Being lesbians in between ‘the coasts’ in the religious, conservative Deep South.
by Tori Laxalt
Re: being gay in the South: one woman makes the observation that when she “walks into the Walmart with [her] girl” at home in Mississippi, their very presence elicits stares and thick judgment. But “in Texas,” she claims, people couldn’t care less that she was gay. Is that something we’re used to hearing, y’all?
Don’t be misled by the film’s prefix: Hate the Sin makes quite clear in its first minutes that the women in this documentary experience life worlds away from those featured in the splashy Show-time soap. Nope—fewer cocktails, more Jesus.
Hate the Sin, directed by Lauren Lazin (Tupac: Resurrection), follows the lives led by some of the brave lesbians of Mississippi. Included are a former minister (booted from her congregation after being publicly outed), two interracial couples, a transgender soon-to-be-daddy, and a “reformed former lesbian” desperately trying to “save” her gay son. Almost all of the couples featured either have children from previous partners or desire children in the future. (One critique: the only women of color profiled in depth were in interracial relationships; it might have been nice to see a couple with two women of color.)
There certainly are themes one might expect from a documentary on gay women in the South: you have your standard instances of bigotry, church-shaming, family shunning, etc. However, Sin somehow is able to sustain a very nuanced and empathetic tone throughout, which is no small feat by any means. Lazin, along with executive producers Ilene Chaiken (The L Word, The Real L Word), Dan Cutforth, and Jane Lipsitz (both, Top Chef and Katy Perry: Part of Me), have figured out how to bridge the worlds of the liberal Los Angeles in The L Word and the real Bible Belt. This is a judgment-free zone, y’all—a piece of art that those residing on any point of the political spectrum can appreciate and learn from.
Perhaps the most potent takeaway from the film, though, is the incredible bravery these women are able to summon. While watching, a friend asked, “If it’s so terrible there, why don’t they leave?” Soon after, she received a response; as BB, one of the featured women, phrases it, “If we don’t stay, then how are things going to change?” And she’s right. Whether actively protesting, providing a safe haven for other LGBT folks, or just living their lives, all of these women are actively making marks on their communities. And that deserves a helluva lot of respect.
L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin premieres on August 8 at 8 p.m. CST on Showtime (sho.com).