pat and Gary divorced, Gary Miller continued to serve as the chair for the University of Mississippi’s biology department for some time, and he ultimately wrote the job for which Stratton was selected. Stratton discusses the social scene she entered upon moving to Oxford, a group of women centered around the former Meristem Bookstore in Memphis, TN. She discusses her eventual transition to the social network within the Oxford Unitarian Universalist Congregation.

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Additional files include: abstract, field notes, audio file. Transcript is available on request.


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