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Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  134 ratings  ·  26 reviews
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 securin ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by New York University Press (first published September 1st 2012)
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3.86  · 
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 ·  134 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Emma Sea
On the one hand, Barton gives us solid research, good writing - if firmly academic in style - and thick, rich data.

On the other hand, unrelenting misery to read. *head desk*

I thought this would have been improved by some discussion of Terror Management Theory. Fundamentalist Christians react so strongly to homosexuality because it threatens their internal cohesion as subjects. Admittedly, knowing that that doesn't help when you've been kicked out and disowned. Man, humans can really suck.

Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating book. It was not quite what I had expected; the presentation is much more scientific that I would have imagined. However, I do not intend that as a criticism. Rather, it gives the book added credibility. I found it very interesting to read about the psychological and cultural underpinnings of conservative Christianity's hatred of homosexuals and the struggles and triumphs of Bible Belt gays and lesbians in the face of culturally and politically sanctioned oppression. The a ...more
Zane Carey
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant touching book that really informed me, a new englander, the situation of Bible Belt gays. I haven't dealt with 90% of what happened in these books, and this inspires me to teach others the risk of spirituality vs. gay dilemma. Also, even though I am not gay, in my transgender life I have experienced the 'dont ask dont tell' situation and seeing this is words, articulated by someone else, makes me feel only more kinship to the lgbt+ community.
Apr 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book caught my eye when it came in on Interlibrary Loan. What must it be like to live in a microcosm in which everything from billboards to bumper stickers proclaim you are a filthy sinner who doesn't have the same rights as everyone else? Barton gives us a peek into the lives of gay people who live, work, and love in the American Bible Belt.

The section of the book I found most thought provoking was a devastating rebuke to the common homophobic rant, "I don't care what they do, but why do t
May 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This novel was very informative and taught me a lot about the lives of Bible Belt gays. I had read this class as part of an Introduction to LGBT Studies course in college and I found it to be super relevant to the discussions we had in class and the importance of the effects of Christianity on lesbian and gay folks. Although the work is now a little dated (it was written before the national legalization of gay marriage) it still contains plenty of insight on the lives of those living in the Bibl ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I grew up Pentecostal, so it was hard to read such an elegant breakdown of my childhood religious culture. The black and white mindset she describes is so on the nose. This book is a valuable tool for any progressive who really wants to understand WHY conservative Christians think the way they do. If you really want to change their hearts, you have to understand the way they live and think. Talking to them like a fellow progressive doesn’t work. I gave her four stars (4.5 if I could) because of ...more
Dec 26, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting but tough read. As someone born and raised in Kentucky, I was initially a bit embarrassed at the reactions of some of the people mentioned in this book--they definitely fit the "hillbilly" stereotype that people from Kentucky are often subject to. However, the book was honest; nothing written seemed made up or embellished to reinforce those stereotypes.

It also made me recognize some of my privilege. As a Black woman I am on the low end when it comes to privilege, but being a stra
Christina Miskey
Apr 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, read-it
This was a hard book to get through, mainly because of the depressing topic. I had to take several breaks. But I am glad to have read it. The author provides a well researched and thorough account of the experiences of Bible Belt gays, and I think it's an important read for those that are looking to understand the struggles those living in this area face. The author tries to present a logical and well reasoned discussion about conservative Christians, and approaches the topic both from a persona ...more
Tobey  Brock
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the first book I have read about being LGBT and comparing it with "The Bible Belt" way of thinking. The author does interviews with LGBT community members of ALL different ages...not just teens which I thought was good.
Mar 25, 2019 rated it did not like it
I wasn't going to review this on account of I didn't make it past the introduction, but you know, I think it bears saying.

