'I can now thank God when I come': Religion and Sexuality in the Lives of Non-Heterosexual Protestant Women in the Netherlands
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This research explores the intersections of religion, gender and sexuality in daily life experiences of non-heterosexual Protestant women in the Netherlands, the PKN. This thesis is based on a six month research project of which the main methodological approach consisted of in-depth interviews with self-identified non-heterosexual women in the PKN. Religion studies and transnational feminism are combined in this qualitative research project . Dynamics of belonging and exclusion and the notion of being ‘in-between’ are common in dominant discourse regarding sexuality and Christianity in Dutch society. Homosexuality and Christianity are often paired as oppositional, with religious homosexuals moving in between religiosity and sexuality. This dominant discourse in both media and academia mainly focuses on homosexual men and obscures the role of women in mainstream religious institutes, such as the PKN. The role of female sexuality in religious context is not taken into account in religious studies, while feminist theory hardly focuses on religion. A consequence of this double exclusion is that the position of religious non-heterosexual women is silenced and obscured, and it is here that this research focuses on. Instead of positioning these women ‘in between’, which supposes two fixed entities, the concept of intersectionality enables the analysis of religion and sexuality as coconstructive. In order to account for the complicated stories of these women, the focus is on three different levels of experience. First is sexuality and religion as embodied, where it is argued that religion is experienced through the body, during sexual contact. Secondly the focus is on norms and normativity to elaborate on the role of ideas concerning motherhood, marriage and monogamy. The third level elaborates on the role of social networks and community to show how these women move in public spheres in and beyond church. Throughout the thesis it is argued that these women should be recognized as creative agents, negotiating different expectations from church, family and society of religion and sexuality, while they regard both religion and sexuality as crucial elements of their selves, their social relations and their position in broader Dutch society; both as public and private, mutually enabling and intersectional.