Varieties of Activism: Pathways of Participation among LGBT Religious Activists
Coley, Jonathan Scott
In this dissertation, I trace the biographical pathways of activists mobilizing to make Christian colleges and universities more inclusive of LGBTQ students. Drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 65 LGBTQ student activists at four Christian universities – which were selected on the basis of a quantitative analysis of all Christian universities in the U.S. – I first identify multiple pathways that students follow into LGBTQ groups. I show that while students with highly politicized identities seem to have been “raised” as activists, students with salient religious and sexual identities often join these groups after undergoing intensive re-socialization. Second, I show that participants commit to LGBTQ groups when they perceive a “fit” between their identities and the types of LGBTQ groups available to them, including direct action, educational, and solidarity groups. Finally, I show that participants pursue a range of post-graduation pathways that resonate with their identities, from political campaigns to humanistic careers to intentional relationships. The findings extend existing theories of activist group participation by challenging assumptions about the characteristics of “activists,” the purpose of “activist groups,” and ultimately the nature of “activism” itself.