I was hesitant to pick up this book because the cover said "The extraordinary lives of Bible Belt Gays" and the blurb talked exclusively of gays and lesbians, but there was a quote on the back from Scott Herring that called it "a wrenching appraisal of queer life in the Bible Belt." I'm not ashamed to admit I'm instantly suspicious of people who limit their acronym to the "LG
Barton, herself a lesbian living in the Bible Belt, has written an engaging, highly readable text that is compassionate both to queer folks and to those who would condemn them. She doesn’t demonize evangelicals or fundamentalists but instead attempts to explain the social and cultural ideas that undergird Christian homophobia. Barton extends Foucault’s idea of the prison panopticon to the Bible Belt, arguing that the ubiquity of Christian symbols and churches, ‘personalism’ (be polite, don’t off ...more
Stephen Cranney
Dec 16, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book had a lot of promise but ultimately was a little disappointing. It was an opportunity to take a nuanced look at the paradoxes and complexities facing Bible Belt gays, but ultimately the whole book could be boiled down to "look at how mean these people are." Occasionally there were signs that she was going to take the former approach (e.g. her point that her LGBT NYC friends overreacted when they thought that they would be physically assaulted in Kansas, or her citing the study that sho ...more
Candy Wood
Considering that part of the motivation for this sociological study was a homophobic comment by a neighbor, I’m impressed with the care Bernadette Barton takes to avoid demonizing evangelicals like that neighbor. Her interviews document the struggles of many gays and lesbians, mostly in Kentucky, to affirm their own identity in the atmosphere of hatred fostered by many churches. As a participant-observer, she explored the methods of the “ex-gay” movement and concludes that those methods are not ...more
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
I did quite enjoy this book, really. I opened it expecting it to be quite academic and found it to be so; I thus didn't find that disappointing (and was accustomed to it) but could understand why others would find it a bit duller than expected. I'll admit I wasn't all too impressed with her sampling method--the snowball survey, how many couples she chose, the spread of diversity--and wouldn't take much from it scientifically as a study, although I did enjoy the anecdotes and statistics. The scen ...more
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This books reads like it is a sociology book, which is not surprising given that the author is in fact a sociology professor. This is not at all a problem for me because I was a sociology minor and find that a large majority of non-fiction books that I enjoy belong in a similar category. I only mention it because the book is written in a more academic fashion than your casual reader might appreciate.

The content of the book is based on sociological research via interviews with a number of gays l
Miller Sherling
Jul 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
So interesting! I'd give it a 5 for topic and importance, a 3 for editing, so there's your average. Does good job moving between anecdotes and theory/analysis. Anecdote near end almost made me cry from recognizing this particular quality I love in Southerners, or maybe sometimes love. Did really good job articulating something I'm only just starting to understand from thinking hard about racism and white privilege, in which you see that white people make race, and their discomfort around it, the ...more
Apr 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I knew this would be an emotional read for me – and I was right. It stirred up all kinds of emotions – anger at the way some of the people were treated by their families and their churches, sorrow, fear, and sympathy, but it also gave me a sense that I am not alone in having been hurt by bad church environments and judgmental people. That made me feel some comfort. At other times, though, this book was very hard to read. It was very well researched and well-written, covering many different aspec ...more
Rebecca Herman
Jan 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
This was a good book, yet maddening and sad that some Christians are the way they are on this topic. I wish the author had reported more about the Christian churches out there that are welcoming and affirming of LGBT people. I'm happy to be a part of the United Church of Christ and the Alliance of Baptists, two types of churches that are open and affirming towards LGBT people. The book talks about the importance of hearing the personal stories of LGBT people and I believe that is true.
Liz De Coster
Dec 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lbgt, nonfiction
A good balance of theory of interviews, providing a very thorough look at the lives of queer men and women living in the "Bible Belt". Barton isn't totally impersonal, and provides enough context that the book doesn't feel voyeuristic despite the intensely personal content some of the interviewees share.
Embracing the Spectrum
Barton does a great job showcasing the lives of gays in the Bible Belt. The interviews are enlightening and her perspective is insightful. The book does seem to drag on toward the middle because it gets repetitive, but perhaps that's because what gays go through is consistent across the entire region.
Stephanie Hargett
This book helped me understand why some evangelical Christians can seem so hateful toward those who are different, and it also gave me a glimpse into just how different life is for someone who is considered an "Other." The text is sloppily edited in places, which can be distracting, but it is definitely worth reading.
Oct 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very good. This book contains many excerpts from insightful interviews, mostly with people from or living in Kentucky. I gained new insights about the ubiquitous nature of religion in Bible Belt areas and how it can affect people there.
Sarah Rosenberger
This look at homosexuality in relation to Bible Belt culture was interesting, and some of the personal quotes and anecdotes were eye-opening and horrifying, but I think it could have been better-written.
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent and illuminating read...
Jan 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was not expecting this book to be so scholarly. An academic look at a cross section of bible belt gays.
Mills College Library
306.76609 B2931 2012
Claudia Dana
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