The Atlanta Pride Committee recently announced an exciting update to the nonprofit. Chris McCain is the organization’s new executive director, taking the place of predecessor Jamie Fergerson.
McCain is a native of metro Atlanta with a background in faith, nonprofit work, fundraising, and social justice. After living in Los Angeles for five years, McCain and his husband have moved back to Atlanta to be closer to family as they prepare to expand their family and adopt.
McCain spoke to Georgia Voice about the new position and what his plans with Atlanta Pride will be as the festival rapidly approaches.
Quotes have been edited for clarity.
Tell me how you got this position with Atlanta Pride and what drew you to it?
So, in terms of the process, the board worked with an executive search consultant to manage the process and had a search committee that I interviewed with multiple times.
Every LGBTQ person has a unique journey of coming out and many times it’s coming out in multiple times and to different aspects of their life. I have been very fortunate to find a lot of support along my journey among chaplains and pastors, when I know so many people in the queer community do not have positive experiences with religious leaders. I also found tremendous support in my family when I came out to them. And so, in that way, I consider myself very lucky, but I recognize that many people don’t find the same systems of support when they’re coming out. I see this position with the Atlanta Pride Committee as an opportunity to think about how it can be a place to how can it help to foster community and support across the diversity of queer Atlanta and really the queer South. I want to do that through building relationships across the diversity of our community and to foster a really, really incredible festival and parade that brings together all of the many facets of our community that make it so beautiful and wonderful to be a part of. What’s so unique about Atlanta Pride is just its sheer size, bringing together 300,000 to 400,000 people and it being a free, safe space for people to be able to gather to celebrate who they are to people like them, and to have those relationships and systems of support that are really vital and necessary to survive.
How do you feel about being granted this position?
I mean, just honored. I see it as a tremendous responsibility, I don’t take the opportunity lightly at all. The Atlanta Pride Committee is over 50 years old. I stand on the shoulders of many generations of queer people who built this organization and who built the opportunity for me as a queer person to be out in the South today. I am enormously grateful for their work and the lives that they lead in the convictions that they stood for, which have made it possible for me to be who I am today and for our community to be as open and out as it is today. We are experiencing a lot of backlash and attacks by people opposed to LGBTQ tolerance and acceptance and love. But I know that as a community, what we have built over decades is strong and enduring, and for us to be able to push back against the attacks — against the opposition — requires all of us being stronger together and being public about who we are, whom we love, and celebrating that and not being deterred by the fear of people who you know, want to put us back in the closet.
When upholding the responsibility of executive director, what will you prioritize and focus on — I know you mentioned diversity.
I’ve been in the role now for about two and a half weeks. So, I’m still very much learning the ropes and getting to know all the people who are connected to the organization and all the relationships that we have in the community. That’s my primary focus over these initial months: learning and listening. There’s a lot I don’t know coming into this role. I want to understand deeply our history in the community, our relationships across the community, where we have been strong, where we have helped to move progress forward, and also where we have gaps, where we have had blind spots. As you mentioned, I come into this role with a deep commitment to diversity and inclusivity. I know that Atlanta Pride has struggled with that in different ways in the past. I come into this role wanting to really focus on how can we reflect those commitments through the festival, of course, through the parade, and also through all of the work we do throughout the year.
I know that’s not something that just happens because I say we have these commitments; it happens through the long and important work of building relationships. So, that’s a key focus of mine.
I know it’s a couple months out, but what can people expect from the upcoming Atlanta Pride festival under your leadership?
They can expect a really fun, fabulous, colorful festival. I am really excited by what I know is already in motion — a lot is in motion at this point. You should expect to see, you know, a great turnout — hopefully greater than last year. I’m really excited about the entertainers that we’ll be able to have on stage this year.
And with the climate that we’re in right now, I think that the parade is even more important in terms of our visibility and reminding people that we are stronger together as a community coming out and showing our support for each other.
Atlanta Pride will be on October 14 and 15 in Piedmont Park. The Atlanta Pride Committee relies on volunteers and donations; to learn more, visit atlantapride.org.