Atlanta Is a Legendary LGBTQ Capital That Doesn’t Get Enough Attention
Why I love being a performer and drag queen in ATL.
Taylor Alxndr is a musician, drag queen, and community organizer based in Atlanta, Georgia. As told to Joshua Robinson.
Having moved to Atlanta in 2011 from Middle Georgia, the first few years of me going to events here—whether it was going to drag shows, going to the ballroom scene, seeing people vogue, or seeing a lot of the earlier protests to protect trans people—really just like shed a light on me and showed me that this community is so beautiful and so vibrant. I realized that I don't have to move to Oakland or Brooklyn to be visible and safe and happy. I can access that right here.
When people think of LGBTQ in Atlanta, they think of Midtown—so obviously things like the rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of 10th and Piedmont. There, you have Blake’s, the 10th & Piedmont restaurant, X, and if you go up from there you have Midtown Moon, which used to be called Burkhart's. Midtown is kind of where a lot of the nightlife for LGBTQ people happens, but I personally am somebody who really enjoys Atlanta below Ponce de Leon Avenue. Ponce used to be heavily LGBTQ back in the day, but now there’s really just Friends on Ponce, which is right next door to Drunken Unicorn and MJQ. There’s also Mary’s in East Atlanta, and the show director there is Ella/Saurus/Rex.
Basically, there's pockets of different LGBTQ communities across the city, and I think if you're going for more of a mainstream—like top 40, capital G in the gay—kind of community, you're definitely gonna go to Midtown. But if you’re queer, trans, or Black and brown, the outskirts of downtown and East Atlanta are your best bet. That’s part of what I love about Atlanta—it feels like so many different places and cities all smashed into one. You can go from one side of town and be in a neighborhood with its own unique cultural background and then drive 20 minutes across town and be in a completely different place.
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When it comes to places that I frequent, I'm a big coffee person, like I could do a whole hour talking about the coffee shops in Atlanta, so HodgePodge Coffee is one of my favorite LGBTQ+ friendly shops in the city. I’m also the show director at Sister Louisa's Church and at Georgia Beer Garden, and both of those are owned by queer people. I am also the show director at My Sister's Room, which is really important to highlight because it's the only lesbian bar left in the South, and it’s owned by an amazing lesbian couple.
As we all know, a lot of things shifted since the pandemic started. My last real, in-person drag show before the lockdowns was March 14, 2020. It was at Mary's, and it's kind of funny because my last performance was a Coronavirus number that I did to Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” Terrible in hindsight, but yeah, the pandemic changed everything. In-person events were reimagined as virtual shows on platforms like Twitch, and we eventually realized we could do outdoor socially distanced events like drive-in drag shows. As we dealt with those challenges, however, many social justice issues arose over the past year as well.
Thanks to local nonprofit organizations like Southerners On New Ground (SONG), the Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative (SNaP Co.), and Women on the Rise GA, as well as resources like The Mainline, issues such as police brutality, the treatment of undocumented folks, and the city’s investment in capitalist structures and jail systems were already being addressed by people in Atlanta for decades. But I think it really heated up last summer because people were in a place of already lacking hope and lacking resources due to the pandemic. A lot of us were without work, we lost our jobs, and then were faced with all of this discrimination and violence. Last summer, Atlanta saw that we have the power to create change, and I hope that we take that energy and keep it going in 2021.
With that said, Pride month is quickly approaching. Although Atlanta typically celebrates Pride in October and Black Gay Pride over Labor Day weekend, I’m excited for Pride in June because that's the month that Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) celebrates. I am a co-founder and executive director of SFQP, and we typically have a five-day festival that happens during the last week in June to commemorate the Stonewall uprising. We're actually the only Pride in Atlanta that happens during Pride Month, and I love that because it all gears up towards SFQP’s festival. It’s a smaller DIY festival that spotlights local and regional artists. It really just fosters a culture of being happy in who we are and also investing deeper into our communal relationships.
Being queer in Atlanta means literally living in a legendary LGBTQ capital, but the whole country looks at us as if we don't exist. That's part of the reason why SFQP exists—to fight that narrative that you can't be LGBTQ and happy in the South. There's this national narrative that if you go below the Mason-Dixon line, if you're marginalized, if you're Black, or brown, queer, or trans, then your life is extremely difficult. But I love being queer from the South because we have such a rich history. Our communities are strong and resilient, and we just got our own flavor. Being queer down here is an entirely different experience, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.