Gay Athens out in full force, Bulldogs and all

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imageJoshua Trey Barnett is the co-creator and editor of and the contributing blogger behind Dawg Days, a weekly update from Athens for Project Q Atlanta.

Hello Atlanta!

I’m writing to you from beautiful downtown Athens. Our streets are lined with blooming trees, the grass across the street in UGA’s historic North Campus is getting greener, and the gay community is out in full force. I just watched a cute gay couple walk past my normal seat at my favorite little coffee spot, hands clasped together, out and proud in this diverse little college town.

The Classic City isn’t just a place for Bulldog fans and hippies, although we do have our fair share of both. With a bountiful supply of open-minded students at the University and a community that promotes diversity and friendliness, you’ll find all types here.

And this includes a vibrant LGBTQ community. Healthy supplies of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and trans and queer people exist in all communities, but not all support as “out” a population as Athens.

Whenever I question my faith in the openness of this town, I remember how comfortable and safe I feel holding my better half’s hands downtown and on campus. I remember how at ease I am giving him a peck on the cheek in public. And I remember how lucky I am to live in a place where I can be at least more-than-moderately comfortable being my true self.

Just 10 miles in any direction of Athens, our people are not so welcome. Unfortunately, the shining light Athens and Atlanta have provided for their LGBTQ inhabitants has not yet shone on many of the places around us.

And, unfortunately, this light hasn’t yet shone in most places. Legislation is in the works now – both here in Georgia and at the federal level – to help protect our community. Hate crimes laws are but one step in the long road ahead to equality. But they’re an important step to equality and understanding, and their implementation is an open statement to a community that less-than-equal treatment can’t be the norm any longer.

So, to my sisters and brothers in Atlanta, Athens and beyond, I encourage you to stand up on your beliefs, step up into action and steer your communities in the right direction. Let’s work together to protect the places that welcome us home each day.

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