Dying to be Normal: Gay Martyrs and the Transformation of American Sexual Politics
by Brett Krutzsch
published by Oxford University Press
March 2019. 264 pages. ISBN: 9780190685218
On October 14, 1998, five thousand people gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to mourn the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who had been murdered in Wyoming eight days earlier. Politicians and celebrities addressed the crowd and the televised national audience to share their grief with the country. Never before had a gay citizen's murder elicited such widespread outrage or concern from straight Americans.
In Dying to Be Normal, Brett Krutzsch argues that gay activists memorialized people like Shepard as part of a political strategy to present gays as similar to the country's dominant class of white, straight Christians. Through an examination of publicly mourned gay deaths, Krutzsch counters the common perception that LGBT politics and religion have been oppositional and reveals how gay activists used religion to bolster the argument that gays are essentially the same as straights, and therefore deserving of equal rights.
The first book to detail how martyrdom has influenced national debates over LGBT rights, Dying to Be Normal establishes how religion has shaped gay assimilation in the United States and the mainstreaming of particular gays as "normal" Americans.