Meet Scott Mitchell, founder of LGBT group Macon Pride

When Scott Mitchell was growing up in a rural farming community in Middle Georgia, he was in an atmosphere conducive to racial and gay jokes.

“I knew from a young age that I was different from other children, and it was difficult,” he said.

Decades later, Mitchell, 45, said he enjoyed being a role model for the youth and LGBTQIA + people of Middle Georgia as the founder of Pride of Mâcon and owner of Travis Jean Emporium.

“I really like being able to be in a position in my life where I can be that role model that I didn’t have when I was a kid. I can be a place where every young LGBT child in Middle Georgia comes to buy their first pride flag. There is really something special about it, ”said Mitchell. ” It is refreshing. You feel like you have a goal, which is always good.

“It also lets you know that maybe you are making it a little easier for the next generation and maybe they won’t have to go through some of the things that you had to go through.”

“Much fire and brimstone”

Mitchell grew up outside of Barnesville and attended a private Christian school that did not have a diverse student body.

He was raised in a strictly Southern Baptist environment, which was detrimental to his mental health, he said, as he realized he was gay when he was around 12 years old.

“I was told all my childhood and my youth that I was going to hell, that I would burn in hell, a lot of fire and brimstone. At school I was bullied, he said, adding that he was regularly called a homosexual insult. “I was an outcast, pretty much.”

After his parents divorced, he attended Lamar County High School, where he graduated, and did everything he could to fit in, he said. He received a full scholarship from the University of Southern Mississippi.

“So when I went to college, I did the same. I wanted so much to fit in. I didn’t tell anyone I was gay. I hid it by being drunk all the time, to the point of blacking out or passing out. I went out with girls. I was unhappy, but I wanted to fit in, ”he said. “It really started this downward spiral in my life.”

The path to addiction

He dropped out of school, returned to Georgia, and enrolled at Gordon State College for about a year before finding a job in Atlanta.

“I met a lot of people there who introduced me to the Atlanta club scene. I started using drugs, ”he said. “I was addicted to drugs and my life got out of hand. I became homeless. I was homeless for about a year and a half.

Mitchell had lived his entire life without being able to be authentic himself for fear of being ostracized, he said.

“It was very hard, very mentally exhausting. I can’t even begin to tell you. Your whole life is a lie, “he said.” I was not doing well. I would have given anything for that same group of friends that I needed to know who I was.

Eventually, Mitchell was arrested on drug-related charges, he said.

“I was a completely different person. I don’t even know this person anymore… I did anything and everything to take drugs, ”he said. “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I asked for help and realized that I hadn’t burned all the bridges that I thought I had and went to rehab. “

Overcome drug addiction

After going to rehab around 2004, Mitchell quit using drugs, he said.

“When I got clean I was clean for a year and my court dates came up,” he said.

Although Mitchell is sober and several people speak for him in court, the judge sentenced him to five years in prison.

When he went to prison, he went through the prison rehabilitation program and created Narcotics Anonymous and Alcohol Anonymous groups for others there. He also became a GED tutor.

“I just got out of work and did what I was supposed to do so that I could go out and never go back. It’s been a very difficult part for me here, to see people come back. I can’t even imagine that, ”he said. “It was the worst thing I have ever experienced.”

Mitchell fought for 16 years to have his record stricken, but he is happy to tell his story to give others hope and encouragement, he said. Mitchell has also been drug free for 16 years.

Upon his release from prison, he became a cook at McDonald’s and rose through the ranks to director of operations.

“I was director of operations for a franchise that covered most of central Georgia with the exception of Macon, and that’s how I ended up in Macon because my office was located in Pio Nono and I ‘had stores all over the central Georgia area, but not in Macon, but that’s how I ended up in Macon, which is pretty cool, ”he said. met my current husband online and fell in love, moved to Macon. “

Mitchell met Bill Reynolds about 10 years ago and they tied the knot in December 2016 after the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.

“Well I knew he was a very unique, different and special someone,” Reynolds said. “He cares about the people in the community… I was also very active in the community so we had a lot in common. We love Georgia football games. We love the theater. We love to travel… It’s kinda nice to have a partner in life who likes to do the same things. It’s quite rare to find someone like that.

Mitchell jokes that when he first called Reynolds and heard his ringtone was the UGA fight song, he knew it was supposed to be, Reynolds said.

