Why ATL needs Black Pride 

As an event that stands apart from next month's broader Gay Pride Festival, this weekend's Black Gay Pride is necessary to Atlanta because it speaks to our culture and our need for affirmation, acceptance and respect.

Atlanta is full of proud black gay people. We need to rally in a way that speaks to our culture first and foremost, and to examine how we interact with each other and the rest of the world: our family relationships, employment, entertainment, spirituality, health disparities, socioeconomic status, and, yes, sexuality.

Pride is a sense of personal dignity, a feeling of pleasure because of something achieved, done or owned. The need for Black Pride exists because our forebears, comprised of gay brothers and sisters who fought for rights, acceptance, love, respect and pride, need to be celebrated and remembered. We have a beautiful, colorful history, and much to be proud of.

Recently, the Advocate dubbed Atlanta "The Gayest City in America." The black gay culture in Atlanta figured into that decision. In the new millennium, we've seen members of our population make headlines, locally and nationally. We are elected officials, clergy, educators, entrepreneurs, property owners and parents.

Then there are the daily offenses sustained by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals that channel racism, sexism, and other "isms" that aren't yet named. Because of this, our self-image is often disfigured. Members of our population have come to mimic our oppressors. Mentally, physically and emotionally abused, our brothers are not hard enough, thug enough. Our sisters are not soft enough, feminine enough.

Living in metro Atlanta for more than 12 years, I've seen a lot and heard a lot about inclusion, tolerance, love, acceptance and diversity, but one thing I know is that the city exhibits many traditions and contradictions. Our religious institutions reign over our culture and tend to foster an atmosphere of homophobia, shame and stigmatization. In the same breath, we are asked to celebrate being American. We are asked to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For many of us — though it's seldom stated — being happy, being who we are, also means being gay.

Why shouldn't I be proud to be an Atlantan — a black Atlantan and a gay one, to boot? Nearly everyone celebrates who and what they are. If we just took the contributions that black gay residents have made and continue to make to this city, this state and this country, there's no question that that's cause for celebration.

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