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Party out of bounds

Pride kickoff party at the Georgia Aquarium

"I've never seen so many excited gays before," observed a sweaty reveler on the pulsing dance floor at the Atlanta Pride party at the Georgia Aquarium. His tattooed friend looked around and deadpanned, "Or so many terrified fish."

I had never been inside an aquarium before--just outside as a demonstrator. I only learned of this gala when I arrived from Virginia to work PETA's booth at the gay pride festival in Piedmont Park. I found it ironic that my seemingly sophisticated subculture would celebrate freedom in a building that celebrates captivity. My first thought was to stand at the entrance with a protest sign, but a friend on the guest list suggested that I accompany him and have a civil word with the organizers in hopes of opening their hearts and minds to choosing a less oppressive venue next year.

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‘Party Out of Bounds’ way out of bounds of reality

Party at Georgia Aquarium

An opinion piece by Dan Mathews, published this week in the Huffington Post, gave a distorted and inaccurate portrayal of a recent event at Georgia Aquarium and made inappropriate accusations based more on his detractor opinion than fact.

In the article, “Party Out of Bounds,” Mr. Mathews, a staffer for animal rights extremist organization PETA, accused Georgia Aquarium of subjecting the animals in our care to the “torture” of “earsplitting” and “pounding” music at the kickoff party for Atlanta’s Gay Pride weekend. He also mischaracterized the event itself, insulting our courteous and thoughtful guests by referring to them as “sweaty” revelers and implying that it was nearly impossible to talk with others due to the volume of the music. The underlying accusation is that Georgia Aquarium – one of the world’s leading aquariums, boasting a staff of dedicated and accomplished marine biologists, scientists and experts in the care of animals – regularly subjects its residents to intolerable noise levels in the name of profit.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Do Ask, Do Tell for Pride

What a difference a year makes.

“Hopes dim for ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal this year,” read a headline in last year’s GA Voice Atlanta Pride issue, which hit the streets on Oct. 1, 2010.

Headline on page 36 of this Pride issue? “Atlanta celebrates end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Of course, the end of the military’s discriminatory ban on openly gay service members was years in the making. Efforts to repeal the ban began as soon as it was passed in 1993 as a disappointing compromise after newly elected President Bill Clinton had pledged to let gays serve in the military.

Clinton’s election played a small but meaningful role in my own coming out story. I never doubted my parents’ love, but they weren’t exactly thrilled in 1991 when they found out I was gay.

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Guest editorial: Chaz Bono comes out dancing

Chaz Bono to appear on this season of Dancing with the Stars

The only child of world-renowned pop duo Sonny and Cher Bono, Chaz is remembered by many of us as their cherub-faced daughter Chastity, blowing kisses to the audience of her parents top-rated variety television show “Sonny & Cher.”

In 1995, Chaz was outed as a lesbian.

But this time Chaz is in control, and on his own volition has announced he’s legally a man, and will now appear on the 13th season of “Dancing with the Stars,” premiering Sept. 19.

But not everyone is cheering, and ABC is catching some of the fallout.

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Sniping over Black Gay Pride, other events highlights our community’s sad tendency to hold back our own

Black Gay Pride attendees

Crabs in a barrel.

In the frenzy to get out, each claws onto the one above, intending to pull itself up and closer to freedom. Instead, of course, it only succeeds in pulling the other crab back down, leaving all in the bottom of the barrel and destined for the bottom of a boiling pot of water.

The image is often invoked to illustrate how minority communities, including LGBT communities, have a tendency to hold their own back, rather than working communally to confront their real oppressor. While we claw at each other, those in power stand back and get ready for dinner.

I was reminded of this as the GA Voice began our coverage of Atlanta’s 2011 Black Gay Pride celebration, which is held over Labor Day Weekend. It only took minutes from the story being posted to our Facebook page for the negative feedback to begin.

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Guest editorial: Basketball and bi-phobia

To some in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities, Sheryl Swoopes is a “lie-sexual.”

Swoopes — the three-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time MVP of the Women’s National Basketball Association — is just another sister-girl on the “down low” announcing the incredulous news that she’s now engaged to marry a man.

To incurable homophobes, especially of the fundamentalist Christian variety who pedal their rhetoric that homosexuality is curable with reparative theories, Swoopes is the prodigal daughter who has finally found her way away from homosexuality and home to Jesus.

To many of my heterosexual African -merican brothers, Chris Unclesho, the man Swoopes is engaged to marry, is the man! A bona fide “dyke whisperer” who has turned Swoopes out to the sexual joys of what it is to be with a man.

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Guest Editorial: Why the LGBT community must engage in the reapportionment process

Beginning on Aug. 15, the Georgia General Assembly will hold a special session to redraw congressional and legislative district boundaries. This process, known as reapportionment, happens after each national census.

Because Georgia is one of several southern states that must adhere to the Voting Rights Act, there is always a greater level of scrutiny over our process and the final rulings on district boundaries are usually made by a panel of judges.

This year district boundaries for all legislative and congressional seats will be redrawn. While there will be no change in the number of state legislative seats (236), due to population growth, Georgia will gain one additional Congressional seat.

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Time for Obama to evolve

It’s been painful to watch various White House spokespeople over the past week twist themselves into knots trying to explain President Obama’s flip-flop on marriage equality.

In 1996, while running for a seat in the Illinois state Senate, Obama stated in a written questionnaire that he supports same-sex marriage. Obama wrote, “I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages.”

That infamous questionnaire has haunted him ever since and re-emerged recently as a series of spokespeople tried to minimize its importance.

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How do we define ‘openly gay elected official’?

If a gay politician comes out but many gay leaders never hear about it, is he really out?

In the last two weeks, Georgia’s gay political landscape got its own version of that oft-quoted question: If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?

Within days, our state’s short list of known openly gay elected officials jumped by two. Any way you look at it, that’s progress.

But the ensuing reaction raised interesting questions about what it means to be “out,” especially in metro Atlanta in 2011, where gay people are more mainstream than ever, but many still fear discrimination both within their families and the community at large.

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Star’s recent tweets could make me regret coming out as a country music fan

Country musician Blake Shelton

Confession: I love country music. Perhaps it’s the Cash gene in me or simply because I grew up in the Deep South with a mother who carried a torch for Hank Williams (senior not junior — what a disappointment he is) until the day she died.

I think Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood and Little Big Town are among the most talented beings on the planet. Note I did not include Taylor Swift in that group. As an amateur musician, I often find myself drawn as much to Willie Nelson songs as to those of The Beatles and The Eagles.

Coming out as a country music fan has had its challenges. I have been ridiculed by friends and family alike for my subversive leanings. It’s just how I’m made, I explain, it’s in my DNA and there’s no denying it. They accept this without question about my sexual orientation, but they are not so forgiving when it comes to my passion for country music.

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NOM rally shows how we will win our fight for equality

Atlanta rally against NOM protest

We did it, Atlanta.

In August, hundreds of us braved soaring temperatures to stand across the street from the State Capitol, bearing witness against the National Organization for Marriage’s “Summer for Marriage” tour.

Of course, it was really a “Summer Against Gay Marriage” tour, complete with overwrought predictions of what would happen if (gasp) gay couples are legally allowed to say “I do.”

Alveda King — the niece of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and a disgrace to her uncle’s legacy of inclusion and civil rights — told the assembled crowd redefining marriage by allowing gay couples to legally wed amounts to “genocide” and will lead to the “extinction” of the human race.

Um, the assembled crowd of 35. And I generously counted their speakers, performers, volunteers and even the media who stood on their side of the street.