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Erzen, Tanya 1972–

Erzen, Tanya 1972–


Born June 24, 1972. Education: Brown University, B.A., 1995; New York University, Ph.D., 2002.


Office—Department of Comparative Studies, Ohio State University, 428 Hagerty Hall, 1775 College Rd., Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail—[email protected]


Ohio State University, Columbus, assistant professor of comparative studies.


Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the humanities, 2002-04; Arts and Humanities Seed Grant, Ohio State University, 2005-07; Comparative Studies Department Teaching Award, Ohio State University, 2006; Ruth Benedict Prize, Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists, 2006, for Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement; American Academy of Arts and Sciences visiting scholar, 2007-08.


(Editor, with Andrea McArdle) Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City, New York University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2006.

Contributor to periodicals, including American Quarterly, Boston Globe, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and Nation.


Based on her doctoral work, Tanya Erzen's book Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement examines the controversial world of Christian ex-gay ministry. Whereas gay activists believe that homosexuality is inborn and unchangeable, members of the ex-gay movement regard it as a psychological disorder that results from upbringing and that can be changed. The book focuses on the New Hope Ministry of San Francisco, California, a residential counseling and support program intended to help men leave behind gay identity and culture to devote themselves to a new life of following Jesus Christ. "It is Erzen's careful portrayal of the individual men at New Hope that shapes this engaging study," observed Howell Williams on H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online. Erzen spent eighteen months at New Hope, interviewing residents and taking part in their activities, and she gives "a compassionate picture of ex-gay people," as Amy Johnson Frykholm wrote in the Christian Century. Many of the men at New Hope had conservative Christian backgrounds and experienced strong conflict between their beliefs and their sexuality; according to Esther Kaplan in the Women's Review of Books, "Erzen frames the embrace of ex-gay identity as a conversion experience." While writers such as Thom Nickels of the Lambda Book Report expressed impatience with Erzen for being "perhaps too generous in her exposition of the ex-gay cause," others, including Laura Miller of, deemed her work "enlightening." Miller felt that "what emerges from Straight to Jesus is a far more nuanced and moving picture of the ‘ex-gay’ movement than most readers will expect." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "ethnography at its best: an outsider's careful, respectful translation of a subculture that is often poorly understood and easily dismissed." Catholic priest Richard John Neuhaus, in First Things, claimed that Erzen adds "necessary dimensions to our understanding of those struggling with homosexual desire in the context of Christian discipleship," and he regarded Erzen's book as "deserving of serious attention."



Choice, May, 2007, R.W. Smith, review of Straight to Jesus: Sexual and Christian Conversions in the Ex-Gay Movement, p. 1611.

Christian Century, May 15, 2007, Amy Johnson Frykholm, "Formerly Gay?," review of Straight to Jesus, p. 34.

Criminal Justice Ethics, summer-fall, 2003, Robert Jackall, "What Kind of Order?," review of Zero Tolerance: Quality of Life and the New Police Brutality in New York City, p. 54.

First Things, October, 2006, Richard John Neuhaus, "Homosexual but No Longer Gay," p. 69.

Lambda Book Report, fall, 2006, Thom Nickels, review of Straight to Jesus, p. 28.

Law Society Journal, April, 2002, Marc Hutchings, review of Zero Tolerance, p. 90.

Publishers Weekly, February 27, 2006, review of Straight to Jesus, p. 55.

Sociology of Religion, spring, 2008, Christine M. Robinson, review of Straight to Jesus, p. 110.

Women's Review of Books, May-June, 2007, Esther Kaplan, review of Straight to Jesus.


Fresh Air, (October 9, 2006), Terry Gross, "‘Straight to Jesus’ and the Christian Ex-Gay Movement," interview with Tanya Erzen.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, (August, 2006), Howell Williams, review of Straight to Jesus.

Ohio State University College of Humanities Web site, (September 22, 2008), faculty profile., (July 11, 2006), Laura Miller, review of Straight to Jesus.

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