Stories from the South in your inbox.
Reminder: We owe today's Pride parades to Black transgender women who threw bricks at cops. The first official Pride march was held the year after the 1969 Stonewall riots. It was a somber showing of resistance and a demand for better.

Today, the month of June is a time of celebration—and another Hallmark holiday for corporations to use in marketing schemes—but it's also a time to reflect on our progress, history, and how far we have yet to go toward true equality.
Become a Scalawag member to support queer-led media!
Scalawag centers queer Southern voices year 'round—but we also love any excuse to brag on our family. Today: 10 of my favorite queer stories we've published over the years. Happy pride, y'all!
Prostitution was already illegal in Louisiana. Then Republicans crafted an even more damning law to target trans sex workers.
Matt Nadel, Scalawag

Passed in an era of gay panic, an anti-prostitution law in Louisiana has destroyed the lives of Black women and trans women of color. People targeted by the Crime Against Nature by Solicitation statute are forced to carry a license with the words “SEX OFFENDER” in bright orange letters, forfeit child custody rights, and forfeit most opportunities for gainful employment. Others convicted of prostitution in the state are not.

"People see that and assume I was doing something terrible, something with children, something with animals, not something I needed to do to survive,” activist Wendi Cooper says of her conviction under the antiquated law.

Cooper is a 42-year-old Black transgender activist from New Orleans. She's calling for the repeal of the statute—known colloquially as "CANS." According to Cooper, it's been used as a tool for the lifelong subjugation of trans women of color in Louisiana ever since. Learn how more than 700 trans and cis women ended up on the sex offender registry in New Orleans. [Link]
1. Queer love and struggle in Jackson, Mississippi
Zachary Oren Smith, Scalawag

“Hanging in the bar, there is a framed picture of an Urban Dictionary entry: ‘Wonderlust—the stage in a relationship or phase of love when you’re not sure if you are lusting after or actually in love with someone.’ Jesse considered other names for the bar: The Purple Panda? Too weird. Needs to have more mass appeal. Wonderland? Don’t want people to think of little boys when they come here. Wonderland? ‘Why not Wonderlust?’ Jesse said recalling the conversation.”

This story was originally published in April 2017. A year later, an appeal to uphold Mississippi’s unconstitutional, anti-LGBTQ law made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court—which declined to hear the case in January 2018. Our Issue 8 cover story looked at the queer organizing and social scenes in Jackson. It’s a story of resistance and resilience and the creation of community in a state where queer folks have few places to gather. And that gathering is not just about self-exploration—it’s at the root of Mississippians’ attempts to make their state more free. [Link]
2. Jesus walks into a drag bar: Birmingham’s alternative drag scene
Haley BosselmanScalawag

“I’m really fascinated by how people interact with religion. I’ve got a lot of friends who are Jewish, Catholic, pagan, [but] nothing seems to have the ritual and the stereotypes of Southern Christianity.”

When Angel Fazce started performing in 2016, her initial intent was to satirize white Southern Baptist women. Four years later, the Shed of Shame, Angel—along with Saliva Godiva and Sister Milky Juicy—is taking on sex, religion, and COVID-19, challenging Southern suburbanites, white evangelicalism, and tired stereotypes of what drag can be. [Link]
3. A Country Queers Dispatch
R. GarringerScalawag

“I want to respect my heritage, and I want to preserve this land. That became more important to me than living in a city.”

In 2013, with $200 saved from three jobs, former Scalawag editor Rae Garringer created Country Queers, a home for stories about the “joy, pain, monotony, and fabulosity of rural and small town queer life.” This project was born at a time when rural queer stories were few and far between in mainstream and social media, and at a time when finding one another as rural queer people often felt nearly impossible.

In this Country Queers dispatch from Prospect Virginia, Robyn Thirkill talks about everything from how her great-grandparents become Black landowners during Jim Crow, to learning how to skin a deer from a YouTube video. (Psst—spare some bucks for the Country Queers podcast, too!) [Link]
4. A Love Letter to Black Queers in the Rural South
Darius ScottScalawag

“While we was down there the whole week and a half, people skeeved me... I can hear them talking: ’There’s that sissy.’”

How do Southern, Black queer and transgender people end up disproportionately facing a virus much of the country thinks is over? This is a love letter to the Black queer and trans folk in the rural South, still fighting HIV/AIDS 40 years later, still fighting for visibility and love at home. [Link]
5. Growing up queer in Appalachia
U. J. WoodScalawag

“We were strange children. We were obsessed with androgyny, or unable to imagine ourselves growing up. Sometimes we were just acutely alienated, for seemingly no reason. We were vulnerable, and that made us angry... When we strange children found each other, we thought it was for a shared love of certain stories—and it was true—but for many of us it wasn’t the whole truth. I’ve heard so many reports of closeted kids’ witch-like ability to detect one another that I know better than to call it a coincidence.”

