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Table of Contents
                            Dissertation Title Page
Abstract DEPOSIT
Acknowledgements DEPOSIT
TOC Dissertation DEPOSIT
chapters for deposit.pdf
	Chapter 2 Methodology FINAL DEPOSIT
	Chapter 3 BSD Final DEPOSIT
	Chapter 4 Between Women Final DEPOSIT
	Conclusion Chapter FINAL DEPOSIT
	Bibliography DEPOSIT
Document Text Contents
Page 1





Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English

in the Graduate College of the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2015

Urbana, Illinois

Doctoral Committee:

Associate Professor Peter L. Mortensen, Chair
Professor Emeritus Gail E. Hawisher
Associate Professor Richard T. Rodríguez
Assistant Professor Kate Vieira, University of Wisconsin at Madison

Page 2



In a meeting of Between Women, an LGBTQ support and discussion group at Centerville

University, one of the participants said, “I’m here in order to get the words together.” This

statement perfectly illustrates the imperative at the heart of this dissertation: people’s need to

learn literacy and rhetorical practices that equip them to take decisive action in debates and

discussions surrounding sexuality. While scholars in writing studies have long been interested in

studies of everyday literacy and rhetoric in a range of extra-institutional sites (e.g., Gere), and

recent scholarship has illustrated sexuality’s central role in shaping what it means to be literate in

a democratic society (e.g., Alexander, Alexander and Rhodes, Wallace), little research brings the

two together at present. In combining these threads of scholarship, I examine how LGBTQ

people develop a sense of "sexual literacy" (Alexander, Literacy, Sexuality, Pedagogy), defined

as the ways in which we learn to talk about and understand sexuality, in extra-curricular sites of

rhetorical education, or what I call the “queer extracurriculum.” My dissertation traces the

intricate connections between the processes, materials, and sites by which LGBTQ people

develop materially consequential literacy and rhetorical practices through two qualitative case

studies. In these sites—a support/discussion group and a community workshop—I focus on the

rhetorical education essential to living in the world as an LGBTQ person, terming this set of

informal pedagogical practices “the curriculum of coming out.”

In such sites, I argue that my research participants come to see that LGBTQ oppression is

not natural or inherent in laws, in cultural beliefs, in religious or medical texts, or in popular

culture representations. Rather, justifications for oppression and discrimination are located in

language, in particular rhetorical strategies, and in the ways they are mobilized. In these sites,

Page 74

scholars in our field are actively working against, but an actual breaking down of important

identity categories (“male and female,” for example). Similarly, she references a passage in Acts

8:26-40 where an Ethiopian eunuch asks Philip, “what is to prevent me from being baptized?”

and Philip replies, “nothing” and baptizes him2. She believes this passage can be particularly

affirming for trans people because one of the most meaningful rituals in Christianity—an

initiation into a community of faith—is open to everyone, regardless of gender identity (or, by

extension, sexual orientation).

In moving away from constructing arguments for defense, this queer reading strategy

authorizes multiple interpretations of biblical passages that challenge unquestioned textual

authority. Pastor Miller-Smith doesn’t argue that you can say the text means absolutely anything

you want it to, but that there is a way to read it historically, to look at its authorship and the

factors affecting translation, all of which open up a wide territory for interpretation. Her queer

biblical literacy practices illustrate that there is more than one way to ground arguments, more

than one possible interpretation. Unlike those who would use the Bible to offer interpretations

that foreclose those possibilities against LGBTQ people, her strategies open up interpretive

possibilities. This strategy facilitates a vision of LGBTQ people as full and equal members of

Christian communities, not as people who should either be fully excluded for engaging in

“abominations” or partially excluded because of a “love the sinner, hate the sin3” philosophy, but

2 Philips’ reply of “nothing” is Pastor Miller-Smith’s narration/interpretation of this passage. The
actual text reads, “As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch
said, ‘look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?’ He commanded the
chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down to the water, and Philip
baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38).
3 Scholars have pointed out that this philosophy is an attempt to reduce accusations of hate: “In
response to the charge that they are hate-filled bigots, many antigays strive to project an image of
moderation and political centerism. For example, antigays attempt to establish a benign public
image by playing on the notion of loving the sinner but hating the sin” (Smith and Windes 34).


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as people who can challenge seemingly fixed categories of identity that uphold and underpin

traditional Christian views of family, sexuality, marriage, and gender roles.

Exclusions of the Queer Religious Curriculum

A number of organizations that work to counter anti-gay religious rhetorics through

similar tactics have been critiqued for being complicit with evangelical rhetoric because their

rhetorical approaches reduce the range of possibilities for LGBTQ identity formation. Karma R.

Chávez’s work on Soulforce, a large organization dedicated to countering anti-gay religious

rhetoric through nonviolent resistance, shows how they rely primarily on essentialist

understandings of LGBTQ identity to counter anti-gay religious rhetorics, therefore allowing

“evangelicals to set the parameters for discussions on sexuality” (255). In doing so, Soulforce is

not “representative of the experiences of many people it purports to represent” (258). Chavez

herself was interested in their initiatives because, despite her membership in the organization,

she didn’t see herself in the narrative they created. Her scholarship works to revise their script

“by both being part of the struggle and finding ways for Soulforce to be more representative of

people like me” (258). By accepting the choice/non-choice binary, where LGBTQ identity is

either a psychological/biological phenomenon determined by nature (non-choice) or a cultural

phenomenon determined by nurture (choice), Soulforce limits the range of LGBTQ experience in

a way that is complicit with harmful evangelical rhetoric. Subsequent scholarship has illustrated

the ways that Soulforce’s later initiatives present more rhetorically complex visions of sexual

identity (e.g., Spencer and Barnett), but many initiatives across the country still rely on an

uncritical celebration of a “natural” LGBTQ identity.


Page 148

Sullivan, Nikki. A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory. New York, NY: New York University

Press, 2003. Print.

“The Global Divide on Homosexuality.” Pew Research Global Attitudes Project. N.p., n.d. Print.

University of Illinois Counseling Center. “Coming Out.” 2000: n. pag. Print.

Vander Lei, Elizabeth. “Coming to Terms with Religious Faith in the Composition Classroom:

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Warner, Michael. The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life.

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Webb, Patricia. “Technologies of Difference: Reading the Virtual Age through Sexual

(in)Difference.” Computers and Composition 20.2 (2003): 151-167. Print.

West, Mona. “Reading the Bible as Queer Americans: Social Location and the Hebrew

Scriptures.” Theology and Sexuality 5.10 (1999): 28–42. Print.

Weston, Kath. Long Slow Burn: Sexuality and Social Science. New York, NY: Routledge, 1998.



Page 149

Whisman, Vera. Queer by Choice: Lesbians, Gay Men, and the Politics of Identity. New York,

NY: Routledge, 1996. Print.

Wong, Andrew. “Coming-Out Stories and the ‘Gay Imaginary.’” Sociolinguistic Studies 3.1

(2009): 1–36. Print.

Woodland, Randal. “‘I Plan to Be a 10’: Online Literacy and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and

Transgender Students.” Computers and Composition 16 (1999): 73–87. Print.

Would Jesus Discriminate? N.p. N.d. Web. 15 May 2014.

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Multiple Media of Texts: How Onscreen and Paper Texts

Incorporate Words, Images, and Other Media.” What Writing Does and How It Does It: An

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