Over the years, Athens has become a radiant hub for the LGBTQ+ population and allies alike. From engaging “Queer Trivia” nights at Athentic Brewing Company to fantastic drag performances by the Athens Showgirl Cabaret, a sense of pride can always be seen coursing through the population.
This year, Athens Pride & Queer Collective will be hosting the city’s 12th annual PRIDE week and festival, but with a very exciting new edition. The organization will be throwing the first Athens Pride Parade downtown on June 12th beginning on Hancock Avenue and ending with a BBQ in Lay Park, where Athens Pride & Queer Collective got its start. With all these events buzzing about the city, Athenians are ecstatic to be a part of local LGBTQ+ history.
Athens’ artistic community has long been known as being forward-thinking and accepting. In 1976 the B52’s formed right here in Athens, GA, with four of its five members identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. The group went on to produce many hits, including "Roam," "Deadbeat Club," and "Love Shack,” which mentions Athens’ Atlanta highway. Just a few years after the formation of the B-52's came R.E.M., also of Athens, whose frontman Michael Stipe came out as queer in 1994.
Queer History at UGA
Athens did not gain the reputation of having such a vibrant culture overnight. To better understand this transition, you need to take a closer look back a few decades. A notable occurrence can be seen in the year 1971, when UGA students John Hoard and Bill Green worked together to found the Committee on Gay Education (GCE). This organization was formed by two young men with a mission to spread awareness and provide education about the university’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender student population. Later, on March 10th, 1972, the organization would host the first “gay dance” in an American Southeastern university. In future years, the disbandment of the GCE in 1983 would lead to the formation of the Athens Gay and Lesbian Association (AGLA) in the year 1990. This club would eventually evolve into the Lambda Alliance, which would be officially recognized as a UGA student organization in 1998. Today, this club continues to grow stronger and is now known as the UGA Pride Center.
Community Groups and progress
Adults in the community as well as staff members at the University of Georgia were also making strides in local LGBTQ+ history. In the year 1994, the Gay Lesbian or Bisexual Employees Supporters Group (GLOBES) was founded by Annette Hatton, a managing editor of The Georgia Review at the time. The GLOBES organization worked towards both equality and social justice for LGBTQ+ rights for employees at the University of Georgia and the general Athens population. In 1998, GLOBES would host a potluck picnic at Lay Park which would later become an annual affair and would evolve into the formation of Athens PRIDE, now Athens Pride & Queer Collective. Additionally, GLOBES would work alongside Adrien Childs, the associate director for research and graduate studies at UGA’s Hugh Hodgson School of music to change the university’s non-discrimination policy so that it also included members of the LGBTQ+ community in 2002.
There are even more significant groups in the Athens LGBTQ+ community that should be recognized for their astounding work. The Boybutante AIDS Foundation, formed in 1989, aims to advocate for those who have been affected by the HIV/AIDS virus. For the past three decades, the foundation has helped fundraise for agencies that support HIV/AIDS education through outreach within Northeast Georgia. The nonprofit organization just hosted its 31st Boybutante Ball in April 2022, a drag show where a total of $45,000 was raised for Live Forward, an Athens social services organization. In addition, the Athens Showgirl Cabaret, known for their fantastic shows at both Hendershot’s and at Sound Track Bar came to be in 2010 when show directors Kellie and Alice Divine worked alongside local members of the Athens community to create the premier drag company. Currently, the Athens Showgirl Cabaret partners with a variety of local charities as well as the Boybutante AIDS Foundation to bring both amazing performances and support to the LGBTQ+ community.
However, the story of Athens's LGBTQ+ history does not end there. To this day, Athens continues to forge paths in its local advocacy for its members while honoring those who have contributed to gay pride in the past. The city is constantly working towards providing safe spaces, support, and social justice within the community that benefit the regional population and beyond. Athens, Georgia is excited to show off its LGBTQ+ representation and welcomes you to its celebration of pride month 2022.
Athens is a welcoming place to the LGBTQ+ community at any time of year. Check out more suggestions of things to do and LGBTQ+ friendly spots, below: