Collective Power and Culture Wars - 1990 to 1999

Atlanta continued to be a magnet in the Southeast in the 1990s, adding newcomers, including gay women and men, to its ranks at a rapid clip. As they had in the past, LGBT individuals moved to the city for educational and economic opportunities but also for its vital infrastructure of gay social, political, and religious organizations, businesses, and gathering places. For supporters of gay rights, the notion of a unified “gay community” was a powerful concept that galvanized and mobilized people into action. It was a strategy equally attractive to antigay forces, however, which on the grounds of “family values” sought to limit gay rights and visibility. In truth, Atlanta’s “community” continued to fracture along lines of gender, race, and class. As a national gay rights movement grew stronger during the decade, gay and lesbian Atlantans, as in other areas, discovered a new sense of collective power.

In their daily lives during the 1990s, more gay and lesbian Atlantans began holding positions of power, often without trying to conceal their sexual identities. This decade saw the growth of business and professional networking groups; gay and lesbian elected officials; entrepreneurship; and local and national celebrities. In Atlanta, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals proved adept at working together to challenge discrimination they experienced at home, at school, at work, and from their elected representatives. They continued celebrating and commemerating in Pride marches and began collecting, preserving, and exhibiting their collective past. They formed strategic alliances with LGBT groups within the area and in neighboring cities and states, as well as with straight allies—families, friends, co-workers, and elected officials. And for the first time, they were operating from a position of power.

By the end of the twentieth century, the population of the Atlanta metropolitan area had grown to over four million. The area also had one of the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations. Many of the trends and forces that had shaped the city throughout the century—urban development and suburban expansion, race relations, business and transportation—continued to affect the way Atlantans lived and the landscape of the city and its environs. In the 1990s Atlanta outpaced all other comparable metropolitan areas in terms of growth. The city’s biracial composition changed as new ethnic groups immigrated from Asian, African, and Central and South American countries. The lives of Atlanta’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens reflected these changes, as they continued to find spaces of their own.