Attend at least one Pride celebration in addition to Atlanta Pride.

Atlanta Pride is the granddaddy of all Pride celebrations in the region, and one of the biggest in the country. But to appreciate it more, and get back to your roots, check out at least one of Georgia’s other Pride celebrations in 2011 — they range from small picnics to full-scale, day-long festivals, and they are bound to make you feel grateful and inspired.

Last year, regional Prides in Georgia included Augusta, Savannah, Marietta, Chattahoochee Valley (Columbus), South Georgia (Valdosta) and even East Side Pride (Clarkston).

Go to gay church. Or synagogue. Or other worship services.

If religion was ever important to you, and if you don’t attend services now or you are part of a congregation that doesn’t accept your sexual orientation or gender identity, go at least once to one of Atlanta’s many LGBT-led houses of worship — you might be surprised how moved you will be to feel accepted where you once only felt judged. Whether you prefer contemporary, traditional, charismatic, or other styles of worship, our city has a gay congregation for you. To find a congregation, visit www.thegavoice.com and choose “Organizations” under the Community menu, then click “Religious Organizations.”

Shop local: Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Charis Books & More, and Brushstrokes.

It’s quick and easy to download your media purchases from Amazon.com, Netflix.com, iTunes.com and the like. But our local bookstores give back to our community in ways that these mega-websites don’t, and if they don’t have what you want in stock, you can order through their websites and at their stores. Order a DVD, CD and book from each of the local outlets listed above. Your karma will love you for it.

Protest. Just once. For anything that sparks your interest.

Last year offered plenty of opportunities to take to the streets in support of LGBT rights, from rallies in Atlanta against Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps and the National Organization for Marriage, to rallies against the KKK in Augusta and protesting a gay beating in Savannah. And no matter how many people show up, you are bound to feel empowered by literally standing up for your own rights. So watch out for planned events, and at least once, grab your picket sign — or just your camera — and join in.

Party at gay bar where you have never been.

Atlanta’s LGBT nightlife scene is a blessing and a curse, offering a niche for everyone but making it too easy to never party with a diverse crowd different from yourself. So for one night, break your usual plans — go to a bar you’ve never visited, and be surprised at how much fun you have. With dozens of bars in Atlanta, there is surely one you have missed, and if not, hit the road to Augusta, Savannah or Macon to see what those cities have to offer.

Help an LGBT youth.

Being young and queer in the 21st Century is not easy despite the acceptance we continue to receive by mainstream society. Visit YouthPride or CHRIS Kids and ask how you can help, and become a mentor to a young LGBT person to help them deal with bullying. Be a friend and let them know things will not always be rosy, but they do get better especially if they have a support system.

Kiss on the street at 10th & Piedmont.

It’s perhaps the gayest street corner in the state, and where better to enjoy a bit of fun and empowering PDA? So pucker up and celebrate one of the few areas in Georgia where we are in the majority.

Be a tourist.

Those of us who live here year-round often forget how many fun things there are to do in Atlanta, and how gay-inclusive they are. So go to the Georgia Aquarium, the High Museum, Zoo Atlanta, World of Coke, Stone Mountain, a Braves game — chances are you will see plenty of other gay folks there, too.

Get tested for HIV.

Whether you take advantage of fast, free testing through LGBT programs at agencies like Positive Impact, AID Atlanta, YouthPride or AID Gwinnett, or you simply test at your own doctor’s office, be sure you know your HIV status as 2011 gets underway. Those who know their status are more likely to get treatment, and much less likely to pass on HIV. So do it for yourself, and for your community.

Attend Black Gay Pride.

Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride over Labor Day Weekend is one of the largest in the nation and despite the arguments against having “two” Prides in the city, Black Gay Pride offers valuable information during the long weekend, as well as some of the hottest hip hop artists at some of the hottest and best-attended club events you’ll find through out the year.

Read “And the Band Played On” by Randy Shilts.

And no cheating by watching the HBO movie. This book is an epic story of the rise of HIV that eradicated too many lives. But the book also encapsulates so much of our community’s history and it’s crucial to know our history, especially as young people rise into leadership positions.

Invite a Facebook friend you regularly correspond with but have never met to lunch or out to coffee.

Many of us have social networking friends that we’ve never met, but we enjoy their witty and funny posts or their philosophical musings. Meet them in real life and strike up a non-virtual relationship.

Unplug for a weekend, or at least a day.

No Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Manhunt, Grindr, etc. It may be hard, but what did we ever do before we could comment on people’s witty and/or boring status updates or their vacation photos, cruise for a hookup with our iPhone or re-Tweet Stephen Colbert’s personal thoughts? Oh, yeah. We talked to each other and lived in the “real” world.

Visit a new restaurant each month.

As your budget allows, be sure to support local gay-owned eateries such as Radial Cafe, Ria’s Bluebird and Sauced as well as gay-supportive restaurants including Einstein’s, Joe’s on Juniper, Gilbert’s Mediterranean Café, The Flying Biscuit and dozens of others.

Join a gay sports league.

You know that New Year’s resolution to get in shape? Take advantage of the numerous gay sports leagues — whether you enjoy swimming, bowling, softball, tennis, flag football, rugby, soccer, running, and basketball — there’s something for you to fulfill that resolution as well as meet new friends.

Visit at least one community theater to watch a show.

Actor’s Express, Dad’s Garage, OnStage Atlanta, Center for Puppetry Arts, Georgia Ensemble Theatre (where gay playwright and GA Voice columnist Topher Payne’s show “Tokens of Affection” continues through Jan. 23), Horizon Theatre, 7 Stages in Atlanta plus many more in other cities offer residents a chance to escape through live theater and support local venues that provide a variety of culture to Atlanta and the state.

Read newspapers.

Yes, we are partial to this one and want you to pick up a copy of the GA Voice every two weeks when we publish the print edition, as well as keep up with us online. But also pick up copies of the AJC (even though they may not take a shine to reporting important LGBT events in the city) as well as Creative Loafing and Atlanta INtown. It’s a fact when you read a newspaper you are more likely to read an entire story rather than scan the headlines. And studies show people who read newspapers are much smarter and sexier as well.

Take MARTA to an event other than Atlanta Pride.

The trains are packed with LGBT people during Atlanta Pride as they flock to Piedmont Park and to the Civic Center for the parade. But that’s not the only time we can take advantage of the city’s public transportation. Sure, you hear complaints about MARTA all the time. But you definitely see a side — and views — of the city that aren’t to be missed at least once.

Call or write your state and federal lawmakers.

You contact your friends and family all the time, so take 15 minutes to reach out to one of your elected representatives to let them know about LGBT or other issues that are important to you. Telling them that you support legislation to make it illegal to fire someone for being gay or transgender — and telling them how that affects you personally — would be a great start. If you live in a conservative district for the state legislature or Congress, you may not change your lawmaker’s vote, but you will at least let them know that gay and trans people are everywhere in our state.

Give three hours.

Georgia’s LGBT and AIDS organizations need your help, and the more time you have to give, the better. This year, commit to give at least three hours — less time than you might spend going out on Saturday night — to the cause of your choice. You could work a volunteer shift at Pride, the Human Rights Campaign Dinner, or AIDS Walk Atlanta. Or if you don’t want to volunteer during a big event, there are dozens of organizations that could use your help with everything from phone-banking to stuffing envelopes.

 

Top photo: (Left) The biggest Black Gay Pride events can draw crowds in the thousands, and the performers, like Nicki Minaj who performed in 2010, are not to be missed. (Right) Savannah Pride is one of several celebrations offered outside Atlanta. (Photos by Dyana Bagby)

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