Tagged: mississippi

Erik, Music Director, Cleveland, Mississippi

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Erik, in his own words: “What does being gay mean to me? I feel if I do not give some philosophical answer I will not win Mr. Gay America! With all joking aside, it is more about an acceptance of one’s self rather than the acceptance most gay men look for from family, friends, or society. When I wakeup each morning I feel happy to be me and am ready to live this charmed life I have been blessed with. Most people, gay or straight, are not able to do that, because they have not accepted the fact that each of us has a charge and higher calling in life.

Life itself is the greatest challenge of all and it is the one challenge we all must face, but each of us yield an infinite amount of paths to the finish. My greatest challenge is myself! I would say I am a very independent, honest, and caring person. When it comes to the subject of dating and relationships I seem to dismiss these qualities in potential partners.”

A Note from Duvalier, in Mississippi…

“As a gay man from MS, I #StandWithMSLGBT:

To My Fellow Mississippians,

For 30 years I’ve been proud of my deep magnolia roots. The many wonderful people of the state have been supportive of my professional and personal endeavors. Whenever someone asks me, “Where are you from?” I proudly say Mississippi. However, a dark and dismal cloud hovers over my favorite state. The country and the world are enraged by recent actions of our Governor and Legislators.

Growing up in Mississippi, I knew this place as a diverse land, full of exceptional culture and amazing people, as a young boy I knew there was something unique about me. That “feeling” was a major turning point in my life, but a part of my story I buried deeply for so many years.
It wasn’t until I met and fell in love with my soul mate, Adrian, that I accepted my position in this life. I, Duvalier Malone, am a proud gay man who will always be a product of Mississippi. I offer this statement simply to show my support for Mississippi’s LGBT community and its incredible allies.

I must admit my failed leadership on LGBT issues. For so many years, I worked on an assortment of causes, but never did my due diligence to speak up for a community that is an essential aspect of myself. Like many gay men I know, I sat in the shadow whenever gay issues were discussed. I didn’t help the movement get a seat at the political and social tables. As I enter my 30th year on this earth, I must come to terms with my negligence to the LBGT family I love so dearly. I am leaving that shadow to voice my opposition to the actions of Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant and State Legislators.

The so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is an abomination and will roll back many civil rights gains. Moreover, it is shameful that the loving God I keep close to my heart has been “thrown under the bus” as it were, to shield the hatred and bigotry of a small minority. America has made too many great strides in the protection of our civil rights to stop now. This law is an attack on basic human decency and stands in stark contrast to the southern hospitality that my state represents. No child should grow up in an America in which he or she can be denied basic human respect, based solely on a disagreement about personal love. We are better than this.
The social ramifications are great. However, the economic setbacks for the state will be detrimental to the development of a secured future for Mississippians. Major corporations with operations based in Mississippi have already criticized the state for this law. Any possible future expansions or investments will be greatly scaled back or cancelled. No company will provide economic stimulus to a place that proudly supports intolerance.

Our state leaders need to understand what they have signed-up for. This is not a law that will bridge the divisions that already exist. This law will further fragment citizens and violate individual rights. The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is a great slippery slope. If this bill prevails, legislators will continue to use religion to violate civil rights and liberties because of race, religion, gender, political views, gender identity, and sexual orientation. This is a civil rights nightmare that must quickly come to an end.

Every family in Mississippi is related to a member of the LGBT community. They are your fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Even though you might disagree with their decisions and who they chose to love, you love these individuals. I urge all family members to stand with their relatives and friends against this egregious display of prejudice. Your LGBT family member has never needed your support more than he or she does at this very moment.

I also plead with religious leaders of all faiths to exercise the love and tolerance that our beliefs teach. Religion has never been under attack by civil rights victories. Faith has often been a major part of positive movement in equality. Today, religion is being used as a justification for hatred and division. Let’s all stand together so our core values aren’t hijacked by ignorant zealots. We must all represent the love that is preached weekly.

For the LGBT folks, who like myself, have sat on the sidelines and in the shadows their whole life, it’s time to join the fight. This is not solely about you. This is a journey of self-acceptance and tolerance so that the young members of the LGBT community can live a life that we were denied. This is our civil rights fight and we must stop at nothing to find a solution to this law. I admit my lack of participation in this movement, but I promise a more robust involvement starting today. I urge everyone to join me.

Lastly, I make a plea to the supporters of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act”. I ask you to imagine being denied services. Have you taken the time to think about what it’s like for the other side? Have you thought about treating your neighbors as you want to be treated? Is this how you want Mississippi to be seen in the world? We are a country of freedom. Mississippi cannot be seen as a leader in hatred. I ask you not to use the fears of a few to take our state backwards—to a time of civil unrest and prejudice. Mississippi is a place full of hope and creativity. We embody southern hospitality. I ask that you reconsider your support so that we can all move forward and focus on more pressing issues. We must make great leaps to improve education and health standards. We need to rebuild infrastructure. We can create a more inclusive environment. Please think and pray hard about your support of this law.

As a very proud gay man who has been blessed to be in love with another man for over seven years, I am a Mississippi success story. I am growing every day in my true self and look forward to helping others do the same. I hope that the future is as bright in Mississippi as I once believed it could be. I will always stand with my Mississippi Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender family. You have loved me, and I will work forever to spread that love and support.

Sincerely,

Duvalier Malone
#StandWithMSLGBT”

photo provided by Duvalier
photo provided by Duvalier

Erik, Music Director, Cleveland, Mississippi

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Erik, in his own words: “What does being gay mean to me? I feel if I do not give some philosophical answer I will not win Mr. Gay America! With all joking aside, it is more about an acceptance of one’s self rather than the acceptance most gay men look for from family, friends, or society. When I wakeup each morning I feel happy to be me and am ready to live this charmed life I have been blessed with. Most people, gay or straight, are not able to do that, because they have not accepted the fact that each of us has a charge and higher calling in life.

Life itself is the greatest challenge of all and it is the one challenge we all must face, but each of us yield an infinite amount of paths to the finish. My greatest challenge is myself! I would say I am a very independent, honest, and caring person. When it comes to the subject of dating and relationships I seem to dismiss these qualities in potential partners.”

Austin, Photographer, Cleveland, Mississippi

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Austin, in his own words: “Throughout my life, being gay has been just one of those things that I knew I could not change. When I was younger I saw it as a burden. It was something that I was brought up thinking was wrong. I came from a Christian family and I have always had a very close relationship with GOD. I remember asking GOD to fix me and make me who He wanted me to be. Nothing ever changed after many prayers were sent up. I came to realize that there was nothing wrong with the way I am and there was nothing to be fixed. I then accepted who I am and began embracing it. Being gay does not define who I am. My positive spirit defines me. I strive to be the very best person I can be. I also strive to love. To love everyone and accept them as they are. That is what God wants from us. I no longer see being gay as a burden. I now see it as a happy fate that I have accepted. Being gay has been very difficult. However, all of the struggles I’ve stumbled upon have made me a stronger and wiser person. I guess to me being gay means growth.

My entire life thus far has been made up of challenges that have turned into successes. I have always been a very positive person with a wise head on my shoulders. I’ve had dreams and I am making them come true one day at a time. In my younger years, I was often the outcast of all of the kids. I never understood why. Being from a small delta town, if you are just the least bit different you stand out like a sore thumb. I stood out for sure. However, I had to learn that if people did not love me for my differences then they did not deserve to love me at all. Once I accepted that mind set real people came into my life. People who loved me for me. Friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I am so thankful for these people without them I could not have made it.

I have know that I was gay from a very young age. However I did not accept this lifestyle until High School. I remember October 1st, 2011 very well- the day I told my family that I am Gay. I was in Art Appreciation and we had a free day. A day to paint whatever we wanted. When I paint, I zone out and just go for it. There is no rhyme or reason in the finished product it is just there. However, once I finished this painting I saw something very special. I saw myself and what I was becoming. The painting represented a new era in my life. My “cover up” had started to fade, and my true colors were starting to show. These colors were beautiful. After taking a few moments to realize what this painting meant I felt confident that then was the time. I texted my mom that afternoon and told her I needed to tell her something very important. I met her later that afternoon. I was so nervous and tried to come up with a speech in my mind. Once I made it home I went blank. I remember mom asking me what was going on and I told her “Mom, I am gay” she instantly burst into tears and ran into her bedroom to tell my dad. At this point and time, dad and I were not very close so I was terrified of what was to come next. After that day, I knew that It was time for me to live on my own. Coming out was one of the hardest things I have had to ever do. There were many tears shed on both ends, that is for sure. I may have caused a lot of heart ache but I knew that it had to be done. After coming out, to my entire family and friends I felt so free. I no longer had to live a lie.

My parents still to this day do not accept my lifestyle. However, they love me unconditionally. They want me to be happy and that is it. Over the past few years we both have made mistakes and have done things we wish we could take back. However, we all grew from it. Now I am happier than I have ever been and I have my family again. They tell me all the time how proud they are of me and the person that I have become. My family means the world to me. I could not imagine my life without them. It’s been hard but we had to realize that we all needed one another. I’m so proud of my family and how far they have come over the past few years. We are now closer and stronger than ever!

The gay community in Cleveland is very small. However, I have met a few amazing gay people and they have become good friends. We are all very different but we bring out the best in one another. Cleveland, MS, is not where I want to live for the rest of my life. I plan to move just a few hours away to Memphis and see where my life goes from there. No matter how far away I go from Cleveland, it will always be home.

There are many things I would tell my younger self. The main thing I would say is that everything will be okay. You can not let your fears stop you from being your true self. You are beautiful just the way you and there is nothing that should change. Always be the best person you can be and stay close to GOD. With GOD all of your wildest dreams can and will come true. Always keep a smile on your face, and show everyone the love in your heart. Always enjoy life and enjoy your days while you are here on earth. “The days may seem long but the years, they just fly by”. This is a quote from my great grandmother. Life is short, enjoy each and every day and live it to the fullest.”

Thatboy Rod, Singer/Songwriter, Cleveland, Mississippi

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Thatboy Rod, in his own words: “What does being gay mean to me?

To me, gay is a way of life. It’s not the best life but it’s the best for me. I don’t see the difference only the correlation between heterosexual and homosexual male or females. I’m happy with who I am and all that I am going to be. Being gay pushed me to do great things, it maks me want to be better than the next person.

What challenges/successes have you had in your life?

A success for me was finishing school. I graduated from the University of West Florida with my BS in Business Administration. Not many people have to motivation to complete school. There are a lot of gays who haven’t even given college a thought. I am proud of myself. A challenge that I face is my music career. I have always loved music. I am very talented, and I write my own music as well. The thing I’m afraid of the most is being a failure.

What’s the gay community like in Cleveland?

I shouldn’t really answer this as I’m not from here and haven’t been here that long. Being gay in Cleveland is like being a minority is a different society. If you’re African American and gay, you might as well consider yourself JUDGED. The Caucasian gays and African American gays doesn’t seem to get along, either one wants sex and the other wants friendship, vice versa.

What’s your coming out story?

I haven’t really came out, I didn’t tell people, they just sorta found out. I don’t hide who I am, nor do I put on a fake persona to conceal ME. I’m glad that people did just find out cause if it were up to me to tell them, it would’ve been bad.

What advice would I give my younger self?

I haven’t really done anything that I regret, yes I’ve made mistakes but those mistakes make me who I am today. If I were to change anything about that then who knows how I would’ve turned out.”

Steven, Freelance Makeup Artist, Batesville, Mississippi

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
Steven, in his own words: “Being gay, to me means simply being; staying true to who I am; the way I was meant to be.

I really try to focus on not complicating myself, so that I have a more clear since of who I am at all times.
So I guess, being gay means being completely honest with myself.

The only challenge I can say I have encountered was my struggle with balancing religion and homosexuality. I used to lay in my bed as a child at night, every night praying to be “straight”. I just wanted to be normal; accepted both in society’s eyes and God’s. However, age taught me that I could be both gay and accepted and loved by my maker. I learned to keep my faith in God, while remaining the way He created me. His love for everyone, homosexuals included gives me a never ending peace.

There is a line from the Tony Award winning musical “RENT” that always came to mind while struggling with acceptance.

“To sodomy. It’s between God and me.” -Jonathan Larson

Being gay is mine and God’s business. It took me a while to not let other people make it their own.

Unlike most gay men, I don’t really have a coming out story. I am very fortunate to have a very “out and proud” uncle. My dad’s brother, cleared a nice big path for me to act and be who I was every step of my journey to adulthood. Not once was I ever ridiculed in my own house for playing with Barbie or dressing up and pretending to be Dorothy from “The Wizard Of OZ.”

After meeting and getting serious with the first guy I ever dated, I wanted to introduce my family to him. So to bring it up, I just started using masculine pronouns in conversation with them. “Mom, I’ve been dating someone, and HE is so amazing. You’re gonna love him!!” And, she did. She still does.

I had it easy. Thank you Uncle Jim.

Apart from 3 or 4 guys on Grindr, there is no gay community in Batesville, MS that I am aware of.

This would be my advice to my younger self:

“Don’t bother trying to figure yourself out, or letting others label you too much. You are always evolving. You always will be. Be the best at what you love doing, and love those you love wholeheartedly.”

Michael, Business Owner, Sardis, Mississippi

photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong
photo by Kevin Truong

Michael, in his own words: “For me, being gay really means nothing. I do not like when a person categorizes me because I am gay. The real Michael that the public meets is not defined by his sexuality. It is defined by who I am as a person, what I do as a philanthropist, and where I see my life going over the next 20 years. None of this is defined by being gay.

The biggest challenges have come from bad decisions in my life. Only 15 years ago, I was living in my car and eating out of a Captain D’s dumpster. I was determined not to let that happen again, and in the words of Scarlett O’Hara, “I would never go hungry again.” Now, as a successful businessman, I get to see the results are working hard, being diligent at everything I do, and not letting anything except determination and generosity run my life.

I never really had a “coming out story.” My parents found out at a rough time in my life, but they already knew. My friends have always basically known, but again, my sexuality doesn’t run my life, so it didn’t really matter.

(With regards to the gay community in Sardis) Please??? There is no definable gay community here. Most that are gay, are so far in the closet, that they can’t even see the light of day. Mississippi will be the 50th State to approve same-sex marriage, and that is only if the Federal Government forces them. Sadly, the gay community that is “out,” are mostly drama queens, trashy drug using individuals who have no goals in life, other than having sex with anonymous men.

(Advice I’d give to my younger self) Younger Michael, be true to yourself. Don’t hide behind a veil of “straightdom.” Be who you are. The ones that like you…will love you. The ones that dislike you, will always be against you whether they think you are gay or straight. You are a good person. Let that shine through, and be the greatest person you can be.”