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How to Be a Real Gay: Gay Identities in Small-Town South Africa
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Price: R 167.5
Publication Date: 2013-01-25
Binding: Softcover
ISBN: 978 1 86914 243 8
Width: 140
Height: 220
Pages: 320


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Review by Brenna Munro
GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, Volume 21, Number 1, January 2015

Queer Self-Fashioning in South Africa

Graeme Reid’s ethnography offers a counternarrative to the spectacularizing global media discourse that imagines black gay South African existence in terms of homophobic violence and rape. As director of the LGBT Rights Program at Human Rights Watch, Reid is involved in documenting the very real problems faced by queer people—a 2011 HRW report he was responsible for, “ ‘We’ll Show You You’re A Woman’: Violence and Discrimination against Black Lesbians and Transgender Men in South Africa,” shows in harrowing detail how those who are assigned female gender in the townships who do not conform to heterofemininity are betrayed and harmed by family, friends, strangers, police, and government. In How to Be a Real Gay, however, Reid shows that this is not the only story to be told about queer life in South Africa. Even though his interlocutors face many struggles, they are surprisingly visible, accepted, and thriving, and he offers a rich, critically informed exploration of their negotiations of a culture in transition.

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How to be a Real Gay takes its title from a series of workshops organised by gay activists in the small town of Ermelo, South Africa. Focusing on everyday practices of gayness in hair salons, churches, taverns and meeting halls, it explores the ambivalent space that homosexuality occupies in newly democratic South Africa: on the one hand, protection of gay rights is a litmus test for our Constitutional democracy, yet on the other, homosexuality is seen to threaten traditional values, customs and beliefs.

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