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Cheer the queer

Atlanta becomes the Bible Belt's unlikely homo home base

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Timing is everything. This isn't news to the queer community at large, who, some may say, have grappled with issues of timing for years. From navigating the largely uncharted territory of pacing in queer relationships to planning one's coming out, the queer community has a history of keeping its eye on the proverbial clock.

So when, in February 2010 — only five short months after police officers raided the Atlanta Eagle — the Advocate named Atlanta the gayest city in the country, more than a few eyebrows were raised by diesel dykes and bitchy queens alike. Despite the unfortunate timing, the Advocate pushed Atlanta into the gay spotlight.

So what, exactly, is it that affords Atlanta its shiny new title? Sitting smack in the middle of über-conservative Georgia like a blue island in a sea of red, the factors that led to Atlanta's claim on the Advocate's top spot are, although admittedly unscientific, anything but unconvincing: The publication cited gays per capita, three openly gay elected officials, and 14 gay films in Atlanta's list of Netflix favorites, which is enough to make anyone rethink their conceptions of the Bible Belt. While this shift in queerness from the urban meccas of San Francisco and New York City to such secondary cities as Asheville, N.C. (ranked No. 12 on the list) and Bloomington, Ind. (No. 4), may scare the tarnations out of some, it highlights a flowing integration of gay culture into mainstream America that isn't soon to ebb.

Whether college students migrate to Atlanta for its vibrancy, history or simply because they have an inexplicable attraction to humidity, queerdom is now part of the Atlanta package, and hopefully, appeal. So the question becomes, where should the young Yankee homo look for a heapin' helpin' of Southern hospitality?

While there are as many different facets to Atlanta's gay scene as there are gays, certain fixtures compile a "heavy hitters" list of gay Atlanta. First stop: Atlanta Pride. This shit is no joke. Atlanta's Pride parade is one of the country's oldest and largest Pride celebrations, and is permanently etched into the calendars of many Georgia queers. This year's Pride celebrates its 40th anniversary and is slated for Oct. 9-10, back in Piedmont Park. Another undeniable element in Atlanta's queer roundup is MondoHomo, the Memorial Day weekend, dancin'-your-ass-off alternative queer arts festival. MondoHomo not only sits squarely at the top of the Advocate's list of reasons behind Atlanta's crowning, but in just three short years it's become a major touchstone of Atlanta's underground queer scene.

So what's the queer student to do when the next Pride and MondoHomo are months away? Atlanta's gay nightlife leaves little to desire, and the queer student shouldn't hesitate to explore the city's vast amount of gay clubs, bars and shopping. Topping the list are the hallmarks of gay Atlanta — Outwrite, Blake's, the Eagle, Mary's and My Sister's Room, to name a few. Visit clatl.com/clu for a full list of gay-friendly locations.

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