#TBT Looking back on GLAAD's Southern Stories Summer Tour

It seems like just yesterday that GLAAD embarked on the Southern Stories Summer Tour, the crescendo of the first year of our Southern Stories initiative, which aims to accelerate LGBT acceptance and understanding across the U.S. South. Through the generosity of corporate partners like Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams and Honey Maid, as well as dozens of national, state and local partners, each and every stop on the tour was a success and has laid the groundwork for GLAAD's long term commitment to the region. 

When we announced the tour some asked, "Why the South? And why now?" Indeed, the answer is clear.

In late 2014, GLAAD commissioned a Harris Poll to measure attitudes towards LGBT Americans. What we found is that while the public is increasingly embracing LGBT civil rights and equal protection under the law, many people are still uncomfortable with having LGBT people in their families and the communities where they live and work. Within these numbers, we found that Southerners feel significantly greater levels of discomfort around their LGBT family, friends, and neighbors than the country's general population. As a South Carolina native myself, I knew first-hand how important it was for GLAAD to act.

We know that Americans' attitudes and behavior on LGBT equality are not just influenced by what they see and hear, but also who they know. That's why our Southern Stories initiative is so important. By telling the stories of LGBT individuals and their allies in the South, hearts and minds are changed.

We are looking forward to continuing the important work highlighted by this tour and pleased to share with you a sampling of the great results.

The Concert for Love and Acceptance - Presented by Ty Herndon & GLAAD. Kicking off GLAAD's Southern Stories Summer Tour the Concert for Love and Acceptance took Nashville by storm. The first of its kind country music event to promote LGBT inclusion and acceptance in Nashville took place during the legendary Country Music Festival and was co-hosted by Grammy-nominated and Dove Award-winning out artist Ty Herndon and political commentator and author Meghan McCain. Twenty-one fellow artists and celebrities from the music world and beyond filled the stage at Nashville's City Winery to spread messages of love and acceptance. The event featured live performances by Herndon; Grammy-nominate Billy Gilman; country music legend Crystal Gayle; Nashville actor and singer Chris Carmack; country star Deborah Allen; pop sensation Tiffany; multi-platinum producer Desmond Child; singer/songwriter Shelly Fairchild; Aussie country music star Jamie O’Neal; American Idol alum Melinda Doolittle; the alt-rock band Antigone Rising; The Voice runner-up Meghan Linsey; contemporary Christian artist Jennifer Knapp; and country music newcomer Levi Hummon.

The mayor of Nashville, Karl Dean, also spoke saying: "The future of Nashville lies in being an open and welcoming city."

Artists Reba McEntire, Lance Bass, Betty Who, and Chely Wright delivered messages of support via video. To view Reba's message of support, click here.

The premiere of GLAAD original short films in South Carolina and Georgia.  At standing-room-only events in both South Carolina and Georgia, GLAAD and our local partners premiered two original short mini-documentary films spotlighting local efforts to accelerate acceptance for LGBT in those states and the challenges ahead to achieve full equality. The films are now available online. To view State of Change - South Carolina, click here. To view State of Change - Georgia, click here.


Fighting HIV and AIDS with our partners in Alabama. GLAAD joined Bilmingham AIDS Outreach for its annual Smith Lake Poker Run, reaching more than 400 people to amplify the message of the crisis of HIV and AIDS among Southern LGBT people. GLAAD operated one of the checkpoints on the lake, providing food and beverages as well as #GotYourBack photos to Poker Run participants. 


Birmingham AIDS Outreach on Smith Lake #southernstories @glaad

A photo posted by Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) on


Exploring the intersection of LGBT identity, faith, and race through film. The film "Blackbird" tells the story of a young singer struggling with his sexuality and the treatment of others while coming of age in a small Southern Baptist community. Following the screening was a discussion hosted by Politini's Danielle Moodie-Mills and featuring the director of the film, Patrik-Ian Polk, as well as the film's lead actor, Julian Walker. 

To view the full schedule from the tour, click here.