By Andrea Dwyer
Poet Walt Whitman stated in his famed quote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” However big or small, we all have things in our lives that don’t quite add up. Be it the chain-smoking adult advising their teenage offspring not to take up the habit or my male counterparts who wholeheartedly support me and my queerness but dismiss the thought of two gay men in a loving relationship. In the case of Cameron Stewart, a subject in the recent Showtime documentary film, L Word Mississippi: Hate the Sin, it would seem at first glance that she embodies the contradictory nature that afflicts us all. Stewart is a self-proclaimed lesbian stud who’s in a loving relationship with a woman and simultaneously thinks her way of life is a sin. Some would say Cameron has a strong case of internalized homophobia but we mustn’t be too quick to judge. Our road to self actualization is an uphill journey that we all must trek, and the questions and answers don’t often come with a well-packaged guide. At the end of the day, Cameron’s truth is simply that, her truth. On a bleak Sunday afternoon I chatted with Cam about a plethora of topics ranging from her childhood in Mississippi to reactions to the film; and a pleasant conversation it was.
ANDREA: How did you get involved in the project?
CAMERON: I was at a friend’s house when I got a random phone call about doing the show. I initially thought it was a joke so I agreed to it, not taking it so seriously. Then the producers invited us for a casting call. They wanted to know more about our personal lives — our relationships, work and how we were involved in the gay community. I spoke in detail about how I grew up, my relationship with Amber and her kids. That was about a year and a half ago and here we are!
ANDREA: How long did they follow you guys around?
CAMERON: We filmed from July 2013 until February 2014.
ANDREA: When the film had its premiere, who did you watch it with?
CAMERON: The entire cast got together with the exception of David and Rene. We watched the film at a cast member’s house. The filmmakers captured a lot of footage so we wanted to watch it together because we were on edge about what they [the filmmakers] were going to show. I was also on edge because I was really concerned about my mom. I think the things I said on camera came across harsh. It seemed as if my mom wasn’t in my life and that she didn’t raise me and she definitely did. My mom has always been in my life.
ANDREA: How are you guys now?
CAMERON: We text back and forth, we definitely talk. Our relationship now is stronger than it’s ever been.
ANDREA: Stronger since the film has been put out?
CAMERON: No. We just have a better understanding of each other now. I don’t think she’s even seen the film.
ANDREA: What’s been the feedback from the people closest to you?
CAMERON: I’ve gotten random texts and phone calls from people who used to be in my life. It’s like I haven’t spoken to these people in a really long time. It just makes you wonder why they are reaching out because they weren’t there for me when I first came out so I question their intent. As for the people really close to me, the reactions have been good. A lot of kind words and support.
ANDREA: Are you content with the way in which your story was told?
CAMERON: I am. Everything I said is completely true. I wouldn’t change anything I said. My partner Amber feels the same way.
ANDREA: I was fascinated by your “gay family,” the Per2yon family (two stands for twice as strong). Tell us more about this adopted family of yours.
CAMERON: It’s just a community where we all support each other. If you’re not able to get that support from your birth family then we fill that place. We have get-togethers, meetings, food drives and other things in the community. The family isn’t just for lesbians, as it was shown in the documentary. We welcome people in and outside the LGBT community.
ANDREA: How do you become involved in a “gay family?”
CAMERON: The process is different for every family. We watch individuals over a period of time. How they carry themselves, their involvement in the gay community and from there we ask them why they want to be a part of a particular family. I was initially a part of a different family a few years ago and how they ran their family is completely different from the family I’m in now. In my first family we had to pay monthly dues and stuff. The rules are different for everyone but some families use the money to help members who have bigger financial problems. Amber and I have been a part of the Per2yon family for about two and a half years and that family extends outside of Mississippi.
ANDREA: Can you tell us a little about your background and when you came out?
CAMERON: I grew up in a very small town by the name of Soso, Mississippi. I was always in the church and it was a big part of my life. There was no missing church with my grandmother. Being in the church they never spoke about homosexuality. I didn’t learn about it until my college years. All throughout high school I didn’t have feelings for the same sex. It all started in college. Now that I’m completely out to everyone, I’ve gotten supportive words from people from my hometown. They’ve been saying that I look happy, and I am.
ANDREA: We see you struggling with your sexuality. You’re seen on screen trying to “pray the gay away.” You’ve stated, “I don’t want to die a lesbian. I want to be a better person.” Can you speak more to that specific statement?
CAMERON: Everyone is equal. There’s no sin greater than another. I feel like if I die a lesbian then I die a lesbian but this is who I am. When He [God] is ready to change me, I believe he will. Now I just ask Him [God] to make me a better person and to show me who I am and this is who I am and who I’m going to be. I may sound like I’m going back and forth but I don’t know which way to go with this. I don’t think I’ll ever change and deep down I don’t want to because I love the person I am and who I’m with. Before Amber I didn’t know what love was.
ANDREA: I’m asking these questions with no shade. I genuinely want to understand because I’ve been there. Not quite to the extent of personally “praying the gay away” but I’ve struggled. Others in my life have tried to “pray the gay away.” There are gay Christians, including myself, who believe that they aren’t living in sin and one’s sexual orientation isn’t a choice. What are your thoughts about that?
CAMERON: If it’s in the Bible, I’m going to believe it. I’ve read scriptures about it and it’s in there. With that said, there’s no way around me loving a woman. I have a lot of questions that I don’t understand and only one person can answer all my questions and that’s God.
ANDREA: I see. Ultimately when you pray for change, what is it that you envision for your life?
CAMERON: When I pray I ask God to help me to be a better person. I ask for him to show me who I’m meant to be. I’m not going to change how I present myself; I’m a full-blown lesbian stud.
ANDREA: And you still think you’re living in sin?
CAMERON: Everybody is living in sin, we’re all sinners. There’s no way around it. I believe in Christ, I am a believer. Who’s to say I’m going to hell? I’m just living my life the best way I can.
ANDREA: I found myself watching the documentary and thinking, they should move but I completely get why you stay. Are you ever tempted to move somewhere that’s gay friendly?
CAMERON: I think about it but will I ever move? No. I know I could live more freely elsewhere but change is going to come in Mississippi. I’m gonna stay and fight until things are fair and change here.
ANDREA: Switching topics. You and Amber have been together for four years (five years in February).You guys recently had a commitment ceremony. Do you see marriage in your future?
CAMERON: Yes, marriage is definitely the next step. We’ve had a commitment ceremony in front of our friends and loved ones so I’ve already made a commitment in my heart to Amber and the kids.
ANDREA:: What do you envision for the LGBTQ population in Mississippi?
CAMERON: We have a large gay community in Mississippi especially Black LGBT. A lot of that population is scared to come out. I hope that being out on national television will help others to do the same. I want us to come together and help each other out.
ANDREA: Thanks, Cameron. Wishing you all the best!