Meet six Mississippians accelerating acceptance in the Magnolia State

GLAAD's Southern Stories Summer Tour is done, but so much still remains to be done in order to advocate for LGBT equality in the South. GLAAD visited Jackson, Mississippi during the tour, attending events and meeting with diverse local leaders of all ages working towards full LGBT acceptance. Here are just a few of those whose daily work is not only changing hearts and minds, but saving lives in the Magnolia State.

Constance Gordon

Constance Gordon was born and raised outside McComb in Pike County near the Louisiana border. Gordon, who describes herself as a “masculine-gendered woman”, has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi since early 2012. Her work primarily focuses on youth and LGBT advocacy that includes the implementation of anti-bullying policies and other issues where “youth, justice and LGBT rights kind of crosses over.” She also runs Youth of Color, a program that seeks to create Gay-Straight Alliances, and is active in working with several other LGBT rights organizations.


Brandiilyne Dear

Brandiilyne Dear, also known fondly as Bb, is a Pastor of Joshua Generation MCC, a welcoming and affirming church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi that seeks to welcome people of all gender and sexual identities into the faith community. In fact, on the very day marriage equality became the nationwide law of the land, Brandiilyne officiated services for same-sex couples in her area. She is also the founder of The Dandelion Project, an LGBTQ organization in Laurel, Mississippi. She is pursuing her degree in social work at the University of Southern Mississippi. Brandiilyne, who was featured in the documentary 'L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin', is an advocate for LGBT equality and often finds herself protesting on the steps of the state Capital in hopes of achieving equality in the South.


Todd Allen

Todd Allen wears many hats, actively serving Mississippi's LGBT community alongside many others in the area. While serving as the Advocacy Coordinator for ACLU-Mississippi, Todd also works at Grace House, which offers support services to men and women who are homeless, living with HIV or AIDS, and recovering from substance abuse. He was part of a team of community leaders to establish the PRISM Center, the city of Jackson's first LGBT+ community center. Todd makes his home in Jackson, Mississippi.


Kaylee Nicole Jolee

Kaylee serves on the Board of Directors for the Spectrum Center, based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The Spectrum Center provides resources and advocacy for the LGBT community, and Kaylee is dedicated to making equality a reality for transgender people. Kaylee has been a long-time supporter of LGBT rights in the South and continues to fight for greater acceptance in Lamar and Forrest Counties and beyond in the Magnolia State.


Knol Aust

For more than a decade, Knol has been the Chairman of Unity Mississippi, an organization dedicated to establishing and promoting unity the LGBT communities and its allies by serving as a catalyst for statewide education, interaction, entertainment, community growth, visibility, and awareness. In addition to being a web developer and graphic designer, Knol played an integral role in organizing OUToberfest, one of Mississippi's only LGBT festivals that soon become Mississippi Pride. Knol and his partner, Duane, were featured in national and local outlets (among them LA TimesWashington PostRolling StoneBuzzFeed, and Jackson Free Press) when couples in Mississippi were delayed in receiving marriage licenses after the Supreme Court made marriage equality a nationwide reality.

Dr. L.B. Bell

L.B. Bell, a trans farmer and physician, received his medical degree from West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Lewisburg, West Virginia. While legally married in Connecticut in 2011, as a push for marriage equality in their area, L.B. and his partner Sara Bell requested, and were denied, marriage licenses in Forrest County, Mississippi. The applications were part of the Campaign for Southern Equality "WE DO" Campaign. The couple did finally obtain a marriage license after L.B. was able to fight to successfully change his gender markers on his birth certificate. L.B. fiercely advocates for LGBT equality through his work with the trans community and the Hattiesburg Center. The deep connections and culture changing impact of his work are palpable to many individuals, trans or otherwise, in the Jackson area. The Bells make their home in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.


GLAAD is proud of these six folks – and so, so many other Mississippians – who accelerate acceptance in the South. Make sure to follow GLAAD's Southern Stories program to check out profiles of more Southern advocates.