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Eye-opening doc ‘Southern Pride’ explores gay life in the deep south

Malcolm Ingram made a stir over a decade ago with his documentary Small Town Gay Bar, and now he’s returned with a brand new documentary, Southern Pride, shining a light on two strong women who have become leaders in the LGBTQ community in the Gulf Coast region of Mississippi.

After the 2016 election, Lynn Koval, local gay bar owner, and activist decided it was time for the Gulf Coast to have its first Pride Celebration. She had worked to keep the doors open on her bar, the Just Us Lounge in Biloxi, for over 25 years and a portrait quickly emerges of a woman whose community means everything to her.

Then there’s Shawn Perryon, also a club owner, who is fighting the same fight in Hattiesburg where KlubXclusive caters to the needs specifically of the black LGBTQ community.

Over the course of the documentary, we come to know these women and their communities in a way that makes them feel like old friends.

Pride in the south and across the Bible Belt of the country has always been a precarious thing at the best of times. While the rest of the country might be opening its doors and its minds to the queer community, that is definitely not the case here, especially in more rural areas.

Ingram rightfully highlights this struggle and the fear within the community that accompanies it.

In one of the planning meetings for Koval’s Pride celebration, we watch as the debate rages over how to present Pride to the community.

One young man says he doesn’t understand why they have to put the fact that it’s a Pride gathering at the top of the announcements further suggesting that it be mentioned in smaller lettering under a headline.

The frustration from Koval is palpable as the scene plays out, but there is also an understanding as she questions him about his suggestion.

Pride is not only scary in small town, southern America, it’s also dangerous and you can see that fear on multiple faces in the room.

Thankfully, Ingram does not shy away from the additional layer of racism that the black queer community faces.

Perryon’s Pride becomes even more tenuous as she plans a gathering specifically for the African American queer community. She fears being labeled a racist when all she really wants is to see unity where it is lacking among her own.

There is a lot to dissect in Southern Pride.

Questions of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation have become more intense under the current administration, and you can see the toll that it's taken during each of the interviews throughout the film.

Ingram is careful, however, to also spotlight this community’s resiliency. There is a determination inborn in southern women. Koval and Perryon fairly radiate that quality and have set their sights on infusing it into their communities in every way they can.

Ingram, thankfully, takes us from inception to completion of both events, allowing the men and women of the Gulf Coast to tell their stories as southerners tell them. Oh sure, it might take a few extra minutes to get from Point A to Point B, but you’ll learn things you never knew along the way and find a deeper understanding of this community that will enrich your own experience.