Lucas Hilderbrand is Professor of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and author of
Midtown Goddam: Discrimination, Coalition, and Community in Atlanta
Discriminatory admission practices have been reported and protested at gay bars and dance clubs across the country since the early 1970s. Activists understood such bias as institutionalized, and changing entry practices became activists' primary strategy to combat racism and desegregate the community at large. In Atlanta a coalition of community groups effectively worked within the system to enact a new city antidiscrimination act in 1983. Yet this bureaucratic remedy did not fundamentally integrate gay spaces. In the wake of local coalitional toward integration, Black queer Atlantans developed venues on their own terms. Ultimately, the resolution has been community self-determination more than integration of white venues. The subsequent interlude examines Philadelphia's gay switchboard as a medium for callers to access gay venues and to make distinctions between them.