Living In The Gay South

Posted by   Seth Persily on 2016-06-13

Share on pinterest google+


This is an appeal to my LGBTQ community, our friends and our allies.

For the last year I’ve watched as we’ve relaxed and celebrated (and I’ve celebrated too!). We Won Marriage, and Yes, that’s a dream come true.

But the reality is that for me and millions of other gay people, things have actually been getting a lot worse rather than the other way around. Here in the South we’ve been bearing the brunt of an awful anti-gay backlash, and LGBTQ Southerners are being attackedvilified and disenfranchised like never before. We contend with staggering levels of homelessness among LGBTQ youth, a heartbreaking suicide and attempted-suicide rate, a 1980’s-level spike in HIV infections unparalleled anywhere else in the country, the introduction of dozens of proposed anti-gay laws that threaten to strip away the few basic protections we have, and now we’ve suffered the worst massacre in US history. We are, unquestionably, a community in need.

I’ve lived in Atlanta for nearly two decades and I love it here. But I’m a father and my kids are my priority, so yes of course we’ve considered packing up and leaving. But Georgia is our home, we have deep roots here, and we don’t very much like the notion of being chased out.

Yet at the same time I can’t allow my children to grow up in an environment that has become toxic. So when Southerners start trying to pass laws that would allow me or my kids to be denied medical treatment at a hospital or dinner at a restaurant, and when one of our nightclubs is transformed into a death chamber as part of a devastating pattern of violence against us, it’s time to do something.

So I’m doing the only thing I can. I’m reaching out for help, today, to you.

I’m asking you to hear me when I say that winning marriage equality was an incredible accomplishment, but this fight is far from over.

I’m asking you to empathize with me when I say that LGBTQ Southerners are at risk of being abandoned due to complacency within our larger community, and as a gay Southerner with a family to raise that terrifies me.

And I’m asking you to join me when I say here in the South we’ve had enough, we must work towards long-term change, and we desperately need the help of our allies to do it.

Southern Stories

Last year I joined the Board of GLAAD because I know the organization can turn the tide in the South. Doing so is no easy task, and requires the hard work of reaching outtelling our stories, and winning over hearts and minds. That’s what GLAAD does best. In the words of President Sarah Kate Ellis, “Closing the gap to full acceptance of LGBT people will not come from legislation or judicial decisions alone, but from a deeper understanding and empathy from Americans themselves.” There’s no other way to do it, and it’s been proven time and again to work.

That’s why GLAAD recently launched it’s Southern Stories Initiative. Last year, after coordinating with local allies in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia, GLAAD staff boarded a bus and traveled to small towns throughout the South. They interacted with faith and military communities, conducted media trainings, launched the first LGBTQ Country Music Concert in Memphis (the concert won a CMA Award!), and connected culture-changing stories of LGBTQ Southerners with millions of households.

The good news is that it was a huge success. The bad news is that it was just a beginning, creating change costs money, and with gay marriage behind us our community has been donating less and less of it. But we can change that.

So I’m asking you directly, on behalf of myself, my family, and my community – will you help us create lasting change here in the South? We sure could use your support.

Here are two ways you can make a thoughtful difference today:

  • First, please consider joining GLAAD by making a donation to the Southern Stories program. All donations are tax-deductible, and any amount big or small would be greatly appreciated.
  • Second, please consider sharing this post with friends and family.

Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that with gay marriage won our mission is accomplished, and please don’t forget about us. We are all in this together, and right now, we need you.


Seth Persily

Seth Persily is an attorney and tech entrepreneur in Atlanta, Georgia. He holds a BA in Religion from Duke University and a JD from Harvard Law School, and has served on the Boards of Georgia Equality, YouthPride, and GLAAD. All views and opinions shared are his own and do not necessarily represent those of any organization, group or entity he is affiliated with.