Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Queer Religion: An Interview with Co-editor Donald L. Boisvert

What prompted you to co-edit Queer Religion?  What “message” did you want to convey?

When Jay and I started thinking about Queer Religion, our intent was to make it an all-purpose 3-volume reference collection looking at religion and same-sex desire.  There’s lots of material out there on religion and homosexuality, but no one had really attempted to bring it all together in an accessible yet scholarly manner.  That was our challenge.  We eventually whittled the collection down to 2 volumes, with the first providing a general historical survey and the second focusing on more contemporary manifestations of “queer” religious writing.  Actually, the two volumes follow the general arc of the historical development of the LGBT movement.  We also wanted to be as inclusive as we could of non-Christian voices and perspectives, though that is always a challenge.  We didn’t necessarily have a particular “message” to convey, though we did want to demonstrate that religion and same-sex desire are not mutually exclusive.  We were fairly insistent on including the word Queer in the title, so as to be quite clear about the overall inclusiveness of the volumes.

What was the highlight of your research?  In the course of your research, what discovery surprised you the most?  What surprises readers/others the most about your research?

The three introductions that we wrote for the collection provide the reader, I think, with a really good summary of the issues and challenges of studying and writing about religion and same-sex desire—and, of course, of actually living as an LGBTQ religious or spiritual person.  There aren’t any really big discoveries to be made, if only to be pleasantly surprised about the fact that religious thought is not totally negative when it comes to queer desire.  Queer Religion provides an eclectic mix of essays written by veteran and new voices, but it also brings together different styles of writing, from the scholarly to the autobiographical.  That was important for us.  We wanted to show that this was not just an academic enterprise, but an intensely personal one, and that, for queer people, religion is so much more than something distant and oppressive.
How did your research change your outlook on religion and same-sex desire?

Speaking for myself, it didn’t fundamentally change my outlook.  Both Jay and I have written extensively about these issues.  But what editing Queer Religion did do for me was to reaffirm my hope and my genuine joy at reading and hearing, once again, the beauty and wonder of the queer religious voice, as well as its amazing variance.

How have people reacted to your book and/or the ideas set forth?  Is it what you hoped for, or is there more work to be done?

It’s always a bit difficult to gauge people’s reactions.  Reviews have been positive, and some have remarked on the attractive design of the collection.  Content-wise, it’s still making its way, but I think it will become one of those unavoidable reference works on religion and same-sex desire.  And that’s really all we could ask for.  There’s always more to be done.  A collection of essays written by young religious queers would really be important.  Maybe someone out there will take up the challenge.  

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a new book looking at masculinities in Catholic cultures. 

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