Tokyo Valentino is not a historic cultural site for the gay community. It’s a place where sleazy men bang, who otherwise don’t have a place to bust a queer nut. Look, I’m a liberal, sex-loving gay man, but I can tell you without trepidation: I don’t need a dark room with raggedy video booths to affirm my identity. The gay community doesn’t need Tokyo Valentino. We are more than glory holes and hustlers swirling on GHB. So don’t send me a petition to “Save Our Gay Landmarks” if that gay landmark is Tokyo Valentino. This type of conversation waters down the true meaning of historic gay businesses, and threatens to inextricably tie the gay community with unsavoriness not reflective of who we are.

But I do think we should save Tokyo Valentino. We should preserve this sex store because we need seedy businesses in Atlanta. There will always be a need for spaces where suburban men can come and have anonymous sex. Drugs and hustlers are part of our capitalist ecosystem, and it’s important that we give them a place to exist. Using the power of zoning and city ordinances to bully adult businesses out of town is short-sighted. The activities that happen there will move somewhere else. If you aren’t willing to let what happens at Tokyo Valentino happen anywhere in town, and in public, then it’s vital we give space for these businesses to cater to these needs.

There’s a lot of talk about “The Neutering of Cheshire Bridge,” and I think this is an important conversation to have. A city should have a red-light district, because that sort of illicit and illegal activity will happen regardless of how hard we try to legislate it out of our community. Let the hustlers have space to hustle — or else they might walk down to your neighborhood instead.

Part of the problem is the growth of residential properties around Cheshire Bridge, and new residents wanting to “clean up” the area. These new folks do have a point — Cheshire Bridge can be skeezy and gross, and a lot of this action happens out in the open. Businesses like Tokyo Valentino have a responsibility to keep it clean and keep it quiet — and this is what we should hold them accountable to. On the flip side, it’s important that new residents of this area be cool! You chose to move to an area where blowjobs can be had for $20 behind a chain link fence. If the gays and the grays can get along at The Colonnade, then surely we can find a middle ground on the issue of sex stores and strip clubs on Cheshire Bridge.

The place you buy dildos and lacy panties is not a historic LGBT site. Saving Tokyo Valentino is not about saving our queer history. So don’t sell it to me that way. But, making room for Atlanta’s red-light district is important, because it’s safer when we can keep this activity under view of the community.

One Response

  1. Antoni Manwell

    My Identity Today for Equality Tomorrow
    by Antoni Manwell

    The word ‘trade’ has a lot of different meanings, especially in queer culture. We talk about trade as in trading favors either for money, sex, or drugs. We trade on our name, as in collateral or as a status symbol. The phrase trading up, meaning to come up in the world, like The Jefferson’s or The Beverly Hillbillies. Ever since marriage equality, gay culture has definitely traded on something, but was the trade worth the cost? Ask the lesbians who were assaulted a few weeks ago, they are likely to tell you a different story.

    This is simply one gay non-white man’s opinion. We as an LGBTQI culture, especially here in the south, have definitely made a trade, acceptance for queer identity. It’s like playing monopoly. You have no money left and now you are just trading property for a chance to stay in the game. That certainly feels like the case with the closing of bars, clubs, and adult entertainment venues that cater to the gay community here in Atlanta.

    Most recently Tokyo Valentino which has been a staple in Atlanta since the 1980s, although it has reinvented it’s self a few times over, is being forced to close because it does not adhere to city ordinances. Apparently after thirty some odd years this is now an issue. It begs the question of why start caring now? The real answer is money and property, of course, the gentrification of the area has made that lot prime real-estate and some developers want to tear down a legal and thriving business so they can build more condos. Guess what ATLANTA WE FULL!

    I understand that not all queer experiences are the same, but let’s face it where would queer culture and identity be without sex clubs, adult book stores, bathhouse, and gay bars. There would be no Bette Midler. Our entire identity as a culture would still be trapped in the closet with R. Kelly. Trust me with all the secrets and lies he had going on it would have been suffocating and we very well may have died out.

    Fortunately, we created a community for ourselves in which we did not have to hide. Heaven forbid sex was, and still is a large part of who we are as a community. In point of fact, whom we have sex with, and whom we love, is kind of the point of being queer.

    It appears to me that ever since we fought the good fight for marriage equality, which I am all for don’t get me wrong. We traded on our queer identity in exchange for being just like everyone else. I hate to break to you love; we are not just like everyone else. That is the beauty of our world we can be different and equal. I shouldn’t have to give up my identity, my culture, and my past just so everyone else will accept me.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gays getting married and adopting and doing all the things I think of when I think of straight couples. All of those things are wonderful, I myself am a product of two straight people who love the shit out of me. However, I was also raised to know my history, to understand why we fight, and to hold on to traditions that make me who I am. Most importantly to remember that no matter how equal we are, we will never be the same.

    I challenge my queer community to ask yourselves these questions where would you be without the clubs, bars, and book stores that we so shun now? Would you still have your best friend, the love of your life, would you have found a community that loves and embraces every part of who you are? My guess is no. So, before we take that away from an up and coming generation, ask yourself, what is that we are truly fighting for? Do we want to be just like everyone else, or do we want to be uniquely and fabulously us?


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