The gay­bor­hood has crossed the road

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

Af­ter the bet­ter part of 14 years, I moved out of Mid­town in Fe­bru­ary, which I con­sider the of­fi­cial end of the area’s reign as the gayest part of At­lanta. As much as I would like to claim credit, though, the post-gay­ing of Mid­town be­gan at the turn of the cen­tury and has ac­cel­er­ated with­out rest the past decade.

The Mid­town I moved away from was much dif­fer­ent than the gay­bor­hood I dis­cov­ered dur­ing week­end trips to At­lanta while I was at­tend­ing Auburn. The queens no longer hold court at the gates of Pied­mont Park ev­ery Sun­day evening, the 24-hour gay clubs and their feeder bars are gone from Peachtree Street and it has been five years since Outwrite Book­store ceased be­ing a de facto com­mu­nity cen­ter and concierge, wel­com­ing me and thou­sands of other LGBT pil­grims look­ing to learn more about the gay mecca of the South and our­selves.

In some ways, the rain­bow cross­walks that were per­ma­nently in­stalled at the in­ter­sec­tion of 10th and Pied­mont feel like a head­stone for a Mid­town that was, rather than a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the neigh­bor­hood or its fu­ture. But rain­bows are sup­posed to of­fer hope, and the cross­walks make me be­lieve Mid­town will con­tinue to be an area where LGBT res­i­dents and strangers are con­vinced that they have a place, and, how­ever lonely it has felt on their jour­ney thus far, they have a peo­ple.

I was born and raised on Hal­sted Street on the South Side of Chicago, a street name that many readers may rec­og­nize as the main thor­ough­fare through Boys Town less than 15 miles to the north. I had never heard of Boys Town un­til mov­ing to Alabama, and vis­ited for the first time dur­ing my Christ­mas break fresh­man year.

I re­mem­ber see­ing per­ma­nent rain­bow fix­tures that bore a city of Chicago seal, and couldn’t be­lieve that I was stand­ing on the same Hal­sted Street on which I had spent much of my life, and thought that if I had ever stayed on the No. 8 bus that was pass­ing by, I would’ve found a place where my sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion was cel­e­brated in­stead of shamed; in­cluded rather than apart.

This was in De­cem­ber 1998, and I know “Rain­bows are sup­posed to of­fer hope, and the cross­walks make me be­lieve Mid­town will con­tinue to be an area where LGBT res­i­dents and strangers are con­vinced that they have a place, and, how­ever lonely it has felt on their jour­ney thus far, they have a peo­ple.” that Boys Town has lost some of its rag­ing ho­mo­sex­ual iden­tity in the two decades since then, as have so many other gay­bor­hoods across the coun­try. Call it karma or sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, but there’s a pat­tern of LGBT folks dis­plac­ing res­i­dents in blighted neigh­bor­hoods, only to be re­placed by young het­ero­sex­ual fam­i­lies once the neigh­bor­hood be­comes fab­u­lous and un­af­ford­able for sin­gle peo­ple.

The triplexes and older stu­dio and one-bed­room apart­ments that al­lowed young LGBT peo­ple to flock to Mid­town in the past have been re­placed by sin­gle-fam­ily homes and condo tow­ers built for the same millennials whom we’ve been told are living en masse in their par­ents’ base­ments, a para­dox of ur­ban plan­ning that is also oc­cur­ring na­tion­wide.

How­ever, the straight-wash­ing of Mid­town doesn’t sting as much as the loss of gay­bor­hoods in other ci­ties might, be­cause LGBT At­lantans have long crossed the road. The metro area is so thor­oughly queer that whether you live in Grant Park or Vine City, whether you work in white-col­lar or re­tail, whether you’re re­new­ing your driver’s li­cense or gro­cery shop­ping, it’s hard to take a few breaths with­out en­coun­ter­ing iden­ti­fi­ably LGBT neigh­bors.

All of us should be proud of what­ever role we play in cre­at­ing that At­lanta for res­i­dents and strangers. For so many, and now many more, the civic af­fec­tion we have for our home­town, the mo­ment we knew we be­longed here, be­gan near 10th and Pied­mont. Ryan Lee is an At­lanta writer.

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