Sunday Dinners, Moonshine, and Men is a masterfully crafted story that weaves together themes of love, acceptance, and self-discovery against the backdrop of small town America. Tate explores the struggles, triumphs, and complexities of being LGBTQ, shedding light on the need for empathy, understanding, and unity.

In an era where the importance of LGBTQ rights and representation is more significant than ever, author Tate Barkley has released a powerful and timely book that tells Tate’s story of growing up in the small towns of North Carolina, where money was tight, dreams seldom came true, and family secrets were kept hidden.  

As a teen, Tate began drinking. His father was a heavy drinker and he was always looking for ways to connect with him, for a way to hold on to the moment before he slipped away again. Drinking gave Tate a sense of calm, and it numbed him from the love he was missing in his life. After years of drinking, losing his law practice, and hitting rock bottom he realized he either needed to take responsibility and change, or he’d end up dead.

After his parents divorced, he discovered his mother’s new boyfriend, and eventual husband, was his biological father, a charming dreamer who would disappear for months at a time, leaving his family to fend for themselves. His Grandmother’s house was a sanctuary where he felt loved, and her big Sunday dinners nourished his stomach and his soul.

For years Tate Barkley lived his life in shame, living in poverty, dealing with alcoholism and addiction, and being a closeted gay man. His story recounts his troubled relationship with his father and his journey to overcome shame and the scarcity mindset that blocked his ability to find peace in his life.

Tate offers readers a deeply personal account of his dysfunctional childhood, from the backwoods of North Carolina, to his family’s struggles with poverty in Central Florida, and their ultimate move to the boomtown of 1970s Houston, Texas. He details his attempts to repress his sexuality and control his escalating drinking as he became a successful attorney, only to hit rock bottom and lose it all.

This is a Southern boy’s story of surviving in a good ole boys’ world. Tate fought his way back, ended a life built on lies, and forged a path to accept his true self, with or without his father’s love. Now sober through Alcoholics Anonymous, he shares his story in the hopes that it will help others to leave their shame behind and discover the peace that they deserve.

Available from Micro Publishing Media.

Excerpt – Chapter 14 – Those Damn Showers

The school was diverse-ish, just enough diversity not to be lily-white. Here, there was a presumption that you could afford to go to the movies or play putt-putt, and they took for granted that you could afford to buy a uniform for football or a cheerleading outfit.

If I hadn’t been so self-conscious, I might have walked the halls of this new school with my mouth hanging open. All the kids were beautiful, well dressed, well groomed, and involved in their education. They cared about it. It seemed I was behind in Math, English, and everything else. I had never cared about clothes until coming to Thompson. I began to covet what the other students could afford. They went to summer camps, beaches, and the mountains. I had never heard people talk about the places they went.

I wish culture shock was my only problem at Thompson. Before coming here, I had developed an attraction to Latinos. They were a minority at Thompson, but one guy caught my eye. Jorge Lascano was on the eighth-grade football “A team.” We would often practice late and had to shower together. His locker was close to mine, and I could practically feel him before seeing him walk into the room. I tried to avoid eye contact with Jorge, who was close friends with a macho slender white guy on the team named Justin Mencer. Justin Mencer oozed what people today call “toxic masculinity” even at an early age. I saw him as a potential bully and didn’t want to draw his attention. I got through most of the season without any incidents, but with only a few games left, the coach asked Jorge Lascano, myself, and several others on the team to stay late to work on some things. By the time we made it to the showers, most of the rest of the team was gone and it was only Jorge and me with a few stragglers. I tried everything to resist, but the old feelings of desire were overwhelming me. Jorge was walking around in a jockstrap, laughing and “razzing” the other guys as he usually did. I could not resist looking at him. He and I undressed at about the same time; on this day, I had stupidly made a point to pace myself to track Jorge. We wound up showering next to each other. I thought I was being covert and clever. I was looking for a quick glimpse of him, nothing more. I must have hesitated a few seconds too long while looking at his penis. I only wish I had turned away to make it seem accidental.

