“Tupelo is an awesome town. I actually spoke here, told my story.”

Hayden, a transgender man, has joined HRC’s new #LoveYourNeighbor campaign, a video storytelling series focused on sharing the stories of LGBTQ and allied people in Tupelo, Mississippi. He shares the ups and downs of his decision to come out and transition with the hopes of creating a climate in his hometown that facilitates love and acceptance.

“To me, loving my neighbor is loving everyone; listening to their story,” Hayden said. “I always tell people I’m very open, so ask questions and I will tell you the truth. I’m never gonna hide...no matter how hard I think it’s going to be.”

When he first began his transition 11 years ago, his wife feared for his safety as she was unsure of the reactions or potential hostility with which Hayden would be met. Not one to be knocked down, Hayden emphasized education, conversation and openness as key tools to help change hearts and minds.

“The more we get out there and the more we talk to people and the more we get people involved and we really show them that we really are just normal people -- I really think that’s the way to really get people to really open and change their minds.”

On Tuesday, March 7, the #LoveYourNeighbor campaign will culminate with a town hall discussion in Tupelo featuring all seven videos of the participants. You can learn more about the town hall here.

In 2014, HRC launched Project One America, a comprehensive multi-year effort to dramatically expand LGBTQ equality in the South through permanent campaigns in Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas.

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