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Natchez, Mississippi’s Franklin Street: “It’s like the Natchez Castro”

Jim Burroway

March 3rd, 2009

My partner and I enjoy taking weekend road trips. Last winter we took a long cross-country trip from Arizona to Ohio, while taking an out of the way drive through Mississippi. Unfortunately, we missed Natchez. I’m sorry we did, now that I’ve seen this article from the Natchez Democrat:

Thom Miller and Shawyn Mars have been together nearly 18 years and have had Natchez as part of their dual residency since the 1990s. Miller said he and Mars make up one of just many gay couples that call Franklin Street home. “It’s like the Natchez Castro,” Miller said laughing.

…Miller also said another unique aspect of Natchez is that many of the men in the area are couples and have been in a relationship for long periods of time. And while Miller and Mars both said Natchez isn’t the type of town that welcomes gay hand holding in the street — it’s an open community. “It’s very tolerant,” Miller said. “People here are very accepting.”

We often think of gay culture being confined to San Francisco, New York, or West Hollywood. It’s nice to run across an item like this from small town America from time to time, especially from some of the most unexpected places.

Comments

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Lynn David
March 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Small communities are often accepting. And some gay members of a community often become important members of such communities. But then there are always those whispers going on behind your back by those who might laud you in public.

cowboy
March 3rd, 2009 | LINK

…the type of town that welcomes gay hand holding in the street…

What town does?

Even in San Francisco it’s more of a novelty to see two men holding hands.

Will you see gay PDA in the parks?

Gay equality is not just with marriage…it is acceptance where homosexuals can do the same things the heterosexuals do…in parks, in public, in their backyards, etc.

Zeke
March 3rd, 2009 | LINK

I’m from Oxford, Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) and it too has an out gay community that is accepted by the locals. Generally, in Mississippi, it’s more about who you came from and where you came from than who you are. Heritage and legacy seem to be more important to people than personal accomplishments. That is probably why gay people thrive in Natchez and Oxford. Both are beautiful and historic towns that live and breathe their Southern heritage and traditions (good and bad). Oxford is certainly not Chelsea or the Castro but I would bet that it is more accepting of its gay residents than people would imagine; especially in Mississippi or anywhere in the South.

Oxford also has the benefit of being a university town. I think university towns are generally more progressive than the communities that surround them. That was certainly true in the case of Oxford. I now live in Florida and I know that Gainesville (UF) and Tallahassee (FSU) are certainly more progressive and gay positive than the communities that surround them.

Anyway, Rock on Natchez!

Bruno
March 3rd, 2009 | LINK

Yeah but did you see this fantastic letter to that Natchez paper?: http://www.natchezdemocrat.com/news/2009/feb/27/gay-community-not-source-pride/

steve
March 3rd, 2009 | LINK

And in the same paper – via a link to this story on the paper’s website – read a story of why people remain scared of Mississippi….

Gay community not source of pride

Diane Holland

Published Friday, February 27, 2009

Concerning the “Door by door” article on the proud gay community in Natchez, I am neither gay nor proud. I am sad and ashamed.

I like “pretty” things and Natchez’s rich history, but when my friends come to town to see beautiful Natchez, there are several antique shops and areas like Under-the-Hill that we just stay away from.

I don’t want you to think your lifestyle is accepted by my friends or me, so we spend money elsewhere.

You used the word “sophisticated” to describe the people of Natchez. One of the definitions of sophisticated is “to alter, pervert.” That sheds new light on the “sophisticated” plantation owners you mentioned.

Your article seemed to suggest that they used the young black slave women for sexual purposes, and now are going on to suggest they used the young black men or house boys as well?

And because of that, Natchez is more tolerant to this lifestyle? Well there goes another piece of beautiful Natchez history.

May I mention a piece of history that I’ve read about? There were two cities that were so gay and proud that God sent two angels to evacuate all the straight people before he rained fire and brimstone down and destroyed the cities.

The angels could find only four straight people. I hope there are enough straight people to keep Natchez from being judged.

Maybe we need more industry and less “pretty” things.

Diane Holland

Natchez resident

Zeke
March 3rd, 2009 | LINK

To be fair, one could find an equally ignorant and insulting response to a pro-gay story in New York or San Francisco. There are homophobes and fundamentalist in the most progressive states and cities in America and they NEVER fail to make their opinions known.

