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University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Author to discuss LGBT history in the South

UALR’s Office of Campus Life and student group, The Alliance, will host author Brock Thompson as he discusses his book “The Un-Natural State: Arkansas and the Queer South.”

The event is at 3 p.m. Monday, March 17, in DSC Ledbetter room C. It is free and open to the public.

Thompson’s book is a unique study of gay and lesbian life in Arkansas during the twentieth century and how the LGBT culture developed into what it is today. It includes dozens of oral histories along with Thompson’s own story.

Brock ThompsonThompson analyzes the meaning of rural drag shows, including a compelling description of a 1930s seasonal beauty pageant in Wilson, Arkansas, where white men in drag shared the stage with other white men in blackface, a suggestive 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 lucrative business practice and a larger means of community expression.

Thompson also writes about several lesbian communities established in the Ozark Mountains during the sixties and seventies and offers a substantial account of Eureka Springs’s informal status as the “gay capital of the Ozarks.”

Through this exploration of identity formation, group articulation, political mobilization, and cultural visibility within the context of historical episodes such as the Second World War, the civil rights movement, and the AIDS epidemic, “The Un-Natural State” contributes not only to an understanding of gay and lesbian history but also to an understanding of the South.

Thompson attended Hendrix College and the University of Arkansas and received a Ph.D. in American studies from University of London’s King’s College. He currently lives in Washington, DC, and works at the Library of Congress.