Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: Atlanta’s LGBTQ culture full of uniqueness

The day before Irma hit, I sat in yet another planning meeting. It was just myself and five other people, but the discussion was lively.

As we talked about the mundane details of the event, one person remarked that Atlanta doesn’t have a culture like other LGBTQ hubs such as New York or San Francisco.

I was offended.

I’m offended every time someone makes that statement. As a native, this city has changed before my eyes. The metro Atlanta I grew up in doesn’t exist anymore thanks to gentrification and population growth. People look at me in awe when I tell them I was born here.

I often struggle with how quickly Atlanta is changing and have told many that this city is losing its soul. I constantly think about relocating. Nonetheless, talking about Atlanta is like talking about a member of my family. I can talk shit about my family members and how much they get on my damn nerves. An outsider might get punched in the face if they attempt to do the same.

I can complain about how cliquey LGBTQ can be and how Midtown only caters to certain demographics. I’ve earned my right to complain about the culture. But, when an out-of-towner does it, especially a fresh one, it stings. It stings even more when they are egregiously misinformed.

Atlanta does a lot of things wrong, but our LGBTQ culture is unique. LGBTQ Atlanta doesn’t stop at Midtown. You can find LGBTQ culture in the bars of East Atlanta with the quirky Village Queens. The culture is in the close-knit black lesbian community in south Dekalb that came together in the wake of Lucy McCurty’s death in 2015. It’s in the artsy crowd you’d find at a Southern Fried Queer Pride event. Atlanta Pride is arguably our most mainstream event and there’s even diversity in who walks our parades. Last year, we had a variety of participants including Brazilian carnival dancers, activists, furries and high school students.

Over Labor Day weekend, Atlanta Black Pride Weekend and Dragon Con, along with various sporting events, made the city even more interesting. My straight middle-aged white coworker shared a story of how she was randomly invited out to a bar by ABPW attendees because they liked her cosplay.

That type of exchange illustrates how special Atlanta can be.

Atlanta’s LGBTQ culture cannot and should not be relegated to one section of the city. As I told the person at the meeting, Atlanta isn’t just one culture. It’s a collection of many. That is something that should be celebrated.

Atlanta isn’t San Francisco or New York and thank Beyoncé it isn’t.