How does Queer Atlanta create the community we deserve?

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ATL is the queer Emerald City of the Southeast, yet many queers here have lots of critique. Undeniably, the South’s past harbors heavy hatred and thus heartache. Atlanta, as an isolated urban hub in the midst of much Bible Belt discriminatory foolishness, has provided a safe space for queers from smaller Southeastern cities and tiny towns.

However, 20 years into the uprise of capitalist-controlled “indie” culture, we ATLiens at times find our city trifling.

Atlanta’s rapid growth, partly due to Los Angeles’s film industry, has bulldozed our city into an unidentifiable landscape of expensive condos and updated consumerist expectations. Queers fall into an array of socio-economic backgrounds, so we either benefit from, or struggle against, the Film Rush.

In a small big city, lack of community has cursed Atlanta as a stepping-stone for some. Some queerdos gaze afar into the cosmos wishing some glitter glam UFO would swoop ‘em off to a West Coast or Northeast metropolis, where a vast variety of queers enjoy abundant community resources.

Isolating ourselves into smaller, lonelier pockets, we don’t know how to interact or embrace our unique situation. Especially affected are those not akin to homonormative, cis, gay and lesbian culture, praising meccas like San Francisco, no love for home. Even some politically minded comrades of yore have become highly annoyed of “social justice warriors” (as if social justice is a bad thing).

In already uncertain times, the most major change we’ve faced is Trump. It’s not within queer interest to support someone who wants to deny us basic rights, who chose a VP who believes our identities and sexualities can and should be reversed with electroshock therapy.

A year into Trump’s tyranny, we only have tiny signs – like the ultimate rejection of the trans military ban – that propositions to oppress queers will not fly. This threatening political agenda took power when infighting was at an all time high. The alt-right rose while we were debating Black Lives Matter, gender identity, privilege, refugees, rape culture, and toxic masculinity. Hate groups who despise all queers, regardless of intersectionality, strengthened.

Still wounded from Pulse, we’ve experienced an increased frequency of mass shootings during Trump’s short time. As if the intensity of rallies – some violent and pro-racist – wasn’t concerning enough, those who struggle to secure some semblance of safety hope that their progress won’t be taken away. Assuming Trump would not have won the presidential election, we are staring at a trash fire far worse than imagined.

We’ve promised to pay more attention and get more involved. Did we though? An estimated 80% of the local population still votes, but to much dismay neither queer candidate Cathy Woolard and Liliana Bakhtiari landed a win, despite passionate campaigns to better the community and fight gentrification. LGBTQ candidates Stephe Koontz and Joseph Geierman gave us some hope in their wins for Doraville City Council.

We now face a difficult decision between perhaps secret Republican Norwood and suspected corrupt city biz Bottoms for Atlanta Mayor. Nationally, six GOP-held seats were won by Dems, along with many victories for queer candidates, including Virginia’s Danica Roem, who beat that state’s original “bathroom bill” pitcher.

There’s no certain political approach that should be decided, but it’s beyond time that Atlanta queers be respectful to each other. Let’s rid ourselves of the false belief that because we’re queer, we’re immune from racism, sexism, and classism.

We’ve ignored intersectionality and hierarchies of prejudice within our own. Choosing compassion over conflict could improve quality of life. As a group often discriminated against, it’s confounding that we’d choose to discriminate against each other. Improvement starts with listening to each other and caring about each other’s experiences.

How can Atlanta thrive? What can we do to make it better? Let’s start asking the real questions and give ourselves the queer community we deserve.

Sunni Johnson is a freelance writer in Atlanta with interests in the arts and social justice.

Photo byLiz Nobles

This column first appeared in the Nov. 23 print edition of Q magazine, which you can read below.

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