Southern Fried Queer Pride—the name alone is the first indication that this isn’t your ordinary Pride celebration. You won’t find a contingent of buff bodies on display atop of floats strutting down Peachtree Street or corporate sponsors stationed at booths in Piedmont Park—nope, it’s simply not that kind of party. And while the former certainly has its place in our movement’s history, Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) draws on the radical and liberating history of the beginnings of Pride, the Stonewall Rebellion and the work of important historical figures such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
Now in its third year, it wouldn’t be farfetched to say the four-day queer festival is the antithesis of what many have come to expect from modern day Pride celebrations. At SFQP, queer, trans and people of color identities are stirred into a glorious stew of unapologetic affirmation, resistance and liberation.
It’s what SFQP organizer TAYLOR ALXNDR, 23, says is at the core of the organization’s mission.
“Overall, SFQP really carries on that spirit of radical queer liberation. A lot of times when you go to any Pride, not just here in Georgia, there’s definitely a representation for certain pockets of the community,” said ALXNDR, who uses they, them, their or she pronouns.
“A lot of us come to the city and really want to find spaces where we’re surrounded by people who have common thoughts like us, look like us, think like us and sometimes that isn’t fully manifested in the community-at-large,” they said.
ALXNDR tells Georgia Voice that SFQP was “born out of a lack of space, communication and representation,” which further highlights the disconnect between a community that touts diversity and inclusiveness and the real lived experiences of people who find themselves a minority within a minority.
“To be quite honest, I don’t feel safe, acknowledged or appreciated or even understood in most spaces,” they said. “Queer spaces specifically have done much more work in being inclusive of people of color. I think more mainstream ‘HRC’ gay spaces still have a lot of work to do.“
Queer: an all-encompassing term
Being inclusive while recognizing and celebrating the uniqueness of every individual is one of SFQP’s goals, even with the word “queer” in its name —a term that is both embraced and loathed by many within the community. ALXNDR acknowledges the mixed feelings brought on by the term even within SFQP.
“We as a group use queer because we feel it encompasses more gender identities and sexualities than just using gay or using LGBTQIQA,” they said. “Sometimes when we try to create acronyms or generalize words like gay or LGBT a lot of people get lost. We totally respect people who are not comfortable with that word. There’s even people who organize with us who don’t personally identify as queer.”
Nikki Jackson, 22, is one such SFQP organizer. Jackson, a visual artist and Georgia Tech student identifies as trans masculine and also prefers they or she pronouns.
“I am trans masculine and I’m also white,” she says. Jackson tells Georgia Voice that she wanted to get involved with SFQP because she views it as a “queer centered, trans centered take on Pride.”
“I feel like it really tries to take back the Stonewall definition of Pride,” she said. Jackson also noted that she uses “SFQP to navigate areas where I can support and where I need to back down,” acknowledging a long history of the suppression of voices, resources and visibility of queer sub-groups, specifically of color, by more dominant voices within the community.
“There’s usually a certain set of politics that comes with using [the term] ‘gay’ or an acronym, and that’s also something that’s really important to us as an organization,” added ALXNDR. “It’s so hard to find a space
Southern Fried Queer Pride
that doesn’t alienate or fetishize you as a person of color.”
By DARIAN AARON
Art as activism
The arts is a major focus of this year’s SFQP festival and of events held throughout the year; from a special performance by Baltimore queer rap artist Abdu Ali to Sweet Tea: A Queer Variety Show.
“For many people the arts are their main source of income. A lot of people don’t realize that we’re still discriminated against in jobs,” said ALXNDR. “If you look historically, people who were activists like Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson didn’t have day-to-day jobs, they had to perform to provide for themselves.”
Queer Threads is another example of how SFQP remains true to the spirit of Stonewall and the activists that inspire these queer organizers. The pop-up thrift shop is an ongoing event that provides clothing at cheap prices and gives back to the community that funds SFQP programming, which relies on donations instead of corporate sponsorship.
According to ALXNDR, SFQP remains open to “anyone who wants to have a hand in the process,” but not at the expense of a “watering down” of a sense of community.
June 10, 2016
Organizers for Southern Fried Queer Pride are gearing up for the annual festival June 23-26. (Courtesy photos)