Becoming Kimberly: A Transgender’s Journey

Becoming Kimberly: A Transgender’s Journey

My dad came out to me a few months ago. She’s in her 60s, and it was a bit of a shock to us three boys. To us she was always the most manly of men, and we never saw this change at all. It’s hard to believe sometimes the sacrifices she made to give us a stable home. If y’all could look at her book, I’d appreciate. It’s an amazing story.

By Thomas Davis

3 Reasons Why the Gulf Coast LGBT+ Pride Day Mattered More Than HB 1523

3 Reasons Why the Gulf Coast LGBT+ Pride Day Mattered More Than HB 1523
  1. Because LGBT people on the Gulf Coast responded to this hateful law by coming together.

LGBT people in Mississippi have a long history of surviving by remaining divided in small groups and living in the shadows.  Their thinking was if there were not too many of them and they remained out of sight, straight Mississippians would not mind their presence. Before you dismiss that assessment, you should consult John Howard’s excellent book, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History, which is about Mississippi from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Instead of remaining true to our closeted tradition, hundreds of people of all ages, genders, and races came together to say they were proud of our community.  And they turned out just two days after HB 1523 became the law in Mississippi.  That means the LGBT community has new started new traditions.

  1. Because Pride Day gave older folks hope and made younger people feel normal.

I talked to several LGBT folks over 50 who told me they never thought a gathering like the one on June 24 in Biloxi’s Point Cadet Park would ever happen in their lifetimes. I am 52, have lived on the Gulf Coast for 14 years, and wish I could say I thought differently.  But I did not.  Speaking for my generation, Pride Day changed my sense of what is possible.

By contrast, people under 30 who came out to Cadet Park acted like it was just another of the Gulf Coast’s many festivals, which it was.  They could read about Pride celebrations this month throughout the nation on social media.  And this year, they also had one where they lived.  Hopefully, this will make them stay on the Gulf Coast and not join the exodus of talented LGBT people from Mississippi.

  1. Because anti-gay protestors at the Pride Day showed conservatives are taking LGBT rights seriously

I talked to a big, tall lesbian friend at Pride day who is normally fearless, but she was concerned about the religious protestor as the entrance to Point Cadet Park.  Having grown up in the Pentecostal Church, she worried about disapproval of LGBT people from religious authorities.  I told her it was good that the protestor was there.  It meant that conservative in Mississippi are taking the LGBT rights movement seriously because we are changing the status quo.

We need to remember that HB 1523 was passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Americans have a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex.  Since I teach Mississippi History, I can tell you this is the first time that the conservative elite has taken our movement seriously enough to pass legislation.  We need to remember that, after the first Wade-Ins in 1959 protesting segregation on the Gulf Coast beaches, the Mississippi legislature passed a law against protests on the beach.  Well, the beaches have been integrated for some time now, and Pride Day was the beginning of the end of LGBT people being second-class citizens in Mississippi. Although there were no political speeches at the Pride Day in Point Cadet, the presence of a wide cross-section of the LGBT community sent a message that was loud and clear.

Please also see Justin Mitchell’s excellent column in the Sun Herald on how to respond to HB 1523:  “Don’t leave, LGBTQ people. Mississippi needs you now more than ever.”

By Douglas Bristol

Lessons from the Scene of a Hate Crime

Lessons from the Scene of a Hate Crime

My recent visit to the Pulse in Orlando taught me some difficult lessons.  The foremost was that, although it had been almost three weeks since the shootings there, the tragedy of June 12th is not over.  Crime scene tape still hung on the fence enclosing the club.  And people were still leaving tributes—balloons, cards, flowers, and posters—for the victims. 

Since most of them appeared to know one of the victims, I learned that the loss was personal.  I felt like I was intruding on a private ceremony. There were many people gathered on the sidewalk in front of the club, but I was struck the most by a seven or eight-year-old boy, who was leaving red roses next to the photographs of some of the victims.  The scene drove home the fact that forty-nine people will be missed by their families and friends for the rest of their lives. 

How do you understand this kind of loss?  One minute, a crowd of mostly young LGBTQ people were enjoying a night out, and the next minute, they were terrified as bullets flew through the club.  The shootings were so unexpected.  The consequences were so deadly.  Drawing on my own experience, the only event that could remotely compare in its impact was Hurricane Katrina.  I knew several people who died, and I knew many survivors who would never be the same again.  And even though it has been more than ten years, Katrina still haunts most of us who lived through it.  So, at least in some ways, I think a parallel can be drawn between the two events. 

One lesson from Katrina that strikes me as relevant to the tragedy at the Pulse is that we can be better prepared.  For example, when I went to a big gay club in Fort Lauderdale last weekend, I was happy that an off-duty policeman used a wand to check me and the other patrons for weapons before we could enter.  Patrons of gay clubs need to demand that club owners adopt this practice and to support the ones who do. 

A more long-term precaution is improving our infrastructure.  After Katrina, buildings were raised, levees were reinforced, and new shelters were built.  So, to continue the parallel, how can we rebuild the infrastructure of the LBGTQ community to be better prepared for hate crimes? 

LGBTQ people need to build a stronger legal infrastructure. After Katrina, communities on the Gulf Coast needed many structural protections such as levees and seawalls. Similarly, LGBTQ people need many legal protections.  Cities need to pass anti-discrimination ordinances like the one recently enacted in Jackson, Mississippi.  Police departments need to begin filing annual hate crime reports to the Justice Department.  Most importantly, LGBTQ people need to rally together to support the passage of the Equality Act now before Congress https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/3185.

