Should Gay People Just Leave the South?

Expanding the LGBTQ Conversation
May 13 2014 9:16 AM

HRC’s Project One America Seeks to “Move the South” for LGBTQ People

Jen and Patricia of Alabama.

Still from HRC video.

I wrote earlier this month about the LGBTQ movement’s new focus on the South, led by funders like Tim Gill and organizations like the Human Rights Campaign. While it remains to be seen what style of activism will work best in a region that has a knack for avoiding difficult conversations and a tendency to resist change, it’s clear that the current paradigm of “two Americas” that HRC president Chad Griffin describes—one in which certain kinds of gay equality are on the rise and another in which discrimination and helplessness before the law is commonplace—must come to an end.

No doubt in an effort to drive that point home, HRC’s Project One America released a video yesterday featuring the voices of LGBTQ people from states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas. They speak of fear for their jobs, the inability to show even the most innocent signs of affection in public, and a pervasive feeling of “despair” brought on by the sense in the community that there is something wrong with them. In a particularly poignant moment, a lesbian couple realizes that they sit four feet apart on the couch even in the privacy of their own home: “You start becoming what you pretend to be,” Joce, one of the pair, observes.


Hearing all these stories of struggle, it’s easy to wonder why LGBTQ people don’t all just leave the South. But the interviewees make a point of expressing their love for the region, whether for reasons of culture, family, or other meaningful connections. And in the end, why should they leave? As Joce put it, “Either we have to change or Mississippi has to change, and we’ve decided it’s going to be them.”

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.