Given the recent ruling on same-sex marriage by the Supreme Court, it should be safe to assume that more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the South would feel comfortable displaying their sexuality to the rest of Mississippi. While that may be the case for some, others still keep their true selves hidden for fear of losing their jobs, homes and even family members.
Running under the Twitter handle @ADifferentRebel, one former Ole Miss student still hides behind an alias for fear of his future as an LGBT student.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 that the United States Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. The new law allows same sex couples to marry in all 50 states, as well as have their marriages from more progressive states recognized nationwide.
“Hell yeah, damn right, about time we saw an end to this fight!” said a Twitter message from @ADifferentRebel sent on Friday afternoon.
HottyToddyAlum, whose Twitter bio states, “I receive the privileges that come to white males but I’m tired of hiding myself in that,” has more than one reason to hide behind his Twitter handle.
“Marriage equality is a huge milestone, but the work isn’t done. I currently work for a company that bars non-straight adults,” @ADifferentRebel wrote.“People can be fired in many states because protections are not in place.”
@ADifferentRebel, who is a former Ole Miss student from Georgia, said that he prefers to stay anonymous, because outing his sexuality could cost him a lot more than his job. The Daily Mississippian interviewed him and agreed to not publish his name because of his fears of retaliation.
“I’m ‘out’ to many in Oxford, but can’t have my real name printed with anything that deals with sexuality – not just my current summer gig,” @ADifferentRebel said.
He said he experienced discrimination well before going to college, too.
“In high school my brother found out I’d kissed a guy and he beat me up,” @ADifferentRebel said. “My parents’ response was to put me in conversion therapy.”
The National Center for Lesbian Rights describes conversion therapy as “a variety of behavioral, cognitive, psychoanalytic and other practices that try to change or reduce same-sex attraction or alter a person’s gender identity.”
The center warns that the practice is devoid of scientific validity and it poses serious dangers to patients— especially to minors.
“The therapy was, multiple times a week, having to talk to a counselor, going over Bible verses and discussing how one shouldn’t choose sin,” @ADifferentRebel said.
Ole Miss, however, was able to provide @ADifferentRebel more of a safe haven after moving out of his home, he said.
“Ole Miss has a benefit that they are smaller than most SEC schools, so nine out of 10 times, if someone is mentioned, you’ll know them,” @ADifferentRebel said. “I keep this part of life from my family, but Ole Miss is supportive.”
“I’d say Ole Miss is accepting in that people don’t really care, but you have many, like I used to, hide as far back in the closet as they can,” @ADifferentRebel said.
“The many gays at Ole Miss get worried,” @ADifferentRebel said. “While others don’t care, some gays are mean and try to out folks before they are ready.”
It wasn’t long after the Supreme Court decision was announced Friday that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant issued a statement saying that the state was looking at possible ways to deter same-sex couples at the altar. He said at one point that the state would potentially stop issuing marriage licenses altogether.
“Mississippi’s reluctance to equality is nothing new, and there are many cases that could have been charged as hate crimes against gays,” @ADifferentRebel said. “We need politicians and officials who are willing to look out for all people. Similar to conversations race, we are all people but we need those in high positions to let those who may be scared know it is okay to be different.”
“But, in general sometimes, people are distrustful of gay and bi [sexual] individuals because they think something is wrong with us,” @ADifferentRebel said.
He said he feels as if many more strides need to be taken to make LGBT students feel more comfortable at the university, even referring to the LGBT societies and meetings on campus.
“The problem I see is, while they are great for some gays, the scared athletes, fraternity men, etcetera wouldn’t be caught at a meeting,” @ADifferentRebel said.
“The interesting thing about the LGBT community is it has members in all aspects of university life,” @ADifferentRebel said. “So, we just need them to know they can be themselves.”