Out In The Deep South

Emily Shire applauds the Showtime documentary L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin, which premieres tonight, for presenting an overlooked side of lesbian life in America:

The film – produced by Ilene Chaiken, who also did The L Word – acknowledges that for all the immense good that came from television portrayals of lesbians, these shows have often glossed over the hardships, bigotry, and, most frightening, well-intentioned condemnation that plagues these women in many parts of the country.  The immensely strong hold of the Bible Belt culture transcends nearly every aspect of lesbian life in southern Mississippi. Most women interviewed, regardless of age, race, or background have some deep familial connection to church. One woman, BB, is a former pastor who was outed to her congregation before she could even tell her loved ones. Being shamed by her church was tantamount to losing her community and her job.

June Thomas is aghast at the discrimination on display:

“A big problem is the churches,” says Sara, a pregnant lesbian who admits to struggling with pronouns as her physician wife transitions into her husband. Judging from this film, Sara’s assessment is quite an understatement. Over the course of 90 minutes, preachers, parents, and random guys on the street tell these women they’re deranged, depraved, and Hell-bound. It is not, to say the least, a supportive environment. These meddling churchgoers clearly believe they’re fighting for the lesbians’ souls – why else would a mother tell her daughter she is praying for the best relationship of her life to come to an end? But from the outside, at least, all they seem to be doing is messing with their loved ones’ heads. Indeed, many of the lesbians – smart women in loving, stable relationships—try to pray their own gay away. “I don’t want to die a lesbian,” says one.