It was the phone call heard ’round the world — and it was made on a landline.
Bartender Kara Coley was slinging drinks at Sipps, a gay-friendly bar in Gulfport, on Jan. 18 when the phone rang. Her conversation would soon be shared around the world — including in Israel, New Zealand, Chile, France and China. Ashton Kutcher and Babble by Disney even had something to say about it.
“Is this a gay bar?” a woman at the other end of the line asked Coley. After getting confirmation, the woman asked Coley what to say to her son — he had just told her he was gay.
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Coley’s response was simple: Let him know that he is loved and accepted.
Coley posted the entire conversation on her Facebook page, and the post went viral after originally being published on SunHerald.com. In the United States, her story was reported by sites like Huff Post and Upworthy. News organizations overseas also reported the story. It’s been reported in several different languages, and Coley even was a guest on a New Zealand radio station.
Coley said she wasn’t sure if the phone call was real or a prank at first.
“I am pretty sure my face looked shocked,” Coley said. “At first I thought it was a joke, but then she said her son had just come out to her, and I knew it was real. Then I just went with my gut.”
Coley has been working in gay bars on the Mississippi Coast for nearly two decades. She said gay bars here are often treated like community and outreach centers.
“For so long, the bars were all we had. That was our only outlet,” she said.
Coley is a member of the Gulf Coast Equality Council, a program raising money to build an LGBT community center “so that people have an outlet besides a bar for resources.”
Coley has been sharing her viral conversation on social media so her friends can see how far her advice traveled.
“I am proud to be a positive role model. I feel like everyone should have someone who isn’t in it for themselves to help guide them,” she said.