Ursula Wood looks back on the complexities of queer childhood in Appalachia—the vulnerability, the knowing and not-knowing, the shared sweetness and danger—and draws lessons for all of us today. Chief among them: Resisting repression requires not only overt activism and allies, but also “quiet and deeply personal” forms of mentorship and solidarity. [Link]
6. Listen: Going home for my small town's first LGBTQ pride
Monique LaBorde, Scalawag

"Hendersonville’s first pride celebration wasn’t a parade or a festival. It was a potluck picnic. Bringing the community together over potato salad and watermelon slices is quaintly befitting for Hendersonville’s first pride. It’s also the kind of event where people can actually  talk—unlike the relative anonymity of a parade or march. I felt that I was coming home to meet the LGBTQ people who were all around me as I was growing up. We would really see each other for the first time."

Read, look, listen, laugh, cry. Monique LaBorde’s multimedia essay about Hendersonville’s first pride picnic will have you in your feelings. Despite threats of violence, 500 people in this small town turned out with homemade pies, burgers, and every kind of salad you can name. Because, as one person said, “When we share food together, we belong to each other.” [Link]
7. The first Black drag queen in North Alabama and other untold stories of the Queer South
Sarah PragerScalawag

From lesbians with gourds on their heads in rural Georgia to a 1980s Birmingham bar called Mabel’s Beauty Shop & Chain Saw Repair, we’ve got an exclusive look into the Invisible Histories Project collection, preserving the stories of the untold Queer South.

“When you spend so much of your life in the closet,” says Josh Burford, co-founder of the Invisible Histories Project, “an archive like this is the antidote to feeling isolated.” [Link]
8. The Queer South: Where the past is not past, and the future is now
Minnie Bruce Pratt, Scalawag

“We had to redraw the map of what we’d been taught was ‘Southern.’ We had to educate ourselves about the death-dealing massacres, occupations, seizures of land, and forced migrations…”

Minnie Bruce Pratt is a writer and activist who came out as a lesbian in North Carolina in 1975 and now lives in her Alabama hometown and Syracuse. In 2019, she made the four-hour drive to offer some personal and political memories at the Southeastern Women’s Studies Conference in Oxford, the oldest and largest regional women’s studies conference of its kind. This piece, on breaking the stronghold of white supremacist narratives within queer movements, is an adapted version of that speech, and reading it is (almost) as powerful as being in that room. [Link]
9. FULL SPECTRUM: An exploration of sexuality and mental health
Patrick Di Rito, Scalawag

The Queer Color Series started as a very playful reaction to the excessively morose work Patrick Di Rito was creating earlier in his career. Since then it has bloomed into a colorful discourse, a visual landscape in which queer folks exist in and through orientation and gender—and beyond it. [Link]
10. Meet the Glasscos: Lesbian foster parents in the Bible Belt
Katherine Webb-HehnScalawag

Childersburg is a typical river town in Alabama: tackle shops, Waffle House, a Piggly Wiggly. Near the Glassco house, a Cajun restaurant called Bigman’s serves grilled gator and BBQ. But the Glasscos aren’t exactly the typical Childersburg family, because, as they’d say, of the whole lesbian thing.

The Glasscos’ home life with their first-grader foster son Jay is, as Webb puts it, “downright Norman Rockwell-ish. The irony of being in a neighborhood called Pleasant Valley hits me when Chelsey cuts the chitchat to tell me Jay has had a hard week, and I remember why I’m here.”

In 2018, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed HB24 into law, protecting adoption agencies when they deem parents unfit on the basis of religious beliefs. This means agencies can now legally discriminate against same-sex couples like the Glasscos, who say they were denied by a dozen adoption agencies before finding one willing to work with them. [Link]

BONUS! See also: Forever family. Lesbian foster parents on a journey to adopt in the Bible Belt.

In a follow-up to one of our most popular stories ever, Webb brings us back to a little country courthouse in Alabama, where the Glasscos wait with their foster son to find out if a conservative judge will let a lesbian couple adopt. Get your kleenex ready, because this is pretty damn heartwarming. [Link]
Did someone forward you this email? Sign up for yourself!
Scalawag · PO Box 129 · Durham, NC 27702 · USA
Unsubscribe from these emails.