(Throughout the duration of this story they/them and she/her pronouns are used to reference Taylor Alxndr)
The South is as queer as it is deep-fried, covered in gravy and served with an iced tea.
Often people overlook the fact that the South has the one of the largest LGBTQ+ populations in the country, according to data provided by the Public Policy Institution of California. Groups like Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) make it their mission to not only provide a voice but also a space where a community can thrive and exist for queer folks across Atlanta.
“We pride ourselves on being open and inclusive to everyone within the community and we specifically highlight Southern LGBTQ+ people, especially those who are Black and brown,” said Taylor Alxndr (they/she), SFQP’s executive director and co-founder.
As a singer and drag performer Alxndr knows how important it is to not only have a place to perform on a stage but also a space to advocate on it, by captivating Atlanta’s nightlife with her sound, Alxndr has been able to encourage others to use art as an avenue to express themselves.
Now art is a way of activism for SFQP to center queer artists and their talents with events like The Vast Unsaid, a lesbian open mic night and Cinequeer Film Night, an event to uplift queer and trans filmmakers.
SFQP’s celebration of queerness started in 2014 when Alxndr and other LGBTQ+ Atlanta organizers decided to host a three-day art and community festival for Pride Month.
Now it has expanded to The Atlanta SFQP Fest, an annual four-day event for queer folks across the country to join in June to honor the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and appreciate Pride.
“The festival is still my favorite part because it is our biggest event and thousands of people come. I’m always impressed by where they come from. We have had people come all the way from Texas and Maryland. It is just magical,” Alxndr told the Atlanta Voice.
When it comes to finding a place within their community, Alxndr says that everybody has a seat at the table, but that SFQP’s table is more like a buffet. By offering ways for everyone in the community to get involved and find a place to freely exist, they encourage Southern queer and trans folks to submit recipes for their SFQP Community Cookbook and provide wellness opportunities through queer yoga sessions in the park.
Their buffet not only has room for everyone but presents several ways to consume and soak up queerness at the table.
SFQP has continued to grow its community by seeing what hasn’t been present for the Black and brown LGBTQ+ experience.
“There is a lack of representation for Southern queer and trans people and obviously, Southern Black and brown queer folks face further marginalization and less visibility, so we wanted to create a platform where those communities had a voice, a stage and a space to organize and activate,” Alxndr said.
Atlanta is what SFQP calls BlaQueer, an intersection and acknowledgment of Blackness and queerness with an LGBTQ+ capital. While the intersections of this community exist there isn’t always a place for it to thrive due to a lack of resources.
As a step toward creating a space for Black queer folks in Atlanta, SFQP intends to establish The Clutch Community Center, a Black queer-owned community space in honor of their late founding chef/organizer MonteQarlo.
MonteQarlo, also known as Montell Newton drowned along with Kiwan Benson in 2018 at Tybee Island. Both MonteQarlo and Benson were queer artists and musicians who had a heavy influence on the LGBTQ+ Atlanta community.
As an organizer for SFQP, MonteQarlo dedicated their time and talents. They also created The Queer and Trans People of Color underground party, Clutch, hence the Black queer-owned establishments’ name: The Clutch Community Center.
Almost five years ago MonteQarlo told projectq.us, a queer Atlanta-based magazine, “Essentially, I just wanna present queer folks, especially those of color, in a way that accurately represents the diverse pool of talent in the community.”
SFQP hopes The Clutch Community Center can serve as a safe space for queer folks to hold workshops, use art studios, host performances, gather for community meetings, build community gardens and more.
Currently they have raised more than $150,000, and SFQP continues to seek additional fundraising dollars and partnerships to establish their Black queer-owned community space.
“What we envision is a community center. A lot of people say ‘oh it is a place to go get tested or get therapy or be linked to other organizations’ and yes that is a part of the vision, but we also want a space where people can feel safe too,” Alxndr told the Atlanta Voice.
As the SFQP community continues to grow, Alxndr wants Black and brown queer and trans folks to know that the community they are building includes them and that she wants people to feel as if SFQP is a place they see as home.
While Alxndr brings SFQP’s vision to life, they also recognize their journey of growing up in Griffin, GA, the rural edges of Atlanta, and how finding a place to be Black, queer and trans was challenging and at times frightening.
“I was afraid of being that odd person out or being very susceptible to violence, danger and harm,” Alxndr said.
Her work as SFQP’s executive director and co-founder has fueled Alxndr to share their story, create avenues for others to do so through art and serve as an example of what being bold in their Blackness and queerness looks like.
“I wish I could tell my younger self not to dull my shine.”