Fenuxe Op-Ed Incites Gay Community, But Not Vandalism of Local Business
A controversial editorial published in a local gay magazine turned out not to be the cause of vandalism at a popular men’s clothing store that caters to gay men. But the article, which castigated Atlanta’s gay bar and club scene, has caused dissension in the community, with LGBT members boycotting individual establishments, or withdrawing support from Fenuxe Magazine in retaliation for what they call a poorly-timed attack on Atlanta’s LGBT community.
The Boy Next Door Menswear store, located at 1447 Piedmont Avenue, was vandalized on Oct. 18 around 4:49 a.m. During the initial investigation, the store’s general manager Raymond Dowis thought that the vandalism may have been a result of his store advertising in Fenuxe, a local LGBT magazine.
Fenuxe published an article, "Why Can’t We Have Nice Things?" in its Oct. 4 Pride issue. The article criticized the city’s gay bar and club scene. But the most shocking aspect of the article was the picture that went along with the story -- a server holding a silver platter with a pile of defecation.
According to Atlanta Police Public Information Officer Gregory Lyon, 50-year-old Anthony Everett Moore was arrested on Oct. 20 around 6 p.m. after an officer patrolling the Ansley Mall area noticed Moore.
"We were able to ascertain probable cause to charge Mr. Moore with criminal attempt to commit burglary and criminal damage to property. The investigation did not indicate that this crime was bias in nature," said Lyon.
After learning that a suspect had been arrested, Dowis said he was glad to learn that his store’s smashed-in front window, which had been still decorated with rainbow flags after the weekend’s Pride celebrations, was not a hate crime and that it had no connection to the Fenuxe article threats.
"If that had been the case, it would have shown a bigger problem in the community," said Dowis, noting that the eclectic Midtown neighborhood was home to not only a number of the LGBT people but various ethnic groups as well. "We have a great mix. For something like that to happen and it be a hate crime, it wouldn’t have been a good representation. But people here have shown that they are above it."
Dowis said the store has never had any problems with burglary attempts or vandalism in the past. But they took a preemptive approach and the store is equipped with surveillance cameras, bars on the window and windows with impact-resistant glass. Because of their precautionary measures, they only sustained around $800 in damages, Dowis said.
The Fenuxe editorial sparked controversy among people within the LGBT community and Dowis said that he received a number of threatening phone calls because they advertise regularly in Fenuxe. Some threatened to throw the Fenuxe distribution box into the store’s front window.
In the article, Nico Stoerner, the Fenuxe writer who wrote the article, criticized the city’s bars for their small expensive drinks and disgusting, cramped, outdated spaces filled with drunken patrons. While few people were able to read the article (days later it was removed from the magazine’s website and no mentions of it were made on their Facebook page), it didn’t take long for it to become a hot-button topic.
Stoerner’s scathing description of the city’s bars, some of which either advertise or distribute the publication, led Dowis and Atlanta Police investigators to initially believe that was the connection of the vandalism.
"Some people incorrectly equated the store advertising in Fenuxe with supporting the content of the article," said Dowis, who noted that while he believes in freedom of speech, he disagrees with the way the article’s message was presented and its timing (in the magazine’s Pride edition).
"There could have been a more eloquent way to present the message," said Dowis, who said he will continue to advertise in Fenuxe magazine.
Sight Unseen, Op-Ed Continues to Provoke Community Response
While many did not get to read the article firsthand, it has still sparked debate and conversations. Local LGBT website Project Q ran a story and highlighted most of the story for its readers.
Brent Star, a popular drag artist, comedian and columnist for David magazine, said he was in shock after hearing how the issue was handled.
Star did not get to read the article, but said "I did see the caption with the model waiter serving up a dish of poo poo. Yes, we all have ’freedom of speech’ but as a writer myself, I’m well aware that doing something like that is like suicide for an article or in this case, an issue, to say the least."
Like many folks who have been venting, Star believes in freedom of speech. He added, "I do know that every city has a ’problem’ in the club/bar scene. Duh! Even in the straight community, things aren’t always perfect."
"My theory is, if you’re going to slam that hard on a community about what you feel is wrong, I think you should offer to pitch in and help solve whatever the problem is first," said Star. "I was also shocked because the very clubs and venues that were trashed were the main ones supporting that particular publication. So it just makes common sense to share your views on the scene very carefully."
Criticism of Atlanta’s LGBT Community In Poor Taste, Say Locals
Like Dowis, Star agrees that there are some problems within the community.
"The biggest problem I have is the level of weakness we have in unity. I’m afraid there’s still too much prejudice within our community for us to expect growth and change for the better," Star noted. "And when I say ’prejudice,’ I ain’t just talking about just with color. I mean like fems against conservative gays, DL brothers against drag/transgendered, some gays against lesbians (which is annoying), the list goes on."
"We’re in a critical time where unity and showing love for each other is very crucial to our future survival," he added. "We are the people who make up the community. Without us there would be no clubs, bars or venues. When we come together as one, then that strength can manifest into the power of change, growth and a better attitude toward each other."
Nichelle Paris, a well-known female impersonator who was recently crowned Ebony Pyramid Black America queen, performs regularly at popular Midtown club, Blake’s on the Park.
Paris, who has been performing for eight years, has been a part of the Blake’s cast for two years. She proudly calls herself a Blake’s girl.
While no bars were mentioned by name in the Fenuxe article, Blake’s seems to
fit one of the article’s descriptions. Paris said she felt the article was in poor taste and while she doesn’t agree with censoring people’s speech, she was upset over Stoerner’s view that members of the LGBT community accept substandard treatment. She was also turned off by Stoerner’s seeming advice to boycott some of the bars to get change.
Paris said she can only speak of Blake’s, which gives back through various fundraisers and events held and sponsored by the bar to help local organizations. She added that Stoerner was quick to point out all the problems but did not offer any solutions.
"He had a Romney view, only focusing on one aspect and overdramatizing it," said Paris, who believed the timing of the article’s release was horrible.
"People from out of town and were coming in the city for Pride, reading that article and making decisions about where they were going to go out or not go out," she said.
Paris said she will be taking Stoerner’s advice to boycott -- but what she will be boycotting is Fenuxe Magazine.
"I won’t be picking up another copy of that magazine," said Paris. "The way I can show how I feel is by not patronizing it."
While some disagree, there are some that still enjoy and have a great time at the city’s LGBT clubs.
"I enjoy the nightlife," said Paris, who is originally from the Midwest, but loves the Atlanta nightlife scene. "I love all the diversity."
Regarding Stoerner’s comments about stepping over and around drunk people in bars, Paris said she has never experienced any problems, but added "you notice negative things when you’re looking for something negative."
Unfortunately, a few LGBT businesses have had to close their doors, fueling Stoerner’s allegations that Atlanta gay bars and clubs may need an update.
After nearly 20 years in business, Atlanta LGBT landmark Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse closed its doors in January because of financial troubles. The iconic bookstore and coffee shop was a community gathering place for many in the LGBT community.
Last year, Bellissima, a lesbian, smoke-free, Midtown bar closed after three years. Anna Ragghianti tried to sell the spot to take a break from operating a bar to pursue other goals.
Saddened by some of the gay businesses that have had to close their doors, Dowis wonders if some of the new laws to develop various businesses have played a role in the slow growth within the community.
"Businesses close, but you don’t see many new businesses take their place or see any growth," Dowis added.