1. Because LGBT people on the Gulf Coast responded to this hateful law by coming together.
LGBT people in Mississippi have a long history of surviving by remaining divided in small groups and living in the shadows. Their thinking was if there were not too many of them and they remained out of sight, straight Mississippians would not mind their presence. Before you dismiss that assessment, you should consult John Howard’s excellent book, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History, which is about Mississippi from the 1950s through the 1980s.
Instead of remaining true to our closeted tradition, hundreds of people of all ages, genders, and races came together to say they were proud of our community. And they turned out just two days after HB 1523 became the law in Mississippi. That means the LGBT community has new started new traditions.
2. Because Pride Day gave older folks hope and made younger people feel normal.
I talked to several LGBT folks over 50 who told me they never thought a gathering like the one on June 24 in Biloxi’s Point Cadet Park would ever happen in their lifetimes. I am 52, have lived on the Gulf Coast for 14 years, and wish I could say I thought differently. But I did not. Speaking for my generation, Pride Day changed my sense of what is possible.
By contrast, people under 30 who came out to Cadet Park acted like it was just another of the Gulf Coast’s many festivals, which it was. They could read about Pride celebrations this month throughout the nation on social media. And this year, they also had one where they lived. Hopefully, this will make them stay on the Gulf Coast and not join the exodus of talented LGBT people from Mississippi.
3. Because anti-gay protestors at the Pride Day showed conservatives are taking LGBT rights seriously
I talked to a big, tall lesbian friend at Pride day who is normally fearless, but she was concerned about the religious protestor as the entrance to Point Cadet Park. Having grown up in the Pentecostal Church, she worried about disapproval of LGBT people from religious authorities. I told her it was good that the protestor was there. It meant that conservative in Mississippi are taking the LGBT rights movement seriously because we are changing the status quo.
We need to remember that HB 1523 was passed in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Americans have a constitutional right to marry someone of the same sex. Since I teach Mississippi History, I can tell you this is the first time that the conservative elite has taken our movement seriously enough to pass legislation. We need to remember that, after the first Wade-Ins in 1959 protesting segregation on the Gulf Coast beaches, the Mississippi legislature passed a law against protests on the beach. Well, the beaches have been integrated for some time now, and Pride Day was the beginning of the end of LGBT people being second-class citizens in Mississippi. Although there were no political speeches at the Pride Day in Point Cadet, the presence of a wide cross-section of the LGBT community sent a message that was loud and clear.
Please also see Justin Mitchell’s excellent column in the Sun Herald on how to respond to HB 1523: “Don’t leave, LGBTQ people. Mississippi needs you now more than ever.”
By Douglas Bristol