Casey Ann
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

I live in Natchez, and I was so excited to see the article about Natchez being a gay friendly community. Although everyone here knows this, I was pleasantly surprised to see it in print. One reason is that I hoped it would be picked up by sites like yours, and the word would spread across the country – and maybe we could attract some new residents. Although I am straight, I personally think gays greatly improve a community.

As for the woman who wrote the letter, don’t let her bother you. I know her, and her opinion is not influential or widely held. Yes, we have a few rednecks here, but the rest of us would be welcoming.

Chris Gerron
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

It must be pointed out that “we missed Natchez” over the persistent protests of Jim Burroway’s partner (that would be ME) who knew full well what wonders lay in store in historic Natchez.

Rob Lll
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks for posting this article. My partner and I will be in New Orleans later this year (he’s attending a conference there)and we’re planning on taking a road trip up to Memphis afterwards, an opportunity I couldn’t pass up given my obsessions with both Faulkner and the blues.

We will make a definite point of spending some time in Natchez (and Oxford).

Kevin
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

This woman just compared all straight people to the mythical person called “Lot”, who offered his daughter up to rapists to escape the same fate.

Also, the people in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah were trying to rape angels, which is why they were destroyed.

I’m glad to know that anti-gay assholes don’t actually read the bible they put so much currency in when they bash God’s LGBT children.

Rusty
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

While passing through Natchez recently I met a wonderful fellow “under the hill” and he took me on a carriage ride through the historic district, ending with dinner at a wonderful old restaurant, it was special. I can hardly wait for my “second helping” of Natchez and and my new found friend.

Natchez truly is an experience, kind of like stepping into “Gone with the Wind”. A really special place with really special people, both gay and straight.

Zeke
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

Rob LII, as an Oxford native I know I’m biased but Oxford is a BEAUTIFUL historic town and Ole Miss is one of the most beautiful university campuses in America. It would be well worth the visit especially if you’re a William Faulkner fan. His home “Rowan Oak” is owned and maintained by Ole Miss and is only three blocks from the house I grew up in.

Zeke
March 4th, 2009 | LINK

Oh, and for the BEST of the Blues, don’t miss Indianola (home of B. B. King) and Greenwood Mississippi (close to Oxford) as well as Beale Street in Memphis.

Shawyn
September 26th, 2010 | LINK

The above article in “The Democrat” came about because a reporter for the paper who came to live in Natchez after Hurricane Katrina noticed that there was a larger gay population here than he would have expected since moving from New Orleans. He was straight but thought it would make an interesting story.
I have to say that I was apprehensive when he approached us but we have lived here for 15 years and have always been made to feel welcome. We are members of the local Episcopal Church,the Opera Festival,the Little Theatre. With the exception of the two, yes only two, negative comments mentioned above the article was well received by locals. Mississippi is, after all, the “Hospitality State”.
We have a couple of businesses in Natchez and hope to have created a place where all are welcome. Someone said that the article would hurt our business but it hasn’t. If anything it may have helped. Sometimes late at night I look around and wonder how the different ‘types” all get along; but they do. Isn’t that the way it should be?
I hope anyone who is thinking about a visit to Natchez will make the trip. We look out over the Lazy Mississippi River and life is good here. We look forward to meeting you.

Ivan Osceola Lucas
July 26th, 2013 | LINK

Of ALL the smaller, Historical cities I have ever visited, ever, I must say Natchez, Mississippi, has a “Grandness” About it Unmatched by Any Other.
Period.

And with Good Reason…
From its Dramatic and Powerful Landscape, to its Rich Native American History, & Impeccably Preserved Homes and Businesses ~it is Easy to see why “Natchez” has been THE ONLY Residential Choice for Chiefs and Kings of the Day – since the beginning of time.

Socially, I Feel Those Living IN, Or Along side of this Level of Regality over Time may have Developed a common Universal Level of Class, Sophistication & Pride ~Unique~ to Their own Environment, & Location…

I FEEL it is the complexities of this ~Unique Level of Existence~ that are better left to be understood by Those who Currently Reside IN Natchez,.. and those currently Living WITHIN this Lifestyle should be the only ones Allowed to ever Question the complexity, or validity, of the Lifestyles Lived within.

Jay
July 26th, 2013 | LINK

I couldn’t find the story. Have they removed it?

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