Ashleigh Atwell

Ashleigh Atwell: Pride is my platform

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Halls across Atlanta will be decked. There will be glitter, lights and jolly men everywhere.

Happy Pride, family!

As I said in my last column, I was a late-blooming lesbian so I didn’t attend Pride until a couple of years ago, but I have been hooked ever since. This might seem uncharacteristic of someone that has been extremely critical of Atlanta’s LGBT community, and while Pride has plenty of problematic aspects, I’m still excited.

Although gay marriage was legalized last year and trans issues are more visible, I still think Pride is just as relevant now as it was when Stonewall popped off almost 40 years ago. Do I feel a way about the corporate presence at the festival? Absolutely. Do I think Atlanta’s LGBTQ community has a diversity problem? Sure.

Still, as someone who has been an active participant rather than a spectator, I see the effort that Atlanta Pride is making as an organization. Last year, a few friends and I got together to make a statement during the Pride parade. We wanted to call out the mainstream movement’s lackluster effort regarding issues unrelated to marriage equality such as mental health, poverty and the murders of transgender women. We wanted to remind people that Pride was more than a party. After all, Stonewall was a riot against police brutality.

I can’t speak for my homies but as we started to correspond with Pride representatives, I was skeptical. I wanted to know if these people would actually listen to us and allow us to speak out on our own terms. I had nothing to worry about. Even after we stopped the parade with a die-in, we were good. They’re trying, so I’ll allow them to do so and if I catch them slipping, I will let them know.

Despite the pink-washing of the movement, people of color have been an active part of the movement since the first brick was thrown during Stonewall. Women like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy, who has been a grand marshal in modern Pride parades, are the backbone of this movement. Bayard Rustin, a queer black man, is the reason the March on Washington happened. I feel like participating in Pride and its change for the better is my way of honoring their legacies.

Pride is also a perfect platform for me to tell GayTL how I really feel. When I’m happy, I’ll prance down Peachtree like everyone else. If I’m not, I’ll do what I did last year and walk into Piedmont Park chanting with my fist raised.

Another fun aspect of Pride has been helping with the Dyke March and I’m happy to say I’m one of its main organizers this year. The theme I want for this year is #stilladyke. We tend to get hung up on labels and what makes someone a REAL lesbian. I hate it and I want to help change that behavior. I don’t ever want people to feel like they cannot find love among Atlanta’s lesbian community if they’re bisexual, femme, transgender or anything else. I can’t think of a more appropriate place for that message than Pride. The Dyke March will be on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. Check out the Trans March, which starts at 1:30 p.m., too.

If you see me, holler. I don’t bite.