Sunday, May 26th, 2019

Southern Pride : the struggle to organize Gay Pride in the Deep South

For his 5th documentary queer Canadian filmmaker Malcolm Ingram has returned to the American South where he shot his award-winning Small Town Gay Bar in 2006,  Now he is back in two small towns in Mississippi on the Gulf Coast looking at the state of the LGBTQ community just after Trump’s election in 2016.

We hear first from Lynn Koval a white middle-aged lesbian whose bar Just Us in the small town of Biloxi is the oldest in the State.  She is a tough matriarch with a heart of gold who will without any hesitation give the only money she has in her cash register to a customer in desperate need, even though the Bar itself is always on the brink of its own financial crisis.

When Biloxi was all but wiped out by Hurricane Katrina , the Bar like the rest of the town had to be completely rebuilt.  The more you see of Koval in action, you begin to realise that she took it all in her stride despite the fact of how very tough day to day life is in this economically depressed area.

Here right in the middle of a Trump-supporting State that is the home of an extreme Bible Belt ingrained culture, simply being as an out gay person is a challenge.  Even more so for the transgender bartender that Koval has taken under a wing and protected her so at least in the 4 square walls of Just Us she can feel safe.

With the alt-right backlash getting bolder and more active in the State, Koval decides the only way to fight back is to organize their very first Gay Pride.  With no money at all, and little chance of the any sponsorship, the first community meeting to discuss the event is a total shambles with several of the people present really scared that the whole day will end up with violent repercussions for the community.

Korval is undeterred even when the very first fund raisers are a total disaster.  Her passion and enthusiasm is infectious and gets them all through many tough times, but her micro-management actually risks jeopardising other people’s involvement at times.

Ingram also takes his cameras to Hattiesburg and to the only gay club in town run by Shawn Perryon a seemingly fierce African-American lesbian.  Her clientele is almost 100% black so her concerns are not just the rampant homophobia in town but also the undisguised aggressive racism. Perryon is  organizing what she has titled the “Unapologetic Black Gay Pride,” an event that’s meant to promote unity among the black community but also the black LGBTQ community.

Against all the odds, including a major tropical storm the day before,  Korvak and her team pull Southern Pride off and it is a unqualified success.  The local LGBTQ commnity come out in force, as does Shawn Perryon and  the two bar owners/activists meet for the very first time.  They agree that the next step is to bring the white and black LGBT communities together, and left in their capable hands, we can feel confident that this will happen.

Watching the story unfold simply re-emphasizes what a very tough life these people endure to live in a community and State that most of them still love regardless of their circumstances. What we privileged LGBT communities in other parts of the country just take for granted is so noticeably absent here.  Just the simple act of fund raising the smallest amount of money is an enormous undertaking that as we witnessed actually leaves them in deficit.

Ingram does though highlight the natural resilience of the community that emulates their leaders energy and determination, and seeing all the broad beaming grins on everyone’s faces as they pack up after the first ever Southern Pride, makes up for a  helluva lot. 

P.S. One of the people that popped up in this documentary was Rick Gladish the owner a Rumours one of the gay bars featured in Small Town Gay Bar but which has now been closed and the building converted into a Baptist Church


Posted by queerguru  at  09:58


Genres:  documentary

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