Throwing Shade

What’s next for Coast’s LGBT community after year of tragedy, triumph

Katrina White, left, James, 12, and Colette White hug after telling James his adoption was approved on Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Gulfport. The couple had been trying to adopt James for more than a year, but as a same-sex couple they faced numerous difficulties.
Katrina White, left, James, 12, and Colette White hug after telling James his adoption was approved on Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Gulfport. The couple had been trying to adopt James for more than a year, but as a same-sex couple they faced numerous difficulties. amccoy@sunherald.com File

There was triumph, tragedy and hope for the Coast’s LGBTQ community in 2016, and a North Carolina–based equality group is helping 2017 be a year of legal knowledge.

On Friday, the Campaign for Southern Equality is hosting an event from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Pass Christian Library to help the Coast’s LGBTQ residents understand their rights.

According to their Facebook event, attorneys and transgender advocates will lead the meeting, and the clinic “will feature information about second parent adoptions, completing name change paperwork, and a workshop on resources that are available for funding medical transition.”

Attendees also will be able to apply for need-based stipends to aid with the cost of legal processes.

The free meeting is part of the group’s program called Legal Workshops for the LGBTQ South.

When you’re LGBTQ in the Deep South, sometimes it’s the small things that equate to huge steps forward for inclusion — or a giant leap backward toward the past. Here’s a look back at 2016:

  • One year after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage June 26, 2015, more than 200 same-sex couples had legally wed on the Coast.
  • House Bill 1523, the “religious freedom” bill, was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, allowing businesses to refuse to serve LGBTQ people. The passage of the bill sparked public outcry and downright opposition from hundreds of businesses and thousands of people in South Mississippi.
  • The Coast cheered in July when a federal judge blocked HB 1523.
  • South Mississippians mourned during a rainy vigil after a shooting Pulse Nightclub in Orlando left 49 people dead.
  • The 2015 death of transgender teen Mercedes Williamson made history in December when her killer, Josh Vallum, was charged with a federal hate crime, the first involving a transgender victim.
  • In July, A transgender nurse from Hattiesburg was stabbed to death in a St. Martin hotel room. Dee Whigham’s alleged killer pleaded not guilty to capital murder in December.
  • Hancock High salutatorian Trevor Ladner went to school in drag for the first time with his brother by his side to participate in (and win) a womanless beauty pageant. Now a Harvard freshman, he told the Sun Herald in May about his struggle of coming out as gay in South Mississippi but finding his way with the help of his drag alter ego.
  • In April, a Gulfport lesbian couple had to divorce in order to adopt their son in Mississippi. Colette White wasn’t allowed in the courtroom when a judge approved adoption papers for 12-year-old James.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J

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