The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South
University of Arkansas Press
The Un-Natural State is a one-of-a-kind study of gay and lesbian life in Arkansas in the 20th century. Thompson analyzes the meaning of rural drag shows, including a description of a 1930s seasonal beauty pageant in Wilson, Ark., where white men in drag shared the stage with other white men in blackface, a mingling that went to the core of both racial transgression and sexual disobedience. These small town entertainments put on in churches and schools emerged decades later in gay bars across the state as a business practice and a means of community expression, while in the same period the state’s sodomy law was rewritten to condemn sexual acts between those of the same sex in language similar to that used to denounce interracial sex.
Through this exploration of identity formation, group articulation, political mobilization and cultural visibility within the context of historical episodes such as World War II, the civil rights movement and the AIDS epidemic, The Un-Natural State contributes to the understanding of gay and lesbian history and to the understanding of the South.