How to be a Real Gay: Gay Identities in Small-town South Africa


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.

This book is the first to emerge that recounts how gays in small-town South Africa negotiate this difficult symbolic terrain. How do discourses on international gay and lesbian social movements and gay equality hang together with local views on identity, gender and relationships? Why do small-town gays harness fashion, style and glamour in the making and sustaining of identity? How do economically vulnerable gays organize, access resources and create networks linking small towns to cities?

How to be a Real Gay delves to the core of what it means to be other in contexts of risk, exclusion and inclusion. In its richly textured way, it also speaks to the tremendous capacity of gays to imagine and create life worlds in a harsh environment.