AIDS in the Heartland


ACLS Fellowship Program


Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies


In the early AIDS crisis, the “Heartland” became a cultural and political battleground over sexuality, morality, and citizenship. The disease inspired the infected along with a dynamic cast of Native Americans, black communities, select religious groups, and LGBTQ people within and beyond those groups to fight AIDS and the phobias it fueled. The response proved complex and often contradictory as regional political and religious conservatism generated punitive legislation and anti-gay religious zealotry while members from numerous religious, racial, and sexual communities collaborated to provide AIDS services and political organizing. As the first in-depth historical study of this site, this work recasts this previously overlooked region as important in national AIDS history. The project argues that the respectability politics most resonant and effective in the politically and religiously conservative region molded local tactics and shaped national LGBTQ political goals and strategies for a generation.