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LGBTQ Reflections: Finding Solace in The South

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

*This is the second feature in a three-part series for Pride month, which is recognized nationally during the month of June. 

Many LGBTQ members have shown resilience in the face of adversity in the LOU community, they said. For some, finding pride and self expression came at the cost of leaving Oxford, Mississippi and the South. For some, they found solace in the community here.

Oxonians Libby Lytle and her partner Tina Frizzell enjoy their time on vacation. Photo courtesy of Libby Lytle.

Libby Lytle attended Ole Miss from 1996 to 2000 where she earned her undergraduate degree as she worked as a police officer at the University of Mississippi Police Department. She was a model student and officer. As a gay woman, she was also hiding a part of herself.

“I could have been fired,” she said. “I was just really quiet about my sexuality. I couldn’t fully live my life because of that.”
With no resources available to LGBTQ students in the late 1990s, Lytle found some comfort among other gay faculty members.
“We’d share information like if we needed to rent an apartment and which ones would be accepting of us,” she said.
She returned to Ole Miss in 2009 to work on her master’s degree. It was a much different world on campus, thanks to the formation of the LGBT Student Body Association, she said. She no longer hid who she was nor her partner, Tina Frizzell. By then, she was working at the Oxford Police Department.
“I was completely open when I returned to Ole Miss for my master’s,” she said. “I could be, because of the cultural shift at Ole Miss that started somewhere around 2004 through 2008 where Ole Miss became more accepting of diversity.”
Lytle, 50, and Frizzell have been together for almost 20 years and got married in 2014 in California; however, their marriage was not recognized in Mississippi until 2015 and even then, Lytle said some were slow to come around, even within the police department.
“I just said this is me, this is my wife,” she said. “I brought her to every Christmas party or Thanksgiving meal, not to throw it in their faces, but to show them we were a married couple just like them and I’m going to bring my spouse to these events and not apologize for it.”
“With me being open and honest, it allowed people I worked with to learn that me being gay is only part of me. I was living a Christian life with moral values and I was a good person and a good supervisor and they saw that. And it infiltrated the people who had issues with it, eventually.”
Though Lytle felt she needed to hide being a lesbian while at Ole Miss in 1996, in Oxford, she felt more at ease.
“Oxford has always been accepting,” she said. “It’s a unique community. If I didn’t live in Oxford, I probably would not be living in Mississippi.”
Lytle retired from OPD a year ago and is currently an advocate at Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi.
Lytle encourages all new LGBTQ students at Ole Miss to reach out to the several organizations on campus and in Oxford, like OUT Oxford and the UM Pride Network.

For information on the resources available to LGBTQ individuals, please contact these local and statewide organizations:
OutOxford aims to provide programming that connects the university and Oxford communities, educate on LGBTQ issues, create opportunities in community service, and advocate for Oxford’s queer community.
UM Pride Network
UM Pride Network is a student organization that provides advocacy and education for individuals in the University and Oxford communities. The organization works to promote acceptance and respect for individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
OUTGrads at the University of Mississippi
OUTGrads promote and foster community and institutional representation for University of Mississippi’s LGBTQIA+ identified graduate and professional students and their allies.
The Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement at Ole Miss
The center works to develop programs and services that support the University of Mississippi’s core value of inclusiveness.
GLAAD—Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation
As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.
HRC—Human Rights Campaign
As the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans, the Human Rights Campaign represents a force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality.

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