“Queer as hell media”: Affirming LGBTQ+ youth identity and building community in Metro Atlanta, Georgia
Within the United States, the American South holds the largest number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ+) people, which totals to 3.8 million (LGBTQ in 2016). Metro Atlanta is uniquely situated within the South’s geography; the City of Atlanta is hailed as a queer mecca while the suburbs and surrounding rural areas are assumed to reproduce and reinforce racist, conservative, and religious ideologies. A total of 12 qualitative interviews with LGBTQ+ youth (ages 18–26) at Kennesaw State University offer a more nuanced understanding of being LGBTQ+ in the South by shedding light on the ways they thrive, form relationships, and seek out knowledge regarding LGBTQ+ identity and experience