This issue of the Georgia Voice marks a milestone: our very first Best of Atlanta awards, which will be an annual event.

While our seasoned staff has worked on “Best Of” issues before, the task still initially seemed daunting for a new media outlet: Voting began in early May, barely two months after the launch of our website, and we were hopeful but not entirely certain how readers would respond.

But respond you did. Thousands of votes were cast in both the open nominations and multiple choice finalists phases of voting, and many of our finalists used their own social media networks to rally their fans to push them into the top spot.

The very best of LGBT Atlanta

So as we honor the wonderful people, places and things that make Atlanta an LGBT mecca — and those that are bringing acceptance and community to LGBT people around the state — we also have to thank you, our readers, not only for taking the time to vote (sometimes repeatedly) for our awards, but for your overall support and encouragement as we work to create this new print and online LGBT media outlet.

As LGBT people in a region not exactly known for acceptance and equality, many of us have faced questions about why we stay. If you live elsewhere in Georgia, why don’t you move to Atlanta, where life would be a little easier as an LGBT person? If you live in Atlanta, why do you stay in the South, as gay marriage expands in the Northeast and domestic partnerships become more prevalent in West Coast states?

The many winners in these “Best” awards, as well as all of the worthy nominees, answer that question.

Yes, there is a lot of progress still to be made here. Many of our winners are on the frontlines fighting for that progress every day, and I hope many more of us will join them.

Yet there is also much to celebrate, from our diverse community groups, dynamic activists and artists and vibrant nightlife to the many businesses who welcome us to simply shop or dine.

Change doesn’t only come in landmark events, be they protests like the 1969 Stonewall Riots that sparked the modern gay rights movement, or major court decisions like gay marriage in Massachusetts, the first state where same-sex couples were allowed to wed.

Change also comes in the quiet moments between these landmarks, as we come out to our families and friends, consciously choose to support businesses that support us, or simply hold our partner’s hand on the street.

It’s been an honor over the last four months to cover all of the changes, big and small, in our community’s journey, and we look forward to covering many more to come.