Allow me to begin by formally introducing myself. My name is Jana Haynes. I, as well as my partner, Dannika and our family was recently featured on the Showtime documentary, L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin. Now that we’re fast friends, please indulge me while I bend your ear on the L Word Mississippi & the life after the show.
Life after the L Word… Has been, well, just that – life; except for the whole TV thing of course. I can safely say we didn't have strangers on our door step wanting photos & autographs before the show, or that our social media was not over inundated by fans, nor did we receive harassing phone calls threatening to force sexual intercourse with a donkey, as our co-stars did (yes, that really happened). So I guess that’s life after The L Word. We still wake every morning, prepare Kasen for school, and begin our day. We still come home, do homework, clean up “owies,” read bedtime stories and fight over what a 4 year old thinks is an acceptable bed time (go figure). So, life is still…… life. Parts of our lives, however, have been altered forever.
I must speak on the overwhelming amount of mail, email, direct messages, comments, etc. we have received, being fortunate enough to be featured by Showtime in L Word Mississippi. The fans of this show and The L Word Franchise have welcomed us with open arms. And it is encouraging to know that there are thousands, even millions of fans out there who found hope in the most destitute of circumstances through Dannika, Kasen, and my story, as well as the rest of the cast. The experience will forever resonate and humble us in the most awe-inspiring way. “Thank you,” could never do justice to the amount of love and support you have given us. You have changed our lives much more than we could have ever changed yours.
Now, allow me to answer the questions thousands of you have been asking. YES, my mother knows now. YES, she knew before the show. NO, she is NOT happy with it. NO, that does not alter my belief in my love or my life. YES, Dannika’s mom is coming around but she’s a work –in- progress. But aren't we all? You see, it’s so easy to judge me for not coming out until now, or to cringe at the thought of Dannika’s Mom correlating homosexuality and pedophilia, but don’t we each have a truth? For some that truth is far too embarrassing or painful to think of, much less share with an entire viewing audience on a major network. Now clearly, to compare pedophilia and homosexuality is the most absurd of comparisons and they bear no likeness, but like Dannika’s mom, aren't we all a work in progress? So the fact is, this is our family…. And this is our truth. When is the last time you stood in your truth confidently, willingly, and without fear of judgment from not only your inner circles but of the world?
Here’s another truth… I am gay, and I have been closeted for years. And the closet that once tortured me and made me question my very existence is now the door to my destiny. To anyone reading this, man or woman, whether you’re 15 or 50, whatever your truth is, I want you to know, its okay. Maybe you are a gay man, or a straight woman; maybe a garbage man or a doctor. Maybe you are homeless, suffering from depression, or jobless. Maybe you’re single or from the projects. You could be a senator’s son, or a preacher’s daughter. It’s possible that your son is an addict…. Maybe you are. Maybe your truth is something you want to shout from the highest mountain, or burry in the deepest hole. But you see, coming out is not just about being gay-coming out means standing in the truth of who God created you to be, and to do so soberly, willingly and unapologetically.
The L Word Mississippi transcends homosexuality. It is for the Dr. Martin Luther King’s and Harvey Milk’s of the world. It is for the nameless soldiers buried at Arlington Cemetery. It’s for the mother who lost a child to a drunk driver or a child who lost a parent to suicide. It is for every single human on this planet, who is fighting a battle on someone else’s behalf. It is for those who fight for the voiceless, the hopeless… the unwanted. It is for those with “alternative lifestyle choices.” It is for those who “look different,” “talk funny,” and don’t fit into the mold society has created of trends, hash tags, selfies and popularity, but the beauty is that it is also for those who do.
You see, if my/our story did not evoke change, then it was all for naught. LB said it splendidly. “It’s funny how you can be a full citizen in one zip code and a second class in another.” If we as a people aren’t moved to reach for love instead of hate, hope instead of despair and peace instead of persecution, then we are writing our own death sentences. Our moral insufficiencies will result in our physical demise. So, how’s life MY life after L Word Mississippi? The true question is…. How is YOURS?
One fan asked, “Why don’t you leave? Why don’t you do whatever you have to, even if it means selling the dog, to get the hell out of there!?” I suppose I understand those sentiments. I imagine moving to New York or L.A., or a “Gay-friendly” city would be plausible, but in those same breaths, I examine myself. What am I teaching a 4 year old little soul that depends upon me for his very being? What am I exhibiting to his 4 & 5 year old cousins about maintaining your solidarity when the very walls around you are crumbling? What example have I set to my 16 year old nephew- who’s growing into a man, with his own ideas, thoughts & opinions about life and standing for what is right even when you stand alone? You see, we don’t stay here for us…. We stay because we are told we shouldn’t. We stay and bask in how “abnormal” we are in a “normal” world. We stay because there is some kid from some impoverished neighborhood, maybe he’s gay, maybe he’s not, but he’s been told he can never be an engineer or a fireman or a veterinarian or a professional athlete because geography has dictated that he will not make it. Well, geography has dictated that Dannika and I will never be married. Geography has dictated that both of our names will never be on our future children’s birth certificates. Our home state of Mississippi has dictated that we will never share the rights that our parents do, and THAT is why we stay. We stay because over 200 years ago, the declaration of independence declared….
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness….” We stay because we are pursuing happiness.
An immense thank you to Ilene Chaiken, Lauren Lazin, Jaimie Cohen, Showtime and every single person who had a hand in this project. And to the readers, viewers fans and foes…. As us Southerners say – Much Oblige, my friends…. Much Oblige.