Publication Date



During a Spring 2012 visit to a university nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, my hosts introduced me to an openly gay Episcopalian priest active in a variety of local progressive causes, including gay rights issues. While enjoying a buffet luncheon of Indian food, I learned that Father “Joe” (all the names are changed) had lived many years in Central Kentucky and we knew several people in common. After a run-through of our personal connections, Father Joe shared other tidbits of his life story, including that he had not been raised Episcopalian. He explained, “I grew up in a fundamentalist family who were Pentecostals, and for a time I tried to pray the gay away. I was an ex-gay leader with Exodus International.” Father Joe’s journey from conservative Christian to ex-gay spokesperson to out clergy echoed many of the stories I share in my book Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays which draws on ethnographic observations and interviews with 59 lesbians and gay men from the region to explore what it means to be a Bible Belt gay.