Race, Sexuality, Gender Politics and Advocacy
It has been a couple of years since I last watched “Southern Pride” and I remember being overwhelmed at how powerful it is. Malcolm Ingram who also directed “Small Town Gay Bar” was the head of this film as well; “the story of strong, queer women and their allies who answered the call to make their community better, in a time when the world is being torn apart. It examines the complications surrounding race, sexuality, gender politics and advocacy in America today.”
It was not that long ago when gay bars were often the only safe communities for small-town LGBTQ people in the Deep South’s Bible Belt (and many times still are), and bigoted forces—Fred Phelps, Tim Wildmon, and more—have long tried to shut them down. Now, after the election of Donald Trump has emboldened anti-LGBTQ hatred in the region, Ingram documents the travails of running a gay bar in Mississippi, with a profile of lesbian bar owners in Biloxi and Hattiesburg.
Lynn Koval is the white owner of Just Us Lounge, the oldest gay bar in the state of Mississippi, and Shawn Perryon, Sr., the black owner of the nine-year-old Club Xclusive, who separately decide to hold their cities’ first Pride celebrations in 2017, as a rebuke to the “open-season” mentality encouraged by Trump, as well as to Mississippi’s Religious Liberty Accommodations Act, the Pulse nightclub terrorist attack, and the murders of three Gulf Coast transgender women shortly after the 2017 inauguration. Just Us Lounge restored their community after Hurricane Katrina almost devastated Biloxi and nearly destroyed the bar. Can they and Club Xclusive organize a Pride event in the face of homophobia and racism? For months they prepared, held fundraisers and did what they could do to raise the necessary funds to put on a celebration. We see the power of community the brave efforts of these two gay bars and we understand that this is an example of Southern pride.
Having grown up in Louisiana, I had LGBT friends in nearby Mississippi and even though I have been gone for many years, I often look back and remember the good times we had. I could not help but wonder how they were dealing with Trump in the White House and I saw the irony that they probably knew more than he did about whatever and anything.
Lynn Koval is a queer organizing veteran who had devoted more than 25 years of her life to keeping the local gay drinking bar/ community center called the Just Us Lounge going in Biloxi, Mississippi. Bars have come and gone but Just Us outlasted them all. Lynn decided it was time that Biloxi found its pride on a larger scale, and so she decided to organize and put on the first Pride event on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. This became a struggle and caused confusion and frustration but it also made everyone feel stronger. About the same time, Shawn Perryon, owner of KlubXclusive in Hattiesburg, decided to bring to Mississippi its first Unapologetic Black Gay Pride.
“Southern Pride” is the story of strong, queer women and their allies who are determined to make their community better, in a time when the world is split and divided. Through this film, we examine the complications that surround race, sexuality, gender politics and advocacy in America today. Watching the film gives you a sense of pride alongside of a sense of sadness but pride seems to be winning here.