Jorge looked over and caught my glance. I watched his eyes widen as he realized what was happening. I tried to look up at his face, but as if I had lost all control, I wound up looking down at his penis again. “Barkley,” he said, catching my attention. I immediately felt flushed and tried to look away, but it was too late. I only became more aroused and started to develop an erection. My body had completely betrayed me, and there was nowhere to hide.

Then Jorge asked, “Barkley, are you a fag?” He started to laugh. “Barkley, up here,” he said, directing me to look him in the eye. “Are you looking at my dick? Are you a fag? Are you a fucking fag?”

He had caught me, and even though I denied it, I still couldn’t stop looking at him. I think I was having an out-of-body experience or a non-alcohol- related blackout. Everything was in slow motion; it was surreal.

So Barkley, you like my dick!” he said, louder for anyone within earshot to hear. This had turned from curiosity to harassment.

So you want some of it?” he said, waving it at me. “Are you a fag that wants some of it?”

Bile rose in my mouth, and I wanted to wretch. “Jorge, shut the fuck up,” I shouted. “I was not looking at your dick!”

Jorge looked at me up and down, hesitated, and grinned. What I thought was beautiful about him changed into something weasel-like. I wanted to run away, but now the entire locker room was listening and moving closer to us.

I thought you might be a fag,” he said. Then he said it. The words I had been hearing all my life, “Boy, you’re queer as a three-dollar bill.” Jorge left the shower. I did not follow. I lingered in hopes it would all just go away.

Jorge must have gotten bored with me that day or had somewhere to go because he stopped the harassment. But from then on, any time after practice, if I dressed near him or we showered at the same time, he would say, “Are you looking, Barkley? Are you looking?”

One day he was walking around in his jock strap, calling me a fag and asking if I liked his “tighty whities” as we got dressed, when his friend and fellow asshole, Mencer, walked in. Jorge decided to involve him in the fun as we walked out the door.

Hey, Mencer, guess what? Barkley’s a fag. I caught him looking at my dick while we were in the showers. Barkley wants my dick, the little fag!”

Mencer walked over and thumped my ear. “Are you a fag, Barkley? Oh my God! We got a fag in the locker room!” Mencer was a mean-spirited bully who loved to harass and insult everyone. Now I was in his sights as the worst thing possible, a fag.

I lost hope of fitting in at Thompson as Jorge and Mencer told the news about me to the football team and anyone else who would listen. Aside from what happened in the locker room, I had been so careful to act like any other straight guy. If anyone said anything to me, I denied the event ever happened. But like any gossip, no one cared whether it was true. I was done for. Damn my hormones.

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Tate Barkley is a practicing attorney, speaker, author, and educator.  He is a founding partner of Bain & Barkley law firm in Houston, Texas, and a graduate of the University of Texas and South Texas College of Law. In addition to his active law practice, he spent 20 years as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston, teaching Communications Law and Ethics, where he was awarded the School of Communications 2019 Valenti Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Lecturer.  Tate presently serves as President of the Board of Directors for Avenue Community Development Corp. in Houston, which provides affordable housing for veterans, seniors, and the working poor. He is a past board member of the Texas Council for Advising and Planning for the Prevention and Treatment of Mental and Substance Abuse Disorders, and he formerly served on the Fort Bend Regional Council on Substance Abuse board, whose mission is to provide families and individuals the substance abuse prevention, education, and treatment services needed for positive change for themselves and the community.  Tate lives in Houston with his husband of six years, Anson, and their dog, Emerson. 

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist based in Toronto with a focus on tourism, lifestyle, entertainment and community issues. He has written several travel articles and has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He’s willing to take on any assignments of interest, attend parties with free booze, listen to rants, and travel the world in search of the great unknown. He’s eager to discover the new, remember the past, and look into the future.