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Thursday, April 28, 2011

GAYS AND BLACK ARE OF THE SAME COLOR

In America, there is often and great divide between black and gay communities.  This strikes the gay community as a hurtful and negligent misunderstanding of the common place that these two minorities hold.

Even in a city as gay as Atlanta, there is an uneasy relationship between the black and gay community.

I recently went out to a black gay bar known as Bulldogs.  This bar has been open since 1978.  I have avoided the bar like a plague for one reason: SO many white people told me not to go because I wasn't welcome there--because I would be treated poorly for being white.  I am ashamed to say that I listened--and I am sure that so many other people over the years have avoided this bar for the same reason.  It turns out: I LOVE THIS PLACE! It's the ONLY gay bar in Atlanta that plays hip-hop, serves super cheap drinks, and contains the essence of gay black club life.  But that's my point: people believe what they hear, and therefore inadvertently participate in an active and ignorant prejudice between two cultures.

I find it odd that there is a Black Gay Pride separate from Gay Pride.  Although I understand there is pride to be had by those whose face the hardships of being both gay and black in the south, I believe such an intentional segregation will only hinder our ability to achieve equality in the eyes of the law and our communities.

In my experience, many black do not like gays referring to themselves as a "minority".  This is a silly and ignorant offense to take because of A) the definition of the word "minority", and B) how much these two minorities have in common.  Some people, like NAACP leader Rev. Keith Ratliff, don't approve of the term "civil rights" being applied to the gay struggle.  Currently, gays are fighting for the right to marry, the right to fight for their country, and the right to have a family.  Gays know what is like to be abused, singled out, discriminated against in the workplace, public, and in school.  The struggles gays have had and continue to go through mirror those of the African American population and the Civil Rights Movement--and it would be unfortunate if the rift between these two minorities would continue to remain without the proper bridges being built.

Atlanta: Not Progressive--But Working On It!

Although I insist that Atlanta isn't as progressive as it should be, I shouldn't be such a cynic when it comes to the politics of the city. Politics are only what the citizens make them; if the citizens aren't voting in their best interests, then their best interests will not be represented.


Since the Eagle raid, the APD has appointed two new GLBT liaisons.  According to sources, Brian Sharp and Patricia Powell have been very active in confronting the concerns of the GLBT community.


Also, the APD has formed a 9 member GLBT advisory board.  According to the new Chief of Police,
George Turner, "One of my priorities on becoming chief was to 
repair the relationships and build the trust we had lost in various communities over the years...We recognize the importance of the GLBT community all over Atlanta, and want to make sure we are listening to their concerns."


Recently, a landmark decision was made by the Chief Turner to train ALL of the APD officers (and civilian employees) on LGBT issues.  This training will be a constant and yearly effort to make sure all of the APD staff is prepared to properly deal with situations that have not been dealt with before.


Bravo to the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and all of the people involved in making these important changes happen.

Atlanta: Gay, Not Progressive (continued)

Another incident that scared the glitter out of the gay community occurred last summer, when a group of three gay college students were subject to constant anti-gay harassment in their East Lake neighborhood:  their cars were vandalized and stolen, they were constantly being called "fags" to their faces, and their door was kicked in.

Even after complaints to the APD and the apartment home security, the young men were confronted by a mob of neighborhood teenagers and some of their parents with baseball bats and dogs in tow.  I am tempted to refer to a group like this as a lynch mob--but people tend to be very sensitive about the use of some phrases.

It breaks my heart to think that in Atlanta--the center of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's--members of the black community use the tactics once used to oppress and threaten their people to oppress and threaten a minority within their community.  This is a ungodly hypocracy--that which the NAACP isn't doing much to rectify.

I will post more on this subject later, but I should make note that one of main reasons there is such a strained relationship between these two minorities (communities that were holding hands to fight the good fight in the 60's) is religion.  Churches fund the NAACP, as well as fuel the fire for hatred against the gay minority.

