Being Southern Baptist and gay

‘Southern Baptist Sissies’ screening at Carolina Theatre
Aug. 16, 2013 @ 08:15 PM

In “Southern Baptist Sissies,” Del Shores’ 2000 GLAAD Award-winning play, audiences watched how four gay youth handle being in a church that tells them they are going to hell.

The play was revived in 2006 and now a film version has been released. It will screen at the Carolina Theatre during the N.C. Gay & Lesbian Film Festival Saturday and Sunday.

Playwright, director and producer Shores is in Durham along with Emerson Collins, who also produces and plays “Mark” in the film of the play. After each screening, Shores and Collins will take audience questions. Both the sons of Southern Baptist ministers in Texas, they invited local churches to attend.

Shores is the producer of “Sordid Lives,” the television show and movie, and came to Durham for a previous NCGLFF for a performance with actress Rue McClanahan. “Southern Baptist Sissies” premiered in July at Outfest Los Angeles. The response has been overwhelming so far, Collins said, “which is the main reason we’re here – to talk about it and engage with the audience.”

Shores said his late father, a Southern Baptist pastor, always loved him and tried desperately to understand him. His mother was a high school drama teacher. She came around theologically, but Shores’ father did not. Shores’ story is similar to the Mark character’s story, “in that each ‘sissy’ is part of my struggle…I did go to church in L.A., sit alone in the church and say, ‘God, please take it away, take it away.’”

Shores was previously married to a woman and has two daughters. Like one of the “Southern Baptist Sissies” characters, he tried desperately to be straight but that betrayed who he was. Shores, who came out at 35, said he had so much damage from a church that told him being gay meant going to hell.

Collins’ father is a Southern Baptist music minister.

“Part of what makes this piece so universal is a Southern gay man can relate to each character, and feeling that you don’t want to let down your church and family,” Collins said.

He said he’s never questioned that his family loves him, and his parents have seen the play. They just don’t discuss theology.

“They said, ‘The church has made a lot of mistakes, and we love you,’” Collins said.

The Bible verses in the play, Shores said, are used to challenge people. If he wanted to justify slavery, he could find it in the Bible, he said. How many gays have been cast out of the church, but adulterers are not stoned, he said.

“You are a cherry-picking Christian,” is Shores’ response to those who recite one Scripture but ignore others.

“I am not a Christian, but I do practice a lot of God’s teachings and I do know the Bible,” he said. He’ll volley back verses to those who comment rudely on his Facebook page. However, there is so much love sent to him, too, he said.

Collins said the production is healing for those who grew up that way, informative for those not Southern Baptist and challenging to those who are unaware of the impact of their words.

“The irony of the advance of LGBT rights is that [some] are talking about it much more with hateful rhetoric,” Collins said. “’Love the sinner, hate the sin’ is not in the Bible. A 15 year-old doesn’t hear the semantic difference, all they hear is ‘I love and hate you.’”

For more about the film, visit


WHAT: “Southern Baptist Sissies” screening during the N.C. Gay & Lesbian Film Festival

WHEN: 7 p.m. today [Saturday] and 7:15 p.m. Sunday. Screenings will be followed by question and answer session with producers Del Shores and Emerson Collins.

WHERE: The Carolina Theatre

309 W. Morgan St., Durham