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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ABC Docuseries Highlights Research of ODU Professor

By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

Research from an Old Dominion University assistant professor has been featured on a new ABC docuseries on pride in the LGBTQ+ community.

The show, "Pride: To Be Seen," features research on the queer religious communities by Brandi Woodell of ODU's Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, and Philip Schwadel of the Department of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The research, which was originally published in 2020, focuses on sexual minority religious practices, including frequency of prayer, service attendance and religious affiliation by multiple measures of sexuality.

"Sexual minorities are often left out of religious conversations because many churches are not open and affirming," Woodell said. "Our focus is on how lesbian, gay and bisexual people engage with their faith through both public and private religious practices."

The producers of the show reached out to Woodell after reading the paper, and she participated in phone interviews to provide background.

"I loved having my research reach a broader audience," Woodell said. "The segment highlighted a major theme in my work that focuses on folks who hold both a sexual minority and religious identity, illustrating that while these may often be seen as culturally incompatible, that is not always true. As the show quoted from the article, sexual minorities are twice as likely to become unaffiliated from their religious community. However, there are many sexual minorities who value that religious connection and there are some religious congregations that want to be inclusive. The show really highlighted the importance of faith and acceptance for this population which is a central theme in my research."

Since the paper was published in 2020, Woodell and Schwadel have begun to analyze data on how gender complicates the relationship between queer people and religiosity.

In previous research, Woodell and others have found that heterosexual women are more likely to attend church. The newest research seeks to find out if that is true among the gay community.

"Are queer women similar to straight women in this respect, and are we going to see that queer men are more in line with straight men in terms of their religiosity?" she said.

"My goal with this research on the religious lives of sexual minorities is to first show that the LGBTQ+ community is not a monolithic group," Woodell said. "Some sexual and gender minorities value religious community ties and it is important to understand this connection, particularly as religion is a major cultural force in our society."

So far, the studies have found that while a small number of religious communities are welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, sexual minorities are still separating from the church and attending religious services less frequently than their heterosexual peers.

"So for religious communities that may be considering becoming an open and affirming congregation, knowing that this is something that is wanted and would be of value for some LGBTQ+ individuals is important to demonstrate," Woodell said.

The show originally aired June 9 on ABC and can also be watched on the streaming service Hulu with a subscription.

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