Indignant whale lovers PETA ignited their annual broadside against Atlanta Pride's kickoff reception, this time misleading supporters by claiming to be longtime Pride sponsors. Except they aren't.
It's the latest chapter in a long-running debate between PETA, Pride and the festival's popular opening kickoff party at the Georgia Aquarium. PETA routinely enlists high-profile gay celebs, including Jane Lynch and Tim Gunn, to pitch their case. And they aren't above throwing out barbs, insults and this time, offensive terms to describe transgender attendees at the Pride party.
PETA's gay senior vice president, Dan Mathews, issued his salvo The Shame of Atlanta Pride on Monday in the Gay & Lesbian Review. In it, he announced that PETA would again protest the Oct. 11 event, an effort that fell flat in 2012.
I don’t think most people are cruel, just oblivious. I assumed that the Atlanta Pride board would agree to meet, discuss the issue, and, once informed, eagerly choose another of Atlanta’s countless hotspots. They didn’t even respond to my email or follow-up calls. I then filed an official cruelty complaint with Fulton County and wrote aHuffington Post blog about the whole sorry experience. Pink tweeted it to her 14 million followers, marine biologists echoed PETA’s concerns, and gay icons Tim Gunn Jane Lynch and Kathy Najimy politely asked Atlanta Pride to simply change venues. Pride’s executive director Buck Cooke reacted as if he’d been asked to undergo conversion therapy. He re-issued canned quotes from the Georgia Aquarium’s rent-an-expert and said the party was staying put. Last year, I heard the party was a “blast,” as usual.
In his post, Matthews also says that PETA has deep ties to Georgia's gay scene, which are tangential at best, and claims that the organization “is a longtime sponsor of Atlanta Pride.”
PETA, where I’ve worked since college, is a longtime sponsor of Atlanta Pride. Our roots run deep in Georgia’s gay scene: RuPaul appeared on our cruelty-free cosmetics guide, Lady Bunny hosts our “Fur is A Drag” fashion show parodies, and The B-52s, who drew Atlanta Pride’s biggest crowd ever, have long headlined PETA benefits. Two years ago, I was thrilled to help staff our vegan outreach table at the bustling Pride fest in Piedmont Park—in part because the sparse Pride turnout in blue-collar Norfolk, where PETA is based, is like a Honey Boo Boo cast party.
Except, according to Atlanta Pride Executive Director Buck Cooke, PETA has never been a sponsor of Pride. The group is taking part in the parade and the festival's marketplace, but their efforts stop well short of joining a long list of corporate, community and small business sponsors.
In his post, Matthews also recounts a discussion with a transgender attendee at a past kickoff party he attended.
“It’s too sad to think about!” a tranny in our group observed, sweetly nudging me from being a Debbie Downer. “Want a drink?!”
Except that gay media watchdog GLAAD considers “tranny” a defamatory term that media outlets should not use.
But hey, PETA is angry enough to use derogatory terms to describe one slice of LGBT life in a criticism of another. Yet not quite mad enough to pull their Atlanta Pride sponsorship, which doesn't really exist. Protest on!
UPDATE | A PETA spokesperson, David Perle, followed up to say that Mathews used “tranny” at the request of the performer he met and talked with. As for Mathews' claim that PETA sponsors Atlanta Pride, Perle offered this explanation: “Since the 1980s, PETA has sponsored, participated in, or paid for booth space at Pride events around the country, both registered as PETA or by our local members. Longtime PETA members have led an enthusiastic PETA presence at Pride at Piedmont Park, which has long been staffed by gay activists like PETA VP Dan Mathews.” Atlanta Pride officials say PETA has participated in the Pride marketplace and parade, but has never sponsored the annual event.
Photo by Sher Pruitt