How a Queer Comedian and a Pastor Are Fighting Homophobia in the Religious South
In 2014, Kristen Becker, a 41-year-old lesbian comedian, found herself back in her beloved hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to testify in support of HB #199, or the Louisiana Non-Discrimination Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Austin Badon, would potentially add stronger protections for LGBTQ+ individuals in four main categories: age, disability, gender identity or expression and sexual orientation. Becker, a northeast transplant, wanted to use her platform to connect with the stiff judicial members sitting before her on the bench, but wasn’t sure how. It wasn’t the same jovial atmosphere as her comedy shows, where drinks are liberally sipped and dirty jokes draw belly laughs from the crowd.
“I realized during my testimony that I was out of my element,” Becker tells me back in late September. “Because I was trying to change people’s minds without knowing how to speak their language. I can argue many things. I can’t argue the Bible.”
The experience revealed something Becker had yearned for for a long while without realizing: a way to bridge her queerness with the southern, religious community from which she felt so far removed. Then, in early 2015, she came across clips of a documentary on YouTube called One Punk Under God. It was about Jay Bakker, son of famed televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, who created a multimillion dollar enterprise with the Praise The Lord (PTL) Network and became legendary Christian pastors in the mid-eighties, until their empire came crashing downdue to multiple scandals and fraud accusations.