“I really wanted to create something that was me. “

Mitchell started working in what is now Travis Jean Emporium in 2014, when it was an antique store.

Because the antiques weren’t selling well, Mitchell started adding Georgia-made products to the store and he used the antiques as displays, he said.

In 2018 he bought the store and started transforming the store into what it is today.

“When I first bought the store, there was still a lot of what it was, and it wasn’t really Scott, and I really wanted to create something that was me,” he said. he declares.

While the store isn’t perfect yet, Mitchell said it’s about 90% of the way.

When Mitchell hosted the 2019 Macon Pride Festival, the first in 20 years, he decided to put a pride flag in Travis Jean’s storefront to show his support for his community.

“Much of my future business was also focused on starting Macon Pride. I had an influence in the founding of Macon Pride and at this point in my life I am Travis Jean Emporium, ”he said. “Every trauma of my childhood returned as I even began to make the decision to market myself as an LGBT-owned business. I thought about it a lot, I prayed about it.

Reynolds said he was very proud of Mitchell for becoming an LGBT-owned business because he said it was important to have representation for other members of the LGBT community.

“There are so many passing people coming in and out of our community, but for some reason they’re always drawn to Scott because he pulls out that part of himself for the people he’s there to be with. ‘They talk, and I think that’s what really makes him even more successful, ”Reynolds said. “If you ever need someone to talk to or, as he will always tell people downtown, if you need a big hug, come see Scott because he loves hugs.”

Although Mitchell struggled to be genuine himself as a child, Reynolds said he was now completely open and genuine. He cares about his community and is deeply involved in his faith community at Centenary United Methodist Church.

“He puts his whole heart into everything he does. If he starts something, he’s going to see it through to the end, ”Reynolds said. “He will do whatever he can to make this place a better place for all of us, not just for one particular group, but for every person in this city.”

Become a community activist

When DeMarcus Beckham moved to Macon about seven years ago, he looked for LGBT-friendly spaces and eventually came across Mitchell’s business.

“When you go there, you feel a culture, you feel a culture of acceptance,” Beckham said. “It’s great to see places like that, which really speak to the local economy but which are also very open and very liberating and very welcoming to all.

Beckham is the South Georgia field organizer for Georgia Equality, one of the state’s largest LGBTQ + rights groups, and he started working with Mitchell in 2017 on an ordinance in the county. of Macon-Bibb to protect the civil rights of county employees.

A small business owner showing his support for the LGBTQ + community was powerful, Beckham said.

“Macon’s small businesses are the backbone of our communities and to have a proud and proud business owner in town who creates a culture and for him to speak up and be open like that takes a lot of courage,” Beckham said.

Mitchell was instrumental in creating the Comprehensive Civil Rights Ordinance that was passed by the Macon-Bibb County Commission in November 2020, but Mayor Robert Reichert vetoed it. Mitchell continued to work to educate the people of Macon on comprehensive civil rights by helping to organize the “Understanding Comprehensive Civil Rights” event in April.

“He’s a person who has suffered a loss, he is a person who has suffered a lawsuit, a person who has suffered from homelessness, drug addiction, all of those things, but he’s overcome and he’s created a space of ‘love for others,’ Beckham said.

When Mitchell came out as an LGBT-owned business, he said he worried about people’s reactions and ultimately the possibility of him losing customers.

“In fact, more people are buying here now because I put my values ​​on my business. They shop here because they know what I stand for, ”he said.

Beckham said Mitchell made it possible for other businesses to show their support for the LGBTQ + community in Macon and created a space where everyone felt welcome.

“We’ve had tons of trailblazers in Macon who have done this amazing work that has created a strong community in Macon and what Scott has done is he carries the torch for the next generation of leaders and advocates… It shows that members of the LGBT community have a voice, and we have the power, and we have a say in our community, ”Beckham said. “I think Scott’s world, and he’s really appreciated in our community.”

Jenna Eason creates useful news around the culture, business and people who make a difference in the Macon community for The Telegraph. Jenna joined the Telegraph staff as a Peyton Anderson Fellow and multimedia reporter after earning a journalism degree from Mercer University in May 2018 and an internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jenna has covered issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, Central Georgia elections, and protests for the Central Georgia community and Telegraph readers.
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