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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Baby, you are my religion: The emergence of “theelogy” in pre -Stonewall butch -femme/gay women's bar culture and community
by Cartier, Marie, Ph.D., The Claremont Graduate University, 2010, 643; 3470498
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines mid-20th century pre-Stonewall American butch-femme bar culture in light of that community being a sacred community for many of its participants as it was "the only place," a phrase used by most of my informants, to describe the bar as the place that many of them could have any community at all in the contested period when homosexuals were still deemed mentally ill. It re-examines this community in light of this possible sacrality, and examines the bar as an ecclesiastical site and cements more firmly the idea that it was the birth site of the struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights, in contrast to the commonly held assumption that such rights began with the Stonewall Riots of the late 1969.

It proposes that this community was a possible site of a lived corporeal theology and political space where the beginnings of gay and lesbian civil rights were fomented. For instance, it demonstrates that religious institutions such the Metropolitan Community Church (M.C.C.) were founded in the actual bar itself, and that religious practices such as marriage were also conducted within the bar by bar personnel, i.e., the bartender. Both traditional religious activities and activities that I label "religious" because of their community functionality took place in the bars.

Included is a large scale, ethnographic qualitative study comprising interviews with over 102 informants, documenting informants' feelings and experiences in terms of living as homosexual prior to 1975 and documenting the community in a way that has not been done so before--namely through the lens of a possible sacrality.

Section One describes why the bar space was so important to butch-femme/gay women's culture pre-Stonewall and explores the notions of "space" versus "place." Section Two moves through each decade from the 1940's to the 1980's to construct this re-framed gaze on the queer history of gay women, lesbians and butch-femme and religion/community relationship. Section Three is a constructive theology especially created from this research, primarily the ethnographic testimonies of this culture, for which I have coined the term theelogy.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kassam, Zayn
School: The Claremont Graduate University
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy of religion, Womens studies, LGBTQ studies, Gender studies
Keywords: Bar culture, Butch-femme, Gay, Pre-Stonewall, Queer theory
Publication Number: 3470498
ISBN: 978-1-124-13402-4
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