Church Space as Queer Place? LGBTQ+ Placemaking, Assimilation, and Subversion within Progressive Faith-Based Spaces in Maine
Year of Graduation
Level of Access
Open Access Thesis
Department or Program
In popular discourse, understandings of queerness and religiosity as antithetical proliferate. However, the political involvement of Portland, Maine’s First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church in Maine’s queer political movement points to a more complex relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and progressive religious institutions. Through participant observation, archival research, and semi-structured interviews with nine LGBTQ+ community members and informants, I reveal the crucial role of Portland’s First Parish Unitarian-Universalist Church in Maine’s queer political movement from the late 1980s into the present day. On the one hand, progressive faith-based spaces across Maine provide safe spaces for queer political organizing. On the other hand, “ephemeral placemaking” in progressive faith-based spaces represents an assimilationist political strategy that stresses LGBTQ+ respectability. Thus, I argue that queer placemaking in progressive faith-based spaces reflects both subversive and assimilationist politics. LGBTQ+ activists utilize ephemeral placemaking strategies within progressive faith-based spaces to challenge political opposition from the religious Right while also reinforcing what Mikulak (2019) terms “godly homonormativity”: the normalization of LGBTQ+ identity and the upholding of heteronormativity by emphasizing respectability and monogamy. My analysis of queer political organizing within progressive faith-based spaces “queers” religion and LGBTQ+ politics, disrupting dominant narratives of religion as homophobic and LGBTQ+ politics as radical.
Gender and Sexuality Commons, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies Commons, Place and Environment Commons, Politics and Social Change Commons, Sociology of Religion Commons