Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Social Sciences, Room 415
Coming Out Of The “Other” Closet: Applying The LGBT Experience To Atheists
Atheists are increasingly using the phrase “coming out of the closet” (normally associated with the public disclosure of a homosexual identity) as a reference to openly announcing non-belief. That atheists have adopted the language of the gay community’s struggle may suggest that they view their own personal experiences and fight for acceptance as similar to those of homosexuals. While much research exists on LGBT identity formation and coming out processes, these ideas have not been sufficiently extended to atheism. In this research, I interview atheists and analyze how they acquire their identity and disclose it to others. Looking to models of LGBT identity development and coming out, I develop my own model of “coming out atheist.” I have distinguished four prominent phases connected to this process: 1) recognizing atheism as a legitimate alternative to other categories of religious non-belief, 2) disclosing that identity to others, 3) justifying instances of nondisclosure, and 4) implementing symbolic boundaries. While I find that atheists generally don’t fear the negative consequences of disclosure to the extent that homosexuals might, their processes of disclosure are similar.
Workshop format: 15 minute presentation of the paper by author, followed by constructive feedback by author-chosen discussant, then floor will be open for commentary during the remainder of the one-hour session. Lunch from Jimmy John's and Caffe Luce will be provided by the UA Student-Faculty Interaction Grant funded by Xerox.