For decades, Atlanta has been seen as a safe space for Black queer and trans people in the South. The violent deaths of two trans women in April, and an attack on another in January, have the local LGBTQ+ community on edge.
On April 11, Ashley Burton, a well-known hairstylist and makeup artist, was shot and killed in Fairburn. A week later, on April 18, Rasheeda Williams, also known as Koko Da Doll, was killed in southwest Atlanta. Williams was set to star in a documentary about transgender sex workers in Georgia and New York City. Another trans woman, who has not been identified by the Atlanta Police Department, was critically injured in a shooting on Jan. 9 on Highland Avenue in Old Fourth Ward.
APD said the three incidents were not connected. “While these individual incidents are unrelated, we are very aware of the epidemic-level violence black and brown transgender women face in America,” the department said in a tweet.
In 2022, Atlanta got a perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign for the organization’s Municipal Quality Index. The score measures nondiscrimination laws, employment equity, municipal services, law enforcement, and city leadership’s commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion. Tori Cooper, the community engagement director for the Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Justice Initiative, says that negative news headlines about violence against trans people can cause a decline in mental health.
Cooper said seeking out safe spaces is crucial for managing that stress.
“Safe means places where people are affirmed in who they are and how they show up,” she said. “Safe also means that it’s a place where you don’t have to conform to anyone else’s ideas around who you are.”
With that in mind, Capital B Atlanta compiled a list of local organizations, coalitions, and a church where Black trans people can find joy, resources, and thrive in Atlanta.
Southern Fried Queer Pride
Southern Fried Queer Pride is an Atlanta-based organization that focuses on empowering queer and trans people of color through art.
SFQP provides opportunities for social interaction and financial assistance for populations who have historically been denied such, and curating “immersive, user-centered programming.” Every year, the organization hosts the Southern Fried Queer Pride Festival. The festival includes an outdoor screening of queer films, also known as “Cinequeer Night,” and the Peach Pit pageant.
Organizers at SFQP also host dance parties, potlucks, yoga classes, art exhibitions, and comedy shows.
The organization has a GoFundMe campaign to raise money and establish a Black trans- and queer-owned community center. The hope is that CLUTCH Community Center can be an arts center and venue space for musicians, artists and other creatives.
A group of four friends in Atlanta got together and decided there needed to be another safe space for Black queer people in Atlanta. The group hosted a party for Pride Month in summer 2022 at the Georgia Beer Garden, calling it ALT ATL, to provide an “alternative” space for queer Black folks.
The event became so popular, the hosts ended up seeking out other venues.
You can find everything ALT ATL is doing on its Instagram page.
Trans Housing Coalition
According to a report from the Human Rights Campaign, at least 42% of Black trans people have experienced homelessness at some point in their lives. The data also showed that 22% experienced homelessness in the past year because they were transgender.
The Trans Housing Coalition started out as a photography fundraiser called the Homeless Black Trans Women’s Fund, meant to help house a few Black trans women. It quickly transformed into a GoFundMe that has raised nearly $4 million in light of the ever-growing need for secure housing that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trans Housing Coalition has a particular focus on keeping Black and brown trans and gender-nonconforming people in secure housing. The organization has its own transitional house for trans people experiencing homelessness.
THC also provides emergency grants for trans people experiencing homelessness, and other resources through a coalition of organizations whose mission includes ensuring the safety of trans people in Atlanta.
The Vision Cathedral of Atlanta
The Vision Cathedral, a Black Pentecostal, queer-friendly church in Grant Park, has been named by many news outlets as a safe haven for Black members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The church was started in 2010 by Bishop Oliver Clyde Allen III, who is gay and a member of the city of Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ task force. Allen has said the church’s mission is to ensure all members — Black queer and trans people included — of the community feel welcomed.
Vision’s membership boasts 3,000 members, most of whom are Black. Allen says he encourages his members to honor God through community service and ministry. Many of the ministries at the church focus on offering free clothes to members, HIV testing, and support, and ensuring that members who have been turned away from their families because of their queer identities have a safe place to be supported.