Pride is my plat­form

Ashleigh Atwell is a queer les­bian writer and or­ga­nizer born and raised in At­lanta, GA.

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

In a cou­ple of weeks, it will be the most won­der­ful time of the year. Halls across At­lanta will be decked. There will be glit­ter, lights and jolly men ev­ery­where. Happy Pride, fam­ily! As I said in my last col­umn, I was a late­bloom­ing les­bian so I didn’t at­tend Pride un­til a cou­ple of years ago, but I have been hooked ever since. This might seem un­char­ac­ter­is­tic of some­one that has been ex­tremely critical of At­lanta’s LGBT com­mu­nity, and while Pride has plenty of prob­lem­atic as­pects, I’m still ex­cited.

Although gay mar­riage was le­gal­ized last year and trans is­sues are more vis­i­ble, I still think Pride is just as rel­e­vant now as it was when Stonewall popped off al­most 40 years ago. Do I feel a way about the cor­po­rate pres­ence at the fes­ti­val? Ab­so­lutely. Do I think At­lanta’s LGBTQ com­mu­nity has a di­ver­sity prob­lem? Sure.

Still, as some­one who has been an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant rather than a spec­ta­tor, I see the ef­fort that At­lanta Pride is mak­ing as an or­ga­ni­za­tion. Last year, a few friends and I got to­gether to make a state­ment dur­ing the Pride pa­rade. We wanted to call out the main­stream move­ment’s lack­lus­ter ef­fort re­gard­ing is­sues un­re­lated to mar­riage equal­ity such as men­tal health, poverty and the mur­ders of trans­gen­der women. We wanted to re­mind peo­ple that Pride was more than a party. Af­ter all, Stonewall was a riot against po­lice bru­tal­ity.

I can’t speak for my homies but as we started to cor­re­spond with Pride rep­re­sen­ta­tives, I was skep­ti­cal. I wanted to know if these peo­ple would ac­tu­ally lis­ten to us and al­low us to speak out on our own terms. I had noth­ing to worry about. Even af­ter we stopped the pa­rade with a die-in, we were good. They’re try­ing, so I’ll al­low them to do so and if I catch them slip­ping, I will let them know.

De­spite the pink-wash­ing of the move­ment, peo­ple of color have been an ac­tive part of the move­ment since the first brick was thrown dur­ing Stonewall. Women like Mar­sha P. John­son, Sylvia Rivera and Miss Ma­jor Grif­fin-Gracy, who has been a grand mar­shal in mod­ern Pride pa­rades, are the back­bone of this move­ment. Ba­yard Rustin, a queer black man, is the rea­son the March on Wash­ing­ton hap­pened. I feel like par­tic­i­pat­ing in Pride and its change for the bet­ter is my way of hon­or­ing their lega­cies.

Pride is also a per­fect plat­form for me to tell GayTL how I re­ally feel. When I’m happy, I’ll prance down Peachtree like ev­ery­one else. If I’m not, I’ll do what I did last year and walk into Pied­mont Park chant­ing with my fist raised.

An­other fun as­pect of Pride has been helping with the Dyke March and I’m happy to say I’m one of its main or­ga­niz­ers this year. The theme I want for this year is #stil­la­dyke. We tend to get hung up on la­bels and what makes some­one a REAL les­bian. I hate it and I want to help change that be­hav­ior. I don’t ever want peo­ple to feel like they can­not find love among At­lanta’s les­bian com­mu­nity if they’re bi­sex­ual, femme, trans­gen­der or any­thing else. I can’t think of a more ap­pro­pri­ate place for that mes­sage than Pride. The Dyke March will be on Satur­day, Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m. Check out the Trans March, which starts at 1:30 p.m., too.

If you see me, holler. I don’t bite.

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