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New documentary explores struggle and triumph of queer families in the Midwest

The lives of a couple from Des Moines, Iowa, Nia and Katie Chiaramonte, took a turn when Nia came out as a transgender woman. The Chiaramontes, who initially faced challenges within their conservative evangelical church and strained relationships with family, decided to relocate to the East Coast.

Their experiences are featured in the documentary “We Live Here: The Midwest,” which explores the struggles of queer individuals and families in a region with more conservative values. The film aims to capture a tense moment in the acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community as anti-queer legislation and sentiment grow across the country.

The documentary specifically highlights the tension between queer identity and religious faith, showcasing how some individuals grapple with the harm caused by religious communities. The Chiaramontes, along with other couples, share their journey of trying to reconcile their LGBTQ+ identity with their faith and the impact of implicit discrimination within their religious communities.

Despite the challenges, the Chiaramontes express their commitment to finding a more inclusive Christian community on the East Coast and fostering a diverse religious environment for their children.

Religion News Service reports:

For director and producer Melinda Maerker, the film needed to show the tension between queer identity and religious faith. For two of the couples featured, the documentary highlights their struggle to remain attached to their faith, given the harm the religious community caused them — intentionally or not.

The Midwest is the heart of American family values, explained Maerker.

“There is definitely an evangelical influence here. We were curious to see how queer families navigated that,” Maerker told RNS.

Growing up, Nia and Katie bonded over their shared experience as “church kids.” The Sunday services, the weekly Bible study groups and the children’s church were all important parts of their lives, they said.

Nia, whose church was more charismatic than Katie’s, said her religious upbringing made her the woman and the mother she is. Katie was an active volunteer at their church, teaching the Bible to adults and helping with different ministries as needed.

“I wanted to share that it was not just the dogma, not just miracles. It is love and interconnectedness,” Katie described to RNS.

When Nia came out, questions about Katie’s right to be in leadership arose in the church. The couple was never formally asked to leave, yet they both described a “welcoming but not affirming” environment that held homosexuality as a sin without fully closing its doors to anyone.

Read the full article.

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