Sweet Tea: Black Gay Men of the South
by E. Patrick Johnson
published by The University of North Carolina Press
September 2008. 584 pages. ISBN: 080783209X
This title includes oral histories that reveal a diverse, thriving, overlooked community.Giving voice to a population rarely acknowledged in writings about the South, "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 gay 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 to 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. The voices collected here dispute the idea that gay subcultures flourish primarily in northern, secular, urban areas. In addition to expanding 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 narratives also reveal how they build and maintain community in many spaces and activities, some of which may 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.