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Sweet Tea, Rev. Ed.

Black Gay Men of the South

E. Patrick Johnson

Publication Year: 2011

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.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Contents/Maps and Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xiii

A book such as Sweet Tea really does not happen without the help of others. While I had the vision to begin this project and see it through, many people rolled up their sleeves and asked, ‘‘How can I help?’’ And for that, I will be forever grateful. Especially, I want to thank friends and colleagues who put me in touch with men they thought would be great narrators...

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pp. 1-23

The South, like all regions of the country, is a site of contradictions. The central role once played there by America’s ‘‘peculiar institution,’’ however, perhaps makes its social and cultural inner workings more complex. Race relations in the South are literally the stuff television shows, movies, and novels are made of, and they have directly affected the lives...

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1 Some Bitter and Some Sweet: Growing Up Black and Gay in the South

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pp. 24-108

In many ways, southern black gay men’s lives are no different from other black southerners’ lives. They are full of memories, both good and bad, that speak to the region’s fraught history and its relation to the rest of the country. The narrators...

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2 Coming Out and Turning the Closet Inside Out

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pp. 109-181

‘‘Coming out’’ is not always the best phrase to describe what people do when they acknowledge that they have same-sex attraction. In general, ‘‘putting one’s business in the street’’ is something frowned upon in many black communities, including the communities in which many of the narrators grew up and currently live. As noted in the Introduction, most southerners...

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3 Church Sissies: Gayness and the Black Church

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pp. 182-255

When people think of the South, after foodways and hospitality, religiosity is often what comes to mind. But not just any religiosity: the South is frequently associated with a virulent and unrelenting fundamentalism. Some believe it is a...

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4 Do You Get Down?: Homosex in the South

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pp. 256-337

In black vernacular speech, to ‘‘get down’’ has typically been associated with dancing or feeling the ‘‘soul’’ of the music.1 Contemporarily, however, the phrase has emerged within black gay communities to signify one’s same-sex desire, often posed through the question, ‘‘Do you get down?’’ This question...

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5 Trannies, Transvestites, and Drag Queens, Oh My!: Transitioning the South

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pp. 338-429

Given the supposed provincialism of the South, it is perhaps the last place one might expect to find a thriving trans (i.e., transsexual, transgender, transvestite) or even drag culture, especially in black communities. And yet, I remember many a flamboyant ‘‘queen’’ or preoperative transgendered person...

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6 Sweet Magnolias: Love and Relationships

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pp. 430-472

From the perspective of many conservatives, all gay people are promiscuous. The truth of the matter is, of course, some of us are promiscuous. And promiscuity is a legitimate expression of sexuality for all sexual beings. The rhetoric of gay promiscuity, however, has often been a tool used by a homophobic...

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7 Of Legends and Young’uns: Black Gay Men across Generations

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pp. 473-544

The title of this chapter riffs off the by now famous ‘‘Legends Ball’’ hosted by Oprah Winfrey in honor of black women actresses, dancers, poets, writers, activists, and singers who paved the way for her and other ‘‘young’uns’’ who came after. While Oprah’s celebration was in honor of mostly self-identified heterosexual...

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Epilogue: Why This Story Now?

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pp. 545-548

The news of both deaths arrived via voicemail. The first message was left on May 20, 2004. My partner and I had just returned home from running errands when I noticed that there was a message waiting. ‘‘Rob,’’ one of the narrators in this book, had called to ask if I had heard from Curt,...

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Appendix 1. Black Gay Vernacular Terms

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pp. 549-558

With any slang, origins are difficult to trace. Therefore, the vernacular terms that I collected from the narrators of Sweet Tea are not all peculiar to the South or to black gay men. Many of them are a part of general gay parlance or even popular culture. Some of the terms, however, are specific...

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Appendix 2. Sweet Tea Recipes and Stories

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pp. 559-564

I asked all of the narrators if they like sweet tea. To my horror, there were some who actually do not like it. I forgave them and let them keep their southern card, however, because they agreed to be interviewed for the book! I’ve included both recipes...


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pp. 565-568


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pp. 569-571

Index of Narrators

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pp. 573-574


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pp. 575-576

E-ISBN-13: 9781469602677
E-ISBN-10: 1469602679
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807872260
Print-ISBN-10: 0807872261

Page Count: 592
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2011

Edition: Revised Editon