I am relieved to understand the method in which the incidents the the three young (black) men in East Lake.  The young men refused to be forced out of their neighborhood, and decided to fight fire with love.  They made an active effort to reach out to the youth in their community--and in some cases, have become friends with this youth.  One of APD's two new GLBT liaison's took the effort to investigate this instance, interviewing the young men and some of the suspected culprits.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Atlanta: Gay, Not Progressive

Although Atlanta is considered the gayest city in America, that doesn't mean they are well recieved by the police and politicians of Atlanta.  One specific instance that rocked the gay nation (for a unusually short period) and still sends shivers down the spines of Atlanta gays is what is known as "the eagle raid".


THE EAGLE RAID
On Thursday night, September 10th of 2009, the Atlanta Police Department and the Red Dog Swat Team.  The raid was conducted due to allegations made to Mayor Shirley Franklin that there was public sex and the use and distribution of drugs at this establishment.  I should preface this story in saying that there WAS, in fact, "public sex" and drugs at the Eagle--but this should come as a surprise to anyone who has heard of an Eagle bar, nor to those that attend the Eagle.  The Eagle is a leather bar--an establishment that is centered around the BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism) scene.  Any bar that supports this scene is (at some level) known for the behavior allegedly occurring at the Atlanta establishment.  Then again, drugs happen at any, maybe every, establishment  that sells alcohol.


On that night, more than 60 people were assaulted by the APD and the Red Dog SWAT Team.  The Red Dog unit is known for their violent and prejudice tendencies, excessive use of force, and even sexual assault.  These people were forced to the floor of the establishment, and instructed to remain there for over an hour--some of them in puddles of beer and broken glass.  During this time, several of the officers used anti-gay slurs and harsh language to describe the patrons and the situation they were in.  There were sixty patrons in the bar, and FIFTY OFFICERS...


Eight people were arrested.  They were charged with running the establishment without proper licenses--this was on "underwear night", where a handful of patrons and several dancers remain in their underwear and dance to entertain the crowd.  It was later found that these individuals were NOT GUILTY of the charges brought against them.


NO ONE WAS FIND ENGAGING IN PUBLIC SEX, AND NOT ONE OF THE 60 PATRONS HAD DRUGS ON THEM.


Soon, a lawsuit was filed by 25 of the people at the Atlanta Eagle, against 35 police officers.  During this lawsuit, it was found that the Atlanta police blatantly tampered with, erased, and withheld THOUSANDS of pages of documents relevant to the case. a large portion of all the material produced by the investigation.  This included the text logs of the police officers participating in the rave--I bet there were some interesting texts that night!


In late 2010, a settlement of $1.025 million was awarded the plaintiffs, as well as an agreement by the APD to modify their standard operating procedures.


The chief of police stepped down, a new mayor was sworn in, money exchanged hands, and it all went away....


Since the Atlanta Eagle Raid, there have been many cases in which the hate crimes against gays have been swept under the proverbial rug.  Some of these instances include arrests being made, court dates being set, and the cases completely disappearing--much to the dismay of the victims.


Although I wasn't alive in the 1960's I guarantee you that anyone who was in Atlanta during that decade recognize these instances at history repeating itself in the very place that it should not.


Although many of you feel safe when you go out with your friends to have a good time, some of us have to watch our back.

Monday, April 18, 2011

WHAT IS GAY?

Everyone seems to have a personal opinion on what "gay" means--how one becomes gay, whether or not its a sin in God's eyes, etc.  In the past 40 years, the understanding of homosexuality has changed dramatically--and it is still changing, due to scientific and social research.  I would like to make sure everyone knows the facts about gays before they end up saying something stupid to the wrong person.
So let me break it down for you.


WHAT ISN'T GAY
Michael Jackson wasn't gay.  Why is this important? Because some people (and in my experience college professors) have it in their heads that if a man molests a boy, that makes him gay.  There is NOTHING gay or straight about child molestation.  Homosexuality and heterosexuality is based upon and attraction between two people with developed sex organs--sexual deviants such as child molesters are not engaging in adult sexuality.  And, just so you know, male child molesters are almost NEVER homosexual when it comes to their adult attractions.


