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Dying to Be Normal: Gay Martyrs and the Transformation of American Sexual Politics

Krutzsch, Brett

Through an examination of publicly mourned gay deaths in America, Brett Krutzsch counters the common perception that LGBT politics and religion have been oppositional to one another. Dying to Be Normal reveals how gay activists have used religion to bolster the argument that gays are essentially the same as straights, and therefore deserving of equal rights. Krutzsch’s analysis turns to the memorialization of Matthew Shepard, Harvey Milk, Tyler Clementi, Brandon Teena, and F. C. Martinez, as well as to campaigns like the It Gets Better Project and national tragedies like the Pulse nightclub shooting to illustrate how activists used specific deaths to win acceptance, influence political debates over LGBT rights, and encourage assimilation. Throughout, Krutzsch shows how, in the fight for greater social inclusion, activists relied on Christian values and rhetoric to portray gays as upstanding Americans. As Krutzsch demonstrates, gay activists regularly reinforced a white Protestant vision of acceptable American citizenship that often excluded people of color, gender-variant individuals, non-Christians, and those who did not adhere to Protestant Christianity’s sexual standards. The first book to detail how martyrdom has influenced national debates over LGBT rights, Dying to Be Normal establishes how religion has shaped gay assimilation in the United States and the mainstreaming of particular gays as “normal” Americans.