College | Mississippi

Gay College Student Talks About Being Out in a Mississippi Fraternity: VIDEO

Douglas Kennedy

Douglas Kennedy of Millsaps College in Jackson, MS was interviewed by Christian Hendricks for a video project called "South of the Ohio" about his experience of being an out gay man in a fraternity. Being a liberal arts college, Kennedy didn't experience any particular harassment or discrimination, but subtle anti-gay attitudes, such as the pervasive use of "faggot" as a generic insult, tainted a lot of spoken and email conversations between fraternity brothers.

Matters escalated when a friend of Kennedy's sat in on an open meeting of the fraternity and wrote about some of the attitudes she saw there for a long-form article for class that was eventually published in the school newspaper. The fraternity itself was especially irate at how the expose would make them look bad.

You can watch the interview with Kennedy AFTER THE JUMP...

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  1. This is particularly surprising and shameful considering the fact that Millsaps was a women's college until very recently. Homophobia is, in many ways, an extension of misogyny. I would expect a former women's college to be more sensitive to the problem.

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Apr 11, 2014 10:07:30 AM

  2. The pervasive use of "faggot" is anything but "subtle".

    Posted by: MARCUS BACHMANN | Apr 11, 2014 10:09:00 AM

  3. Well segregation has been re-introduced to Mississippi so no-one should be surprised that it is a backward hellhole.

    Posted by: MaryM | Apr 11, 2014 10:12:36 AM

  4. It wasn't the exposé that made the fraternity look bad, it was the behavior that was exposed. If you don' want to look bad, don't allow behavior like that.

    Posted by: Dastius Krazitauc | Apr 11, 2014 10:29:41 AM

  5. I am so glad I came out at 16 and later commuted to college rather than be stuck on campus with the 'children'

    Posted by: Qj201 | Apr 11, 2014 10:33:16 AM

  6. He's a hypocrite looking for's not like he was a minority gay in the South....

    Posted by: styler | Apr 11, 2014 10:33:46 AM

  7. Doesn't sound like Millsaps is actually very liberal. Maybe it is just "liberal" in comparison to anything else in Jackson, Mississippi.

    Posted by: Jay | Apr 11, 2014 10:56:01 AM

  8. @TAMPAZEKE, you are mistaken. Millsaps was never a women's college. I believe you are thinking of MUW, which began accepting men in 1982.

    My husband and I met in a fraternity at Millsaps College in 1992. This is a very liberal institution in a very conservative part of the country and we were and are currently still treated with respect by our former classmates and friends whenever we go back for reunions. Millsaps actively cultivated a very safe environment for gays, even back in the late 80s and early 90s. There were openly gay RAs and professors back when we were students, and we even had a Methodist minister as a guest lecturer one night who spoke about the church, and all of society, needing to be more accepting of gays. One anecdote of a fraternity brother hitting another brother in the back of the head and saying, "Whats's up faggot?" is not indicative of systemic anti-gay harassment or abuse. While it's not PC, it is typical behavior by close, immature young males that's not purposefully meant to be hateful toward gays.

    Posted by: Brett | Apr 11, 2014 11:02:40 AM

  9. This is more about "fraternity" culture than college culture. You can go to the most liberal of schools and step into a frat setting and it's like going to another world.

    Posted by: Sam | Apr 11, 2014 11:42:53 AM

  10. I graduated from Millsaps forty-five years ago. It was, and I assume still is, a superb institution, and even back in the 60's I don't recall a single moment of homophobia on the campus or in the classrooms or feeling unsafe or unwanted there. However, being off-campus in Jackson, Mississippi, back then was a different story. Discrimination of all kinds was abundant and blatant. Unfortunately, it's making a vicious, hateful, smug and proud return as evidenced by the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor.

    Posted by: Bryan L | Apr 11, 2014 2:25:41 PM

  11. I came out at Millsaps nearly 30 years ago. Maybe it's because Millsaps is a fairly liberal place (by Mississippi standards), but I never experienced any blowback, any homophobia, after stepping out of the closet. Granted, our standards of homophobia were a little higher back then -- calling someone a "fag" in jest or in passing wouldn't have cut it -- but I never felt threatened or isolated.

    Ironically, one of the places I felt most comfortable was at my fraternity house. (At the time, the majority of students belonged to fraternities and sororities, probably because rush happened the first week of freshman year, before students had a chance to form other friendships.) By coincidence, my fraternity big brother and his brother were both quietly gay. In fact, on bid night, my grand-big brother and I realized that we'd both dated the same guy.

    Despite that, though, I knew all too well that the rest of Mississippi -- the rest of Jackson, even -- wasn't so accommodating. I moved to New Orleans a couple of months after graduation, and I never looked back.

    Posted by: Richard | Apr 13, 2014 6:41:48 AM

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