Lesbians and the Politics of Southern Gay Pride

Friday, January 4, 2013: 11:10 AM
Bayside Ballroom A (Sheraton New Orleans)
La Shonda Mims, University of Georgia
In 2005, Operation Save America protestors harangued the Charlotte, North Carolina gay pride festival and struggled to completely shut down the celebration in Uptown’s Marshall Park.  Many festival attendees were disheartened after the event, and later that year, the future of Charlotte Pride was in question. In the same year, Atlanta’s gay pride festival scored record crowds with lesbian icons, Indigo Girls, as the music headliner of a successful three-day weekend event in the sprawling Piedmont Park. Mayor Shirley Franklin of Atlanta welcomed Atlanta’s festival goers, while Mayor Pat McCrory of Charlotte openly expressed disapproval for Charlotte’s festival and its public park venue. 

The history of gay pride celebrations is rarely investigated, and yet gay pride played a significant role in social opportunities for lesbians in Charlotte and Atlanta. Corporate sponsorships and the role of political and religious leaders were important elements in the creation of social environments that Atlanta and Charlotte’s lesbians sought through pride festivals from the 1970s to the present. Atlanta’s long history with gay pride and support for gay neighborhoods, such as midtown and Decatur, will serve as an interesting comparison to Charlotte’s reluctant relationship with gay pride festivals and its lack of embrace for the gayborhood. Rather than simply identifying Atlanta as good for lesbians and Charlotte as bad, however, this paper will follow the financial, religious, and business relationships that structured the successes and failures for lesbian neighborhoods, social community, and celebration in each city.

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