Coali­tion be­gins to form to ad­dress LGBT At­lanta di­vi­sive­ness

Blake’s dress code in­ci­dent sparks de­bate and dis­agree­ment


Ac­tivists and other lead­ers have be­gun to meet to ad­dress is­sues of di­vi­sion within At­lanta’s LGBT com­mu­nity and fig­ure out what steps to take mov­ing for­ward.

The meet­ings were sparked by a July 9 in­ci­dent in which pop­u­lar At­lanta gay bar Blake’s On The Park posted a con­tro­ver­sial new dress code which many in the com­mu­nity felt tar­geted African-Amer­i­cans. A con­tentious de­bate broke out, with one side say­ing the sign was racist and the other say­ing they saw noth­ing wrong with it. Blake’s even­tu­ally re­moved the sign, but the con­ver­sa­tion con­tin­ued.

Gee Ses­sion-Smalls, co-founder of The Gen­tle­men’s Foun­da­tion, was at Blake’s the night of the dress code in­ci­dent and posted to so­cial media the pic­ture that led to the de­bate. He has met with Branden Mat­tox, di­rec­tor of LGBT rights group Love Un­der Fire, and Jeff Graham, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of LGBT ad­vo­cacy group Ge­or­gia Equal­ity, to dis­cuss what’s been done about such is­sues in the past and what to do next.

“There’s lots of seg­re­ga­tion within the com­mu­nity,” Ses­sion-Smalls tells Ge­or­gia Voice. “It’s not just black and white although black and white is prob­a­bly the most ap­par­ent. From fem­i­nine to mas­cu­line to trans to the gays there is a lot of seg­re­ga­tion and I think what hap­pened at Blake’s has started a larger con­ver­sa­tion.”

He says the next step is invit­ing key com­mu­nity lead­ers to another meet­ing, in­clud­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tives from At­lanta Pride, Lambda Le­gal and AID At­lanta. Mat­tox has been spear­head­ing the meet­ings, but so far there is no of­fi­cial hi­er­ar­chy.

HIV/AIDS ac­tivist Greg Smith cre­ated a logic model to help the group iden­tify the prob­lems, po­ten­tial strate­gies and de­sired out­comes around the is­sue.

“In the LGBT com­mu­nity, race is the 800-pound ele­phant in the room, and if it’s not fa­cil­i­tated in a healthy man­ner, it cre­ates even more di­vi­sion,” Smith says. “This is about find­ing out what com­mon­al­i­ties we have right now. It en­hances the op­por­tu­ni­ties for us to col­lab­o­rate on stuff so it lessens the chance of peo­ples’ trig­gers com­ing up, whether it’s around race, gen­der or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.”

Gee Ses­sion-Smalls says the Blake’s in­ci­dent sparked a larger con­ver­sa­tion about seg­re­ga­tion within At­lanta’s LGBT com­mu­nity. (File photo)

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