LGBTQ Atlantans channel Stonewall era’s legendary queeroes

In celebration and commemoration of the Stonewall Riots 50th anniversary, Q contributor Jon Dean shoots locals in their element and asks how history inspires the next generation of queer life, love and action.

The big anniversary appropriately coincides with Southern Fried Queer Pride events, and its founder Taylor Alxndr is among Dean’s subjects. They let us in on all the happenings of that festival during a busy, busy, busy Stonewall Weekend.

None of our inspiring people are short on things to say or do. Keep scrolling to meet this inspiring bunch in one of our favorite Q photo essays to date. 

Interviews featured here include some shots and exerpt quotes not seen in print. 

All photos by Jon Dean

jondeanphoto.com

 

TAYLOR ALXNDR

@tayloralxndr

What does Stonewall mean to you? 

Stonewall is knowing it's not just an uprising in the past — it's very much so the present. Progress has been made since the first brick was thrown, but the communities who fought back first and the hardest are still suffering and are the most marginalized. Stonewall should be a reminder that when your freedom is in other people's hands, you have to fight back for it.

Tell us about your own activism.

Using art to bring together community and advocate for issues is how I work. That's the major mission of Southern Fried Queer Pride. But I also believe in meeting people where they are and making those spaces points of activism — from the coffee shop talks to the drag shows.

Where do you see the movement headed? 

I see the movement divesting from the cisgender, heterosexual gaze. I see us realizing that grassroots and inter-community building is what really gets us free. I see art playing a mighty role in our future, as it always has.

Who are your personal Queeroes? 

My queeroes are the community. They feed me spiritually and make doing this work so worth it. 

Southern Fried Queer Pride takes place June 26-30 at The Bakery, 825 Warner St SW. Visit southernfriedqueerpride.com, and check this weekend's Queer Agenda calendar of events.

 

Davey Swinton 

@dragkingdaveyswinton

aka Melissa Coffey @aerialist_melissa_coffey

What does Stonewall mean to you? 

Stonewall was a historical event. It was a protest that originated from unrest in the queer community, frequent raids and brutality, mafia blackmail, homophobic laws, and Judy Garland’s death. Stonewall was mafia owned and welcomed everyone from the queer community.

The violent protest that erupted at Stonewall Inn is celebrated annually and became the reason pride in most locations is celebrated in June. But it remains Stonewall month or week or weekend. 

It is one of many events and tragedies we remember and celebrate as a marginalized community. It is a small part of our queer history, a reason to at least start doing research to understand our past and ancestry. We also must recognize that this sort of event still happens in many places in the USA and the world.

Tell us about your own activism.

Most of my activism centers around personal community. Specifically in the areas of disabled humans and LGBTQIA humans, I’m voting for and personally helping people with equal access to real healthcare, setting up homes and communities, educating about safer sex and PrEP, helping people get their hands on medicine including PrEP, helping people vote and travel who may not have the ability to figure that out for themselves, and sharing stories with the community and allies so we have more visibility and humanity. 

I believe we have to start with ourselves and people around us first while at the same time doing everything we can to affect the bigger picture.

As a performer and trainer, I struggled to figure out how I could offer anything to the world. I have given my life to raising a disabled person, so I feel like I have few resources to spare, but I feel like I’ve been pretty successful locating these. I lead circus retreats and queer retreats globally as dancesinair.com. Locally, I offer a free monthly playshop that I call Queer Jam at theSkyGym.com -an aerial studio that I work in. I use my performances to tell stories so that we can connect, be seen in our humanity, and have higher visibility. I also use my performances to spur people to talk to me about certain topics so that they can find resources. I often use my resources to give people housing, transportation and exercise, and sometimes I offer people under stress Thai massage and spaces to heal energetically. It took me a while to figure out how I could do such “frivolous” things like apparel design and dance and use them to have an effect on my community. So I urge everyone to do the same practice to search out how their skills can help their world. 

Where do you see the movement headed?

I believe that the LGBTQIA community could fully support itself if we truly asked for what we needed and gave from what we had. I see that the queer community has a very rich offering of creativity, skill, culture, magic, as well as resources that could be utilized better so that we could all give each other jobs, shelter, and healing. We could exist within the capitalist system and also without.

I’m terribly optimistic and truly believe that when one person is exhausted, there’s another to stand up and keep lifting us. Let’s speak up and love each other a little better and take those turns together. I believe it’s time that we really show ourselves, our hearts, and our differences and love each other for them. It’s time for a great healing within the LGBTQIA community, so that we can walk forward together.

Thoughts about the inclusion of big brands and party-fication of Pride? 

All of those big brand names could be LGBTQIA owned brand names. When I was younger, there was no way I was ever going to have a job, a home, or a family because of who I am. But to my own surprise, this world evolved into a place where people could have unnatural hair colors, face tattoos, piercings, and talk about their own sexuality and gender publicly. We aren’t truly beyond fear of death, rape or suppression, but we are much further than I ever dreamed. 

I’m so happy Atlanta has a non-corporate Pride on Stonewall weekend called Southern Fried Queer Pride. And I’m so happy there is another Pride in October. When you’re in a community with many people, we are all at different parts of our process. There’s always going to be somebody that wants a moment of silence, at the same time somebody wants to turn up the music, at the same time somebody just needs some rest. True harmony is when all of those things can exist together. Let’s blast our messages. Let’s have an agenda. Let’s dance and cry together. Let’s sit at the tables of leaders, make policy, and run businesses and homes. And let’s celebrate our lives and the magic we offer the world.

