As a college town, Athens offers an open atmosphere full of support and encouragement of LGBTQ+ rights acceptance. From local businesses to nightlife, here are five notable movements in Athens to promote a LGBTQ+ friendly city.
1. Local businesses celebrated marriage equality with the Love=Equalized campaign
In 2015, after the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, Athens residents and local businesses openly showed their support. Multiple businesses displayed signs in their windows with the slogan “Love=Legalized” accompanied by rainbow flags.
Other businesses such as The Last Resort Grill, continue to speak outwardly about their support of LGBTQ+ rights and donate to the community through nonprofit organizations such as Athens PRIDE.
2. Athens is making an effort to counteract discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and residents in downtown bars and businesses
After multiple testimonies claiming 15 downtown bars had allegedly discriminated against students, the ACC commission passed the resolution to combat discrimination in Athens nightlife in late 2016.
This resolution states that discrimination against any individual based on race, gender, sexual orientation or religion, among others, “does not reflect the community values that should be upheld in Athens-Clarke County.”
3. Each year Athens hosts the Boybutante Ball, an AIDS benefit drag fest, to help fundraise to provide resources and support for those living with HIV/AIDS
Starting back in 1989, a Boybutante drag ball has been hosted in Athens every April. This sell-out benefit drag fest includes a concert, a women’s dance-till-you-drop (or break a heel) and a gala ball held at The 40 Watt Club. Since its birth, sponsors and attendees have helped raise more than half a million dollars for AIDS service organizations.
Other special events are hosted throughout the year to raise money to fight against prejudice and discrimination of those living with HIV/AIDS including a Boybutante Bingo, Christmas in July, a Back to School Party and an annual Boo-Butante Halloween Party.
4. Local music legends like The B-52s and R.E.M. were queer-friendly way ahead of their time
Aside from being the self-described “World’s Greatest Party Band,” the B-52s put out quirky music with often specifically queer subject matter and helped land Athens on the musical map.
This began a wave of other Athens bands, such as the well-known R.E.M, to embrace and liberate the LGBTQ+ community through music.
Michael Stipe, the lead singer and songwriter for R.E.M, is now considered a “great queer music icon.” Through both his music and his lifestyle, Stipe actively breaks down the rigid binary structure of gender and sexuality.
5. There are a number of resources in Athens to promote community, fellowship and support for LGBTQ+ issues.
Athens PRIDE is a nonprofit organization comprised of volunteers striving to address LGBTQ+ issues through advocacy, outreach, education and event sponsorship.
Athens PRIDE hosts various events and fundraisers throughout the year including an extensive seven day Pride schedule in Sept.