Small Town Gay Bar

Title: Small Town Gay Bar
Executive Producer: John Scagliotti
Year: 2007 on DVD
Available: and
Additional Information: Small Town Gay Bar web site.

According to the DVD box, this video was a Best Documentary winner at LA Outfest, a Grand-Jury Prize Nominee at the Sundance Film Festival, and a Best Documentary winner at the Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

The documentary is about several gay bars in small towns in the deep American south. The bars are located in rural Mississippi, the Bible belt. One of the gay bars was burned down, one was closed and reopened by new owners, and the other was sold to new owners.

Many people who live in rural areas are not out. Residents of cities feel more comfortable being openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Being gay in the American deep south is not easy. The man who operates one the gay bars is not out to his family. There is an element of danger in being open and out in the conservative south. The documentary discusses the case of Scotty Weaver. The police believed Scotty, an Alabama teenager, was murdered partly due to his sexual orientation.

According to the video, Fred Phelps was born in Mississippi. Phelps is the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church, a congregation that protests at the funerals of gay people and of American soldiers. In the documentary, Phelps says he wrote Billy Graham, a respected American evangelist, and said that they were going to picket Billy Graham’s funeral.

In Mississippi, one can find the headquarters for the American Family Association. The AFA has a radio program, a large internet web site, and a magazine. In rural areas, everybody knows everybody. Some of the patrons of the gay bars say they know the director of the American Family Association, Tim Wildmon.

In an area with such conservative roots, the fear of being outed is very high. Some people interviewed said some of the Christian groups collected license plate numbers for all cars spotted close to the gay bar. On the radio, the cars that were found in the area were announced. The objective of the harassment might have been to close the gay bars, or to frighten people away from going to the gay bars.

The rural gay bars offer gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans-identified people something that they cannot easily find in small towns. From the interviews, one gets the sense that gay bars offer patrons the following:

• A safe place
• Being welcomed
• Love
• An escape
• Enjoyment
• Freedom from fear
• Place to be out and open
• Be what you want to be
• Party
• Friendship
• Freedom from judgment
• Gay culture
• Family
• Sense of connection

There was a time when gay bars were the pillars of the gay community even in large cities. This video provides valuable insights into the importance of gay bars to the queer community.