Posted by Desmond Goss, ATLANTA, GA -- Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, urban areas in the United States have conjured an image of refuge for socio-political groups who find themselves on the fringes of mainstream culture. It's no surprise, then, that gay men, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered individuals (GLBT) have flocked to cities around country, in search of new opportunities emerging from a relaxation of the discrimination that may have restricted their life chances in their hometowns – many even fleeing explicit oppression, hate, and threats of violence. In this regard, the city can, in some ways, be seen as refuge. Southern cities are especially interesting for examining this phenomenon, as they tend to be separated by greater distances than Northern cities. Thus, places like Charlotte, Tampa -- and particularly Atlanta -- become oases for the GLBT individuals in surrounding rural communities. Atlanta boasts the highest population percentage of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals (15%) out of all southern cities, only outpaced nationally by San Francisco and Seattle. Atlanta is also consistently ranked high on magazine and gay rights agency lists for most gay-friendly places to live in the U.S.
Nowhere can the community empowerment made possible by urban liberalism be better understood than GLBT pride festivals. Atlanta Pride Festival, like others in urban areas around the world, is an annual celebration of groups who transgress traditional gender and sex norms, and a political statement suggestive, not just of acceptance, but of pride in one’s sexual identity as well. For one weekend, every year in Atlanta's Piedmont Park, hundreds of local venders, corporate sponsors, and advocacy groups set up booths around the lake catering to the thousands of festival attendees. The weekend culminates in a parade with a march of floats down Peachtree Street. Regardless of the activities that take place, pride festivals offer GLBT individuals a chance to recharge their connection to the gay community, thus reaffirming their sexual identity, and providing reassurance that cities like Atlanta are indeed safe places for self-exploration and expression.
Desmond Goss is a Doctoral Student in Sociology at Georgia State University. He can be contacted at email@example.com.