Lesbian and Gay Life in the Queen City and Beyond: Resistance, Space, and Community Mobilization in the Southwest Missouri Ozarks
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Lesbian and gay life in southwest Missouri in the second half of the twentieth century was largely characterized by coalition building, the creation of shared identities, and the development of a myriad of tactics for everyday survival and political activism. This dissertation builds on recent midwestern and southern lesbian and gay scholarship outside of major cities by moving beyond the traditional narratives of homonormativity and metronormativity that place coastal metropoles like New York and San Francisco at the center of lesbian and gay politics and activism. Oftentimes, places like southwest Missouri have been glossed over or completely erased as potential centers of gay and lesbian community building and political activism. In order to combat such erasure, this dissertation is situated within a context where people travelled between the rural hinterland and semi-urban landscapes. While the New Christian Right had a stronghold in the “buckle of the biblebelt,” the region’s lesbian and gay population pushed back in several ways. They formed service organizations, created new ways to traverse the sexual landscape, and met outspoken critics of homosexuality with equally fiery resistance. Ultimately, I show how lesbians and gays in southwest Missouri developed a sense of belonging in the communities in which they lived in order to navigate complicated relationships in their lives, extreme loss during the AIDS crisis, and their engagement with an ongoing public debate over the morality of homosexuality.