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Negotiating Difference through Everyday Encounters: The Case of Sexual Orientation and Religion and Belief

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Abstract:  This paper argues for geographers to be more attentive to the potentially competing values, interests, and rights of the equality strands (race, gender, disability, religion and belief, sexual orientation, age). We focus on two that are most commonly assumed to experience tensions: religion/belief and sexual orientation. Drawing on focus groups with heterosexual Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus and lesbian and gay people of faith we explore the attitudes of heterosexual people of faith towards homosexuality. These findings suggest that tensions should be emerging between these groups in public space. However, we then demonstrate that these anticipated conflicts are not emerging because of the strategies people employ for separating their beliefs from their everyday conduct. In such ways, our findings demonstrate how the “what is” (ie personal experience) for both heterosexual and lesbian and gay people of faith is prioritised over theological or institutional perspectives of “what ought to be”.

Document Type: Original Article


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Publication date: March 1, 2012


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