Entertainer-turned-producer Lance Bass and filmmaker Katherine Linton salute a group of teenagers who held a prom for LGBT students and are becoming visible leaders for equality in their home state in the powerful new documentary short Mississippi: I Am.
The two were initially inspired by Constance McMillen, the lesbian teenager who sued her Mississippi high school for the right to take her girlfriend to prom. Bass, a native of Laurel, Mississippi, says he grew tired of his home state being so homophobic. "I wanted to send cameras down there and catch what was really happening in the state," he shares. "Yes, we're really homophobic, but the climate is changing and it's being spearheaded by the youth down there." The filmmakers found the Mississippi Safe Schools Coalition, which ensures that students are safe from being discriminated against and harassed due to their race and sexual orientation.
Linton insists the fear LGBT people in the South feel is very real. "If you're fired because you're gay, you have no power to say anything about that," she says. "The American Family Association runs those [radio] stations. What they grow up with is very pervasive. This idea that we're killing children. Not just that homosexuality is a sin, but that we're destroying them.... The idea that young people can stand up in the face of that is remarkable."
Bass also reveals how he's seen his home state evolve since he left and shares how differently he is treated since he came out publicly.
Mississippi: I Am will be screened July 14. For tickets and more information go to Outfest.org.
Watch Bass and Linton discuss their film below.