Throwing Shade

Don’t leave, LGBTQ people. Mississippi needs you now more than ever.

Sun Herald social media editor Justin Mitchell
Sun Herald social media editor Justin Mitchell

Quite frankly, I’m pissed. And I’m not the only one.

It is absolutely mind-blowing that in the year 2017, courts and this country are ruling to make discrimination legal.

Let me repeat: It’s 2017. People will be able to legally refuse service to LGBTQ people and be protected by law.

I want to say so many things that are not suitable for work, but I’m going to take the high road. Last year, when this piece of legislation passed, I wrote a blog explaining why I would stay in Mississippi, and that blog has led to the production of Out Here in America, a podcast about what it’s like being queer in the Deep South and in America’s Heartland. To the LGBTQ community in South Mississippi, I beg you not to leave. I beg you to stay.

Here’s why:

I talked with Tig Notaro in May, and she told me why she planned to marry in Mississippi.

Notaro spent most of her childhood summers with her family in Pass Christian. She said one of the best views in the world was driving over the Bay St. Louis bridge into Harrison County. One of the saddest feelings was when they drove back into Bay St. Louis at the end of the summer to head to the New Orleans airport.

She’s always felt that Pass Christian was home, and she planned her wedding there before Obergefell v. Hodges fell. She was going to get married here whether it was legal or not. For her, it was important.

But gay marriage became the law of the land about three months before Notaro wed Stephanie Allynne on the beach in the Pass. And when they walked from the beach to the reception area, people came out of their houses to congratulate them. It was a feeling Notaro said she will never forget.

But Mississippi is still the place where Notaro’s cousin was stripped of his deacon status in the Catholic church for marrying a lesbian couple. It’s still the place where Notaro felt scared after HB 1523 initially passed. It’s still the place that’s tainted but is getting better every day, even though the governor of Mississippi has done everything in his power to make gay people feel lesser in Mississippi.

Phil Bryant may have won this battle, but he hasn’t won the war.

Notaro made a statement. Her marriage license says the State of Mississippi.

As LGBTQ people who live here, we need to make a statement. We can’t stand for it. We have to fight the good fight and tell anyone and everyone that we will not stand for discrimination. This is not a social issue. It’s a civil rights issue. We have to demand equality.

Support businesses who support us. Stop shopping at places that don’t support the LGBTQ community. Write letters to Phil Bryant. Speak when you can. Go to events. Let your voice be heard.

We just want to have the same rights as everyone else, but we can’t fight for our own inclusion from a different state. We have to get on the ground here. We have to come together and peacefully spread a statement of love, peace, acceptance and equality.

This blog post is the opinion of Justin Mitchell, social media editor at Sun Herald.

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @JustinMitchell_