Ge­or­gia’s 2013 LGBT agenda

From work­place fair­ness to less­en­ing HIV stigma, how you can help ‘cre­ate change’ here at home

GA Voice - - Activism - By Laura Dou­glas-brown lbrown@the­gavoice.com

As Cre­at­ing Change, the na­tional LGBT equal­ity con­fer­ence, comes to At­lanta, GA Voice sur­veyed 15 lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions to pro­vide a snap­shot of what it will take to “cre­ate change” for LGBT peo­ple here in our state.

The an­swers? Ed­u­ca­tion, outreach, more vol­un­teers, and, yes, more money.

The nine or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­sponded to the sur­vey in­clude the South­east’s largest Pride fes­ti­val, the South­east’s largest AIDS ser­vice provider and our state’s largest LGBT po­lit­i­cal group.

Our ques­tions in­cluded their top three pri­or­i­ties for 2013, the top three things in­di­vid­u­als can do to help them achieve those pri­or­i­ties, the big­gest mis­con­cep­tion about their or­ga­ni­za­tion, and the sin­gle most im­por­tant thing that would help them achieve their mis­sion.

We also asked about the size of their staffs and bud­gets to of­fer per­spec­tive on the re­sources they cur­rently have, as well as what might be needed.

While mar­riage equal­ity has be­come the high­est-pro­file is­sue for our com­mu­nity na­tion­ally — thanks to pend­ing Supreme Court cases and ma­jor vic­to­ries in other states — you won’t find it on th­ese lists.

In­stead, what emerged was an LGBT agenda for Ge­or­gia that might ap­pear on first glance to be more mod­est than what ac­tivists are push­ing for in other states, but that could ac­tu­ally mean pro­found changes in many of our lives and pave the way for even big­ger changes to come.

(see story, Page 6)

De­spite Ge­or­gia’s large LGBT com­mu­nity and ex­ten­sive gay so­cial scene, most of the or­ga­ni­za­tions sur­veyed said that a key way sup­port­ers can help them achieve their goals is by coun­ter­ing mis­con­cep­tions about their mis­sions.

For At­lanta Pride and Sa­van­nah Pride, that means mov­ing past the idea that they only ex­ist to pro­duce a fes­ti­val one week­end each year — and that the fes­ti­val’s im­pact be­gins and ends there.

“We work year-round on the fes­ti­val and all of our other un­der­tak­ings to sup­port and en­gage our com­mu­nity,” said Buck Cooke, At­lanta Pride ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

The Health Ini­tia­tive, which fo­cuses on LGBT well­ness, wants to re­fute the mis­con­cep­tion that they only care about At­lanta or women — both of which have roots in their found­ing as the At­lanta Les­bian Can­cer Ini­tia­tive, and later the At­lanta Les­bian Health Ini­tia­tive.

Pos­i­tive Im­pact wants to change the myth that you have to al­ready be HIV pos­i­tive to ac­cess their many men­tal health, ed­u­ca­tion and sup­port ser­vices, while AID At­lanta strives to counter the idea that the agency, the largest HIV agency in the South­east, is only an HIV test­ing clinic and pro­duc­ers of the AIDS Walk.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions cited mis­con­cep­tions not only about their scope, but also about the over­all state of LGBT and HIV aware­ness in Ge­or­gia.

“We need peo­ple to reach out and ed­u­cate elected of­fi­cials at all lev­els of government on the re­al­i­ties of our lives here in Ge­or­gia,” noted Jeff Gra­ham, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, the state’s largest LGBT po­lit­i­cal group.

“We know that we have LGBT peo­ple in all parts of the state, yet there is still a mis­per­cep­tion that we all live in Mid­town or De­catur. “

AID At­lanta also wor­ries about mis­in­for­ma­tion, and asks sup­port­ers to work hard to chal­lenge those ideas.

“Many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize that HIV rates are con­tin­u­ing to rise here in metro At­lanta, es­pe­cially among young peo­ple and women of color,” said Cathy Woolard, in­terim ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, ad­vo­cat­ing for HIV to be­come “part of ev­ery­day con­ver­sa­tion in At­lanta. “

At­lanta Pride’s Cooke stresses how his or­ga­ni­za­tion, as well as the com­mu­nity as a whole, “still strug­gles for equal rights for LGBTQ ci­ti­zens ev­ery­day.”

“Un­til that bat­tle is won, it is im­per­a­tive that we stand up, en masse, and make a state­ment that we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not just go­ing to sit by and ac­cept sec­ond-class cit­i­zen­ship,” he said.

For our ac­tivism sur­vey, we chose to fo­cus on LGBT or­ga­ni­za­tions whose mis­sions in­clude at least some ad­vo­cacy, as op­posed to those who fo­cus more ex­clu­sively on pro­vid­ing ser­vices or so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties (like PALS, which sup­plies pet sup­plies to those with crit­i­cal ill­nesses or the el­derly, or any of our numer­ous LGBT sports, so­cial or spir­i­tual or­ga­ni­za­tions).

In the case of health or­ga­ni­za­tions, we also chose to fo­cus on those whose mis­sions are specif­i­cally fo­cused on LGBT is­sues — like the Health Ini­tia­tive or Some­one Cares, which serves African-Amer­i­can and Latino LGBT peo­ple.

We also in­cluded two of At­lanta’s largest HIV agen­cies, AID At­lanta and Pos­i­tive Im­pact, both of which fea­ture LGBT lead­er­ship and a large client base of men who have sex with men.

Fi­nally, we reached out to three na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that ei­ther have head­quar­ters in At­lanta or an At­lanta of­fice.

Par­tic­i­pants in­clude Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, At­lanta Pride, Sa­van­nah Pride, the Health Ini­tia­tive, Lost-n-Found Youth, AID At­lanta, Pos­i­tive Im­pact, Some­one Cares and Ben Co­hen’s StandUp Foun­da­tion.

Sur­veys were not re­turned by YouthPride, MEGA Fam­ily Project, In the Life At­lanta (or­ga­niz­ers of At­lanta Black Gay Pride), Au­gusta Pride, South Ge­or­gia Pride, Lambda Le­galSouth­ern Re­gional Of­fice and Na­tional AIDS Ed­u­ca­tion & Ser­vices for Mi­nori­ties.

Pos­i­tive Im­pact and the Ric Craw­ford Clinic joined forces to ad­min­is­ter HIV tests in Pied­mont Park dur­ing Pride 2012. In 2013, Pos­i­tive Im­pact wants to change the myth that you must be HIV pos­i­tive to ac­cess their men­tal health, ed­u­ca­tion and sup­port ser­vices. (Photo by Bo Shell)

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