 

Dago Blanco

@dagoblanco 

What does Stonewall mean to you?

It was a breaking point in history for queer liberation, a moment in time when we decided that enough was enough. Stonewall exemplifies the bravery in fighting for your rights and solidarity for queer people.

Tell us about your own activism.

On a daily basis, I make it a point to be the most authentic version of myself. This involves being loud and unapologetically queer. In my line of work, I often find myself in spaces where people lean conservative. While I respect whatever background everyone comes from, I make it a point to educate as many people as I can about our deeply layered culture. Within my own community, I also do my best to support local queer artists by attending events and volunteering my time.

Where do you see the movement headed?

It’s no surprise to anyone that our political climate at the moment is as tumultuous as it is. Things in America are honestly pretty scary right now, and we’re having to worry about our fundamental freedoms being slowly chipped away. The movement is getting angrier by the day and I truly believe, very much like Stonewall, we’re at our generation’s breaking point. I’m ready to riot. 

Thoughts about ATL Pride being in October versus June?

I’m torn about it most days. While I would love to celebrate ATL Pride in the same month as all the other prides, I kinda enjoy looking forward to October. We get to celebrate and thrive all of June and still get to keep the party going three months later. 

 

Priscilla Chambers

@priscillachambers

What does Stonewall mean to you?

It truly was the start of our movement, and while we still have a long way to go, that day changed the queer communities’ lives forever. I owe everything to those who fought so we could have freedom to be our authentic selves.

Tell us about your own activism.

I started hormones about a month ago, and realizing the cost it is to transition is insane. Not just HRT, but electrolysis, binders, etc. are all very expensive. I’m currently in the process of creating a non-profit that would help aid trans people in getting the basic things they need to help their transition go a little smoother. 

Where do you see the movement headed?

I just want to see more young people, everyone actually, getting off their phones and into the streets. We need to protest! Vote! The world is having a hard time catching up, so it’s up to us to educate and fight back. Stop letting them take our basic human rights away. Stop letting them try to erase us. 

What is your advice for young queer folks today?

Find your dream, and fucking hold on to it. No matter how bad things get, keep going, and know that you’ve got an army behind you. 

 

Iv Fischer

@iv.fischer

What does Stonewall mean to you? 

The Stonewall riots occurred after decades of mistreatment, discrimination and prejudice. They were a tipping point. They helped to let the police, and the public, know that the queer community of the time had had enough. In a lot of ways, the battles fought at Stonewall are the same ones we are fighting for today: more inclusion, more representation, less violence against trans individuals. The legacy of Stonewall is one of queer liberation and unity. 

Talk about Marsha P Johnson and her legacy.

Many people know Marsha P. Johnson as the person to throw the first brick at Stonewall. Whether she was actually the firstor not, the fact remains that black trans women have been, and continue to be, the first to throw metaphorical bricks in the fight for justice. 

Johnson’s legacy is refusing to be swept under the cisgender gay rug that aims to conceal the activism of trans people of color throughout history. We are the ones to always put our lives on the line for the entire community. We are the ones to always stick our necks out in order to be heard. Marsha P. Johnson’s story serves as an allegory for the fed-upness of society’s black and Latinx trans citizens. 

Tell us about your own activism.

My activism is rooted in enacting positivity and happiness through the content I create, the events I curate, and the opportunities I enable. I inspire those watching me online to actively engage queer and trans people in their everyday lives. I remind people that we are capable, employable, and lovable. Trans people are just that: people! 

We are worthy of the rights and privileges that other people so automatically receive. I charge everyone around me with the same task of being vocal and honest about their love for trans people. We are often stripped of our humanity through framed media rhetoric, the spread of misinformation, and flat-out transphobia. I am fighting for more job options and social recognition. I am fighting for less murders of trans individuals. I am fighting for a better future. 

Whether we ask for these things nicely, or have to extract them with our bare hands, we will have our day and it will be glorious!

Where do you see the movement headed?

I like to poke fun at all of the #SponCon that goes on during Pride month. I mean seriously, rainbow-colored bottles of Smirnoff Ice aren’t going to help liberate anyone. However, more people are recognizing the struggles that trans people have to go through on a daily basis, with this month of heightened visibility. More companies are putting their money where their mouths are and employing queer people for their art. Capitalistic activism has its clear cons, but a pro of all these silly advertisements is that more money is being allocated for the betterment of those who need it the most. I hope the movement employs more diversity, more unity, and more opportunities for trans people around the world. 

 

Molly Rimswell 

@mollyrimswell

What does Stonewall mean to you? 

It is important that future generations take the spirit of rebellion and freedom to continue to push this movement forward. Silence isn't an option. Act up. Fight back. Be yourself, and love those around you. 

Tell us about your own activism.

My activism is shown through actions. Think pieces and sharing posts on Facebook are not going to change this community. We need to show up and engage with the needs of the community to make an effective change. Show up. Show out. Fight the norms, 

Where do you see the movement headed?

I want to see this community spend more time listening and creating programming to protect and grow marginalized voices in an effort to make meaningful changes with lasting results. 

What do you think about drag as activism?

This platform was created to make people feel uncomfortable in hopes that it would challenge societal norms. Every time someone walks out of the house in gender nonconforming presentation is an act of defiance against the rules. Drag is a tool that drives change in this community and sparks conversations. Drag is activism, and it is important to know why we have the opportunity that we have today, the history of drag activists, as well as understand the needs of our community to make immediate and meaningful changes. 

All photos by Jon Dean, jondeanphoto.com

This feature originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue online here:

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