Mapping the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community in Atlanta
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In 1982, Manuel Castells and Karen Murphy famously declared that “beautiful San Francisco has become the most prominent urban setting for the expression of gay culture”, citing an estimated 17% of the City’s population identifying as gay to be persuasive evidence (Castells & Murphy, 1982). San Francisco was cited as being the nation’s sole example of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community “being able to build up autonomous social institutions and a political organization powerful enough” to significantly influence local governance (Castells & Murphy, 1982). Castells and Murphy extolled San Francisco as being an example from which urban researchers and planners could learn “useful lessons about the interaction between city forms and cultural change” (Castells & Murphy, 1982).Three decades later, the City of Atlanta has emerged as the San Francisco of the South. In San Francisco, the manner in which the gay and lesbian community relates to its environment has been researched extensively. Very little such research exists for the City of Atlanta. This paper seeks to remedy that issue by addressing how the gay and lesbian community in Atlanta has chosen to orient itself to its urban environment. The author begins by documenting the evolution of the gay and lesbian community within the city over time. The paper then identifies three large veins of academic research into urban gay and lesbian concentrations – and then unifies two in an examination of the spatial distribution of the LGBT population in Atlanta. This is done by mapping the gay and lesbian community’s public face (the location of widely known gay and lesbian residences, businesses and service) and geographically locating its more private aspects (same-sex partners identified in the Census and American Community Survey). The paper concludes with an examination of how city planning policies and practices either help or hinder the process of building such a diverse community.