The story of Atlanta becoming the “LGBTQ+ capital of the South” doesn’t start with gay couples partying at their marriage reception in 2015. The story doesn’t even start in a Greenwich Village bar in 1969. No. This story starts in 1946.
The word “homosexual” was first placed in the Bible in 1946. Researchers agree that its use was inaccurate, as it was used in place of a Greek word that roughly translates as “sexual pervert.” The word, Arsenokoitai, could originally be found in 1st Corinthians 6:9, and was often used to support why the “wicked” wouldn’t inherit God’s kingdom.
Here’s the thing.
The Revised Standard Book Committee, a bible committee, voted on the use of the term “homosexual” as an adequate replacement for “Arsenkoitai.” The correct versions were available to them during the voting process. Luther Weigle, head of the committee, later acknowledged the mistranslation in a letter to a gay Christain. Experts Kathy Baldock and Ed Oxford uncovered this fact after the mistranslation had been hidden for years.
This led to the word homosexual being placed in many versions of the Bible. This disinformation spread into some evangelical sects of Christianity.
And it’s continued to stay there ever since.
The Human Rights Campaign found that 77% of Black LGBTQ+ people surveyed heard homophobic statements about the community from family. Only 19% of Black LGBTQ+ people found that they could be themselves at home. Homophobia within the Black community isn’t new. From DaBaby to the Boondocks, homophobia has been present within some of the media surrounding Black people.
Wait. Atlanta’s evangelical churches have been nose deep into the city’s politics, not to mention Atlanta’s location in the deep South, where conservative Christianity is ever-present. So, how did Atlanta become a hub for Black LGBTQ+ people?
In 1971, the Georgia Gay Alliance marched down Peachtree Street to Piedmont Park, the first Pride march. This one stride down Peachtree started a bit of a movement for LGBTQ+ advocacy in Atlanta.
June 26, 1976 was the day Maynard Jackson, Atlanta mayor at the time, proclaimed Gay Pride Day. There was much pushback. Though Jackson backtracked and named it “Human Rights Day” the following year, he continued to help the community during his term.
But it wasn’t until 1979 that Black LGBTQ+ members would carve out a safe space for themselves. The Gay Atlanta Minority Association was created to discuss the issues of racism within the LGBTQ+ community.
Stonewall, an LGBTQ+ organization, reported that 61% of Black people experienced discrimination within their LGBTQ+ sectors. Online and in-person, Black LGBTQ+ members have experienced the intersection of dealing with homophobia and racism.
Especially in the South.
The marches at Peachtree Street continued into the ‘80s as gay rights committees, like the Greater Atlanta Political Awareness Coalition (GAPAC), were being formed. However, in 1986, the Supreme Court backed up a Georgian law against gay people, calling it constitutional.
It wouldn’t be until 1996 that Black people would again create spaces to advocate for their unique experiences. A quaint picnic hosted by gay and lesbian friends on Labor Day weekend would grow into an event unique to Atlanta. This one garden party spawned a non-profit organization: Atlanta Black Pride. Its focus is to advocate for Black LGBTQ+ people in Atlanta. To this day, the organization hosts Pride celebrations on Labor Day.
At this point in the story, Atlanta stood out for its population of LGBTQ+ members. In 2000, Atlanta became Georgia’s first city to exclude business owners from discriminating based on sexuality and gender.
But a hub for gay people doesn’t mean a safe space for gay people. Like Stonewall, Atlanta officers raided the Atlanta Eagle, a gay bar in Midtown in 2009. Slurs were thrown, and patrons were ordered to the floor. In the end, officers arrested eight people. The charges were dropped shortly after, but only six of the 24 participating officers were fired.
This didn’t cause Atlanta to be dethroned from its “Black Gay Mecca” title. The Pride celebration that is usually hosted during June in most cities was pushed back to October in 2010. And stayed there. This was an element that made it different from other areas.
Southern Fried Queer Pride, an organization focused on uplifting Black and indigenous people through art, was launched in 2014. With the news of gay marriage being legal in 2015, some gay Atlantans finally were able to get married in the state that they’d grown up in.
And now, the city of Atlanta has dubbed itself the “LGBTQ+ capital of the South” on its website. Gay flags wave in the wind at certain bars. Dancers in extravagant outfits are seen at Pride parades.
It’s not like all homophobia is eradicated. Homophobic protestors still march down the streets. Black parents still chide their children for their sexuality. But Atlanta’s been a cornerstone in an otherwise conservative South for Black LGBTQ+ people to feel a little safer.
And feel a little safer they shall.