Cover image for
Title:
Sweet tea : Black gay men of the South
Author(s):
Johnson, E. Patrick, 1967-
ISBN/ISSN:
080783209X

9780807832097

9780807872260

0807872261
Personal Author:
Physical Description:
xiii, 576 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
General Note:
"An oral history"--Jacket.
Contents:
Some bitter and some sweet : growing up Black and gay in the South -- Coming out and turning the closet inside out -- Church sissies : gayness and the Black church -- Do you get down? : homosex in the South -- Trannies, transvestites, and drag queens, oh my! : transitioning the South -- Sweet magnolias : love and relationships -- Of legends and young'uns : Black gay men across generations -- Epilogue: Why this story now?
Abstract:
"Giving voice to a population rarely acknowledged in southern history, Sweet Tea collects life stories from black gay men who were born, raised, and continue to live in the southern United States. E. Patrick Johnson challenges stereotypes of the South as 'backward' or 'repressive,' suggesting that these men draw upon the performance of 'southernness'--politeness, coded speech, and religiosity, for example--to legitimate themselves as members of both southern and black cultures. At the same time, Johnson argues, they deploy those same codes to establish and build friendship networks and find sexual partners and life partners. Traveling to every southern state, Johnson conducted interviews with more than seventy black gay men between the ages of 19 and 93--lawyers, hairdressers, ministers, artists, doctors, architects, students, professors, and corporate executives, as well as the retired and unemployed. Sweet Tea is arranged according to themes echoed in their narratives. Chapters explore unique experiences as well as shared ones, from coming out stories and church life to homosex and love relationships. The voices collected here dispute the idea that gay subcultures flourish primarily in northern, secular, urban areas. In addition to filling in a gap in the sexual history of the South, Sweet Tea offers a window into the ways that black gay men negotiate their sexual and racial identities with their southern cultural and religious identities. The interviews also reveal how they build and maintain community in many spaces and activities, some of which may appear to be antigay. Through Johnson's use of critical performance ethnography, Sweet Tea validates the lives of these black gay men and reinforces the role of storytelling in both African American and southern cultures"--Publisher description.
Bibliography Note:
Includes bibliographical references (pages [565]-571) and indexes.
Pub Date:
University of North Carolina Press, [2012]

©2012
Holds:

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Central - Houston Public Library Adult Non-fiction Book 371.821 K11
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Summary

Summary

Giving voice to a population too rarely acknowledged, Sweet Tea collects more than sixty life stories from black gay men who were born, raised, and continue to live in the South. E. Patrick Johnson challenges stereotypes of the South as "backward" or "repressive" and offers a window into the ways black gay men negotiate their identities, build community, maintain friendship networks, and find sexual and life partners--often in spaces and activities that appear to be antigay. Ultimately, Sweet Tea validates the lives of these black gay men and reinforces the role of storytelling in both African American and southern cultures.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

This fascinating--if excessively detailed--oral history subverts countless preconceptions in its illustration of black gay subcultures thriving in just about every imaginable rural and religious milieu in the South. Johnson (Appropriating Blackness) has an obvious fondness for the 63 men he interviews. Unfortunately, these interviews suffer from his failure to ask follow-up questions to revelatory or troubling responses and his adherence to set questions, for example, his insistence on asking his churchgoing subjects why they are attracted to the choir, keeps him from exploring the more interesting intersections (and contradictions) of their faith and sexuality. Responses are arranged by topics ("Coming Out"; "Love and Relationships"), an organization that provides thematic coherence, but makes it difficult to follow each recurring narrator. Still, the courage and honesty of Johnson's interviewees humble, and readers will find much to treasure in the stories of Stephen, who adopts the mannerisms of straight classmates because he lacks masculine gay role models; proudly effeminate Lamar, transgendered Chastity and gay men in every state in the South falling in love, growing up and growing old, negotiating and redefining their identities. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

Several fine books have examined gay life in the South, e.g., Out in the South, edited by Carlos L. Dews and Carolyn Leste Law, but none from an exclusively African American perspective. Johnson (African & American studies & performance studies, Northwestern Univ.; Appropriating Blackness) seeks to rectify this circumstance for African American gays (not lesbians) with this anthology of oral histories. The 63 men from 15 states were interviewed over a two-year period. They range in age from 19 to 93 and are urban and rural, closeted and flamboyant. In a culture dominated by political and social conservatism and Christian fundamentalism, these men represent a rich subculture that has thrived despite the layers of homophobia and the legacy of racial segregation that lurk just beneath surface gentility. Interjecting apt questions only occasionally, the author allows his subjects to speak for themselves, which they do articulately, colloquially (a glossary is included), and graphically. This very good book might have been even better if the number of subjects had been pared down by about a third. Regardless, academic, special, and large public libraries with GLBT and African American studies collections will want a copy of this compelling portrait.--Richard J. Violette, Special Libs. Cataloging, Victoria, B.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

In this rather lengthy tome, Johnson (Northwestern Univ.) gives voice to a heretofore-overlooked subculture: black gay men from the South. Through the collection of oral histories of 72 men (63 whose stories appear in the book) from 15 southern states, the author explores how these men construct and negotiate their racial and sexual identities within the daily milieu of their cultural and religious communities. Their often compelling stories reveal much more tolerance and acceptance of transgressive behavior in the South than readers would assume--as long as such behavior is hidden ... silent ... private. With the publication of this book, however, the silence has ended. The subjects provide many vivid accounts of their experiences, which include such themes as growing up gay in the South; the negotiation and manifestation of their emerging sexuality in various social contexts; the role and influence of religion in general and of the black church specifically in the expression of their sexuality; and loves and loss throughout their lives. With poignant stories from a demographically diverse spectrum of gay black men, this book is a fine addition to queer studies literature. Summing Up: Recommended. Most levels/libraries. J. R. Mitrano Central Connecticut State University


Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Some Bitter and Some Sweet: Growing Up Black and Gay in the Southp. 24
2 Coming Out and Turning the Closet Inside Outp. 109
3 Church Sissies: Gayness and the Black Churchp. 182
4 Do You Get Down?: Homosex in the Southp. 256
5 Trannies, Transvestites, and Drag Queens, Oh My!: Transitioning the Southp. 338
6 Sweet Magnolias: Love and Relationshipsp. 430
7 Of Legends and Young'uns: Black Gay Men across Generationsp. 473
Epilogue: Why This Story Now?p. 545
Appendix Black Gay Vernacular Termsp. 549
Notesp. 559
Bibliographyp. 563
Index of Narratorsp. 567
Indexp. 569

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