To get this new legal infrastructure, LGBTQ people need strong allies.  Just as Gulf Coast representatives in Congress forged alliances with politicians from around the country to secure funding for new infrastructure, LGBTQ people need to forge alliances to secure the passage of new anti-discrimination laws.  I think the Pulse shootings established a common interest with organizations worried about violence against minorities.  Although police saved lives at the Pulse rather than taking them, most of the Pulse victims were African American and Latino, which should be of interest to the #BlackLivesMatter movement and to the NAACP.  I agree with these organizations that being a minority increases your chances of being shot without a good reason.

In addition to reaching out to other minority groups, LGBTQ people need to tell their straight white allies to speak up on their behalf.  It is nice that allies include us in their lives, but if they want us to feel safe, they need to join our efforts to lobby city council members and representatives in Congress.  We cannot get laws enacted without them.  Equally important, allies need to speak up when they hear their family and friends say they hate LGBTQ people.  It could save lives.  The Pulse shooter, Omar Mateen, had a history of making threats against African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ people, and women at his workplace, but none of his coworkers reported him to authorities. 

Before closing, let me address the naysayers, who might say that anti-discrimination laws will not prevent the next mass shooting of LGBTQ people.  On the most basic level, they are right.  No law will prevent a disturbed individual, especially someone driven by internalized homophobia as Omar Mateen appeared to be, from killing more LGBTQ people. But if you saw any merit to drawing a parallel between Katrina and the Pulse shootings, you might ask the following question.  Will better levees prevent the next hurricane?  Of course not, but they will improve the chance of people surviving it by limiting the number of people who are affected.  Similarly, more legal rights will mean better protection from threats to the safety of LGBTQ people. 

Let me end by asking this question.  Did the forty-nine innocent people who were murdered in the Pulse shooting die in vain?  If nothing is done to better protect LGBTQ people in the future, I think the answer is yes.

By Douglas Bristol

 

 

 

Pensacola Beach’s Gay Memorial Day Celebration

Here is a post by another blogger about why gay men go to Pensacola Beach on Memorial Day.  Write your own post about why you go. You do not have to use your full name. Submit a post through the link below.

The Closet Professor

The redneck riviera becomes the rainbow riviera for one weekend out of the year and it couldn’t happen in a more lovely place: Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola Beachis one of the most expansive, beautiful and less known white sand beaches in the world. This hidden gem of a destination is throwing off its reputation as the ‘Redneck Riviera’ and embracing a future as a world-class tourist destination. A clear indication that this trend is well under way is the unmitigated success of Pensacola Beach’s Gay Memorial Day Celebration.

There’s no mistaking what time of year it is on Pensacola Beach during Memorial Day weekend. Every year, the beach is sprinkled with rainbow flags welcoming local and out-of-town members of the gay community who generously return the favor by staying in beachfront hotels, eating seafood and drinking a lot. Tens of thousands of gay and lesbian travelers flock to this innocuous beach…

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LGBTQ Voices in Mississippi

LGBTQ Voices in Mississippi

Why am I starting this blog?

I am starting this blog because the national press continues to astound me.  Every time it appears that reporters for the major newspapers can’t find a more distorted way to look at Mississippi, they find new ways to do it.  Right now, one reporter from the Washington Post is trying to win a Pulitzer Prize by finding transgender people who are perfectly happy with their lives in Mississippi.

“You must not know the right people,” she declared when I told her that she might as well be looking for a unicorn.  She could not understand that LGBTQ people in Mississippi are not as free from discrimination as they are in Washington, D.C.  She wanted to write a profile of a noble transgender individual who was loved and appreciated by her co-workers and neighbors, but was only mildly upset with the state’s new Religious Liberty Accommodations Act.  Perhaps that is why she did not want to interview the brilliant transgender activists I know—they are too articulate about the need for equality in Mississippi.

The reporter also did not want to interview a college student I know who was a plaintiff in the case that overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.  I was surprised.  After all, the reporter had contacted me because I am the faculty advisor for an LGBTQ student organization, the Southern Miss Alliance for Equality https://www.usm.edu/gulfcoast/alliance-equality.  I thought she might be interested in the story of a married lesbian with children who was working full-time and going to school in order to better provide for her family.  According to this reporter, the national press was already covering the LGBTQ community in Mississippi.  I disagree.

Although Mississippi has been in the news since the Governor Phil Bryant signed the Religious Liberty Accommodations Act into law on April 5, 2016, I have still not read any stories that convey what it is like to be LGBTQ in Mississippi.  I think I know why.  Some reporters, like the woman from the Washington Post, think that gay life here is no different than anywhere else in the United States except for the colorful politicians and the southern accents.  Other reporters seem to think the South is not really a part of the United States and therefore LGBTQ people are not guaranteed rights under the Constitution.  If we fail to abandon our homes and move to Washington, D.C. or San Francisco, then they think we deserve the treatment that we get.  Both points of view are wrong in my opinion.

Please help me correct the record by submitting your own posts to this blog about being LGBTQ in Mississippi.  Only you can decide what subjects are relevant to write about, but I have a few caveats.  Your post should be coherent and 500-1,500 words long.  It should go without saying that, if you want to rant against LGBTQ people, this is not the blog for you.  Also, since this blog is designed for company from out-of-state, let’s not squabble with each other in front of our guests.  Having said that, I look forward to hearing from you; let’s tell our own story for a change!