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Barton's lecture aims to raise awareness for the struggles LGBTQ people endure in the Bible Belt.

STATESBORO — Bernadette Barton, professor of sociology and gender studies at Morehead State University, will present her lecture "Pray the Gay Away: The Extraordinary Lives of Bible Belt Gays" on Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at Georgia Southern University.

The lecture, sponsored by the GS Department of Women's and Gender Sexuality Studies (WGSS), presents the results of five years of Barton's work interviewing gay men and women about their experiences growing up in the often unsupportive religious environment of the Bible Belt.

Barton was inspired to learn about these experiences after she had an encounter with homophobia herself.

“It made me very curious about what it was like,” Barton said. “What it would be like to grow up here your whole life, surrounded by this [homophobia], and how it would shape you.”

This is the first time Barton has spoken at GS, but it is not the first event of its kind; WGSS has been on a mission to raise awareness for LGBTQ populations on campus since 2017, and has worked to bring several advocates to campus to assist with this, including LGBTQ rights activist Ericka Hart.

Lisa Costello, WGSS program director, said homophobia is rampant, but people are often afraid to talk about it. She said she would like people to come engage with ideas around homophobia.

“And it is unfortunately connected to Christian settings — and not all Christian settings are homophobic settings, but some are — and I think that this event could really open conversations around why that is and help people understand that every individual experience is unique and important to hear, and people deserve to be who they are, and be loved and accepted for that," Costello said.

Barton hopes that people will come away from the lecture with a better understanding of the plight of these people who have dealt with homophobia, and that the LGBTQ people who attend will feel that they are being heard and represented.

The lecture will be on Feb. 24, in the IAB Room 1020 at 6:30 p.m. on the Statesboro campus, and on Feb. 25, in Ballroom A of the Student Union at 6:30 p.m. on the Armstrong campus. Barton will also hold a book signing after both presentations.

Davis Cobb, The George-Anne News Reporter, wc02248@georgiasouthern.edu

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