Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Best Senior Thesis in Gender Studies

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Diana Selig

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Rebecca Chung


This thesis examines the history of lesbian clergy during the AIDS epidemic. It questions why lesbian clergy, and lesbians more broadly, have been missing from historical narratives about the epidemic. It draws on oral history interviews conducted with lesbian rabbis, pastors, and activists to illustrate how the first generation of lesbian clergy came to be ordained in the 1970s and then found themselves uniquely able to lead gay-oriented churches and synagogues as the AIDS epidemic devastated their communities. In the midst of a crisis, lesbian clergy forged relationships between gay men and lesbians and gay people and religion. It also traces how the acts of pastoral care by lesbian rabbis and pastors had lasting political and religious implications into the twenty-first century. By serving as a critical religious and political voice for the gay and lesbian community during this time, they helped build the LGBTQ community that exists today. Ultimately, this thesis discusses how a small group of lesbian clergy during the AIDS epidemic transformed religious institutions in the United States by being present for gay men with AIDS in their final days.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.