BEING GAY IS NOT A CHOICE
Although I am sure in some instances a decision could be made to label one's self gay, this doesn't mean it's a choice.  Gay people are born gay.  Recent discoveries have proven that the sexuality of a person is determined in the womb--which is also the case for animals.  Ask yourself these questions:
1. Can a child's relationship with his parents--whether it be bad or good, abusive or smothering--lead to the child becoming gay?
2. Can homosexuality stem from a fear or hatred of the opposite sex--is it a matter of not developing a healthy understanding of the opposite sex?
3. Would a child that is sexually molested be more likely to become gay?
The answer to all of these questions is NO.  This is not a matter of opinion, this is a matter of fact.


YES, ANIMALS CAN BE GAY TOO
Scientists have discovered that homosexuality is sort of a biological means of population control--and not just in size, but in structure.  Take sheep for instance: 10% of sheep are gay.  Why? Because when a heard of sheep becomes a certain size, the female body senses that it may not be able to sustain itself if it were to grow too large.  So they produce offspring that are less likely to have sexual relations with sheep of the opposite sex.  Crazy, huh?  The same thing goes for humans!  The human female's chance of having a gay baby boy is 3%.  If she were to have another boy, the chance would increase to 4%.  And the next boy she has will have a 5% chance of being gay.   Its kind of odd--but it makes sense.


GAY ISN'T ONLY ABOUT SEX
Scientists have been studying the human body and brain in relation to sexual orientation.   Gay men tend to go through puberty earlier than straight men.  Gay men are also more prone to having maternal instincts.  Gays are much more likely to be artists, poets, writers, and musicians.  Gay men are 31% more likely to be left-handed--where as gay women are 91% more likely to be left-handed.  They have found that gay men's brains have much more in common with the straight female brain--even our fingerprints are more alike!


THE DOUBLE STANDARD
Because this country (and the world) is run by straight men, the definition of gay heavily depends on what straight men believe.  Unfortunately for men, this leaves them very little room to wiggle within their sexuality.  Because straight guys tend to like the idea of two girls having sex, when a woman has sexual relations with another women--especially in a college setting, or around alcohol--they are considered "freaky" or "kinky".  If a man were to have sexual relations with another man--even if its only once, and without penetration--he would be considered gay from that point on.   "GAY" is passed out like a sentence or a judgement by people that are made uncomfortable by the thought of gay sexual relations.  If a gay man were to have sex with a women (and believe me, they do), their gay friends are going to label them "STRAIGHT" because of it--I would just say he likes having sex with girls sometimes.
Funny thing is: homophobes tend to pretty gay on the inside.


GAY IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT
Just because a guy hooks up with another guy does NOT make them gay.  Sure, they are participating in a homosexual act, but they are not subscribing to the gay label just by doing so.  Its all pretty silly because most people have some sexual experimentation with members of the same sex--its just that men don't like to talk about it, and women aren't judged for it.  Ironically, it is considered abnormal to NOT have an attraction to the same sex.  I know it may sound crazy, but I have known many straight men that like to get down with other men from time to time.  Its not like they want to date them, or cuddle with them, or go shopping with them--its more like they enjoy getting off with someone like them from time to time.  Sure, I know what you are thinking: "well then that makes them bisexual."
Perhaps you are right, but it is up to the individual to take on that label if they see it necessary.  The only people I know to be self-admittedly bisexual are those that like to date both sexes.




America is having a tough time with coming to terms with its homosexual population--just because Will and Grace was on primetime, and Patrick Swayze played a drag queen, and Kevin Spacey won an Academy Award, doesn't mean this country is accepting of gays.  In case you didn't know this: gays are in the middle of a civil rights movement.  In many ways, things are getting better for us.  In many other ways, things are getting worse.  We have been in the middle of this fight for our rights since the civil rights movement of the 60's--and now we stand without our revolutionary counterparts to fight for our rights as a minority in the face of danger and ridicule.

GAY SUBCULTURES: THE MOST COMMON STEREOTYPES

Today we are going to take a look at the popular subcultures of gays and lesbians in Atlanta.  At the risk of offending anyone, I should preface this post by stating that I am intentionally stereotyping in order to introduce readers who are not familiar with these subcultures.



THE GENERIC GAY
The generic gay is what most people think of when they think of gay.  Typically, these are good looking, well groomed men--with sculpted hair, excellent fashion sense, and a body they work hard for at the gym.  There are plenty of urban professionals in this group, as well as hospitality industry workers.  After midnight, you can find these out and about at bars and clubs--often watching drag shows with their stylish girlfriends, or dancing with their shirts off to house music.
BEARS
Bears are large culture group of gays.  People without refined gaydars wouldn't peg this type as gay on first glance: typically bigger, modestly dressed, with trucker hats, and an affinity for body hair.  Think Larry the Cable Guy--except with a friendlier smile, and a the ability to belt out Donna Summers at karaoke without blushing.   Younger bears are considered "cubs", and hairier guys with smaller framed bodies who prefer the company of bears are called "otters".  The labels are often assumed, it is up to the individuals whether or  not to have a label based on their physical appearance be used to describe them.



RADICAL FAERIES
Though quickly growing in popularity and size, this group is hard to be missed.  Though a definition of them is somewhat beyond their their beliefs, I would say the Faeries are a progressive and stylish movement of individuals from all corners of queer culture, who embrace the previously negative associations with gay culture and gender identity, while rejecting conformity to useless mainstream cultural norms in an attempt to positively affect their surroundings....so if you ever see a pile of 30 people with barely any clothing (and/or outlandish accoutrements) in the park, using hula-hoops, making human pyramids, doing yoga, and holding giant signs that read "LOVE" and "PEACE", you are looking at the Radical Faeries.  Faeries typically have a moniker they prefer to be referred to as by other Faeries or people that understand them within a similar capacity.




HIPSTER GAYS
If you are familiar with the term "hipster", then hipster gays is pretty self-explainatory.  On the other end of the spectrum from the generic gay, the hipster gay prefers the stylish thick-rimmed glasses, lots of tattoos and piercings, and "who give a shit?" attitude about style.  There is SO much to be said about hipster culture, as it is transitioning from derogatory slur to a substantiated culture, so I will just leave it there.  Want to know what a hipster gay is? Head over to East Atlanta Village.  Here you can play what internet bloggers refer to as "hipster or gay?"

THE OLDER CROWD
There are plenty of older gays in Atlanta, but not many of them have been in Atlanta since they were younger.  Unfortunately, there is no easy way to describe this group of gays--but it is important to mention them because they are a link to our past as a minority.  Twenty or thirty years doesn't seem that long in the grand scheme, but SO much has happened in the past 3 decades in the progression of this minority.  I used to bartend at a small bar in midtown.  My clientele was mostly older gentlemen.  To hear them speak of the 70's, 80's and early 90's was almost like hearing of another country all together.  Tragically, the 80's saw the rise of HIV and AIDS in america, and took so many of these individuals with them.  Without these people and the lives they have lead in the face of prejudice and bigotry, I would not be the person I am today.

LESBIANS
In the south, lesbians and gays tend to be segregated from each other.  This shouldn't come to a surprise to anyone who knows how the south works when it comes to minorities.  Gays and lesbians have plenty in common as minorities, but often they have less in common on a personal level--I mean, think about it...
I am happy to say that, in the past few years, I have noticed that this gap is closing as these two groups are gaining more similar interests within their established communities.   There are several stereotypes that I could apply to this wonderful and prominent group of people--Decatur Soccer Mom, Southern Power Belle, Down and Dirty Feminist--but I don't think its necessary.


Lesbians are, and have been, a more public and accepted minority amongst Atlanta's various communities.  Decatur is a popular city for Lesbians--growing up and working in Decatur has given me a unique experience with the lesbian community.  There are many lesbian couples with children in Decatur and Atlanta, and I have noticed many lesbians in the political field in the past decade.  I am grateful for the lesbian community for all that they have done to increase awareness, change our surroundings, and make it easier for gays to be who they want to be.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why are we the gayest?

The Advocate is America’s leading gay publication.  Though many have disagreed with the Advocates designation of Atlanta as the gayest city in America (in February of 2010), I would argue great validity in their results due to the point system created for the article.  Let’s look at how we scored the highest.  The points given are based upon 7 categories:
  1. Same-sex couple households per capita: based on statistics provided by the HRC and the Census, these numbers may be just as unreliable as they are accurate--it is largely based upon households with 2 members of the same sex who aren’t related.  We scored a measly 4 points on this category, being 11th out of the top 15.
  2. Statewide marriage equality: we scored -2 points on this one because of our state’s statute that defines marriage between one man and one woman.  It should be noted that there are many businesses and major corporations (such as Turner Broadcasting and Coca-Cola) that provide equal benefits for same-sex couples.
  3. Gay elected officials (U.S. representatives, senators, governors, and city officials):  we got 3 points for this category.  Atlanta, and the surrounding cities, have several gay political figures.
  4. Gay dating/hookup profiles per single male population:  You probably wouldn’t believe how many of these profiles are made by “straight” men.  We scored a whopping 5 points, being 10th out of the top 15.
  5. Gay bars per capita: with 30+ gay bars, Atlanta gets the highest score of all cities with 15 points for this category.
  6. Cruising spots per capita: “cruising spots” refers to (mostly public) areas where (mostly male) gays meet to find sex.  What better way to judge how gay a city is?  Again, we achieved the highest score of 15 points for this category.  Though I will neither condone nor condemn this behavior, I am not sure how I feel about this score lending itself to our gay factor.
  7. Gay films in Netflix favorites:  This makes perfect sense.  Using Netflix’s listings of the 25 most popular videos for every major city, we receive one point for every gay movie--and that doesn’t include Disney movies, Mommy Dearest, or Grease.  We scored 14 points in this category.  I believe this to be VERY indicative of the gay stature of Atlanta.
With a total score of 54 points, Atlanta achieved the title of gayest city in America.  If this doesn’t surprise you, take at look at #2, 3, and 4: Burlington, VT., Iowa City, IA., and Bloomington, IND.
And here is some other basic information about gay atlanta that you should know:
Highest density of gay population in Atl: Midtown.  If you didn’t know this already, notice how many of the men in midtown are attractive, well-dressed, and look like each other.
Other popular gay neighborhoods:  East Point, East Atlanta, Grant Park, and Decatur.  Gays are considered a valuable asset when it comes to the strength of a neighborhood community, the aesthetics of said communities, and most importantly the PROPERTY VALUES within these communities.  Its common for an “up and coming” areas to be littered with gay homeowners, or for the “gentrification” of otherwise unsavory neighborhoods to be accredited to gays.  These are what some people refer to as "Gayborhoods".  To be more accurate, one may refer to them as gay ghettos.

If you aren't convinced of how gay atlanta is, tune in next week to learn more about the history of Gay Atlanta--as well as some important historical notes on gay history in general.

Welcome to Gaylanta!

I recently stated that Atlanta is the gayest city in America to a room full of people mostly in their 20's.
The average response was, "really?!"


I find it hard to believe that an individual who lives in Atlanta doesn't notice the ridiculously obvious gay factor in this city.  There are rainbow flags displayed in chinese restaurants.  There are drag queens serving sushi.  One a year the entire midtown area is crawling with what is obviously several hundred thousand gays and their supporters.  There are billboards on the highway advertising gay churches using pink steeples.  Elton John lives here....


WHAT ARE YOU MISSING HERE?!


Mind you, most of the people in the room were straight--regardless, they were all residents of Atlanta.  Some were even raised in Atlanta!  At that point, it's not about having a good "gaydar"--its about having basic knowledge of gay trends, symbols, language, and demographics.


Beyond the ignorance of the plain-as-day gay status of Atlanta by its heterosexual residents, the gay population of the city (especially the youth) doesn't seem to grasp the more important historical and contemporary elements of Atlanta: just because this is the gayest city around, doesn't mean it is progressive.  In georgia, you can still be fired from a job for your orientation.  The police force is unsympathetic to the gay minority.  You are more likely to find a church willing to marry to men than a politician willing to support it--just because we consider ourselves "the hole of the bible belt" DOES NOT mean we aren't part of the same outfit.


The purpose of this site is to familiarize readers with what makes Atlanta, Ga the gayest city in America--as well as educate readers on the basics of gay culture, history, and current events.  I encourage readers to comments on my posts, ask questions, or express your true opinions of the subject matter.
So, here begins my dissection of Atlanta: the gayest city in America...