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, 64 (2), 166-194

Petitioning for Social Change: Letters to Religious Leaders From Gay Men and Their Family Allies

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Petitioning for Social Change: Letters to Religious Leaders From Gay Men and Their Family Allies

Chana Etengoff. J Homosex.

Abstract

Coming out is often described as challenging, especially for individuals from conservative religious communities (Etengoff, 2013). In an effort to explore how these sociocultural conflicts are mediated, gay men (n = 16) and their family allies (n = 9) from Christian and Jewish communities wrote letters to religious leaders regarding current sexual minority policies and whether they should change or remain the same. Petitioning tasks were selected as letters can shift author-audience relations to allow for non-normative and unscripted expressions (Daiute & Lightfoot, 2004). Sixteen of the 25 participants addressed their letters to a specific religious figure, illustrating the sociorelational applicability of the task. Ninety-three problems and 75 solutions were discussed, supporting prior discussions of petitioning tasks as a form of living history and conflict mediation (Daiute, 2010). Moreover, 20 of the 25 participants wrote about humanization needs (e.g., "We are not freaks at a freak show"), providing new conceptual structures for participatory research efforts, policy initiatives, and clinical applications.

Keywords: Development; family; gay; narrative; petitions; religion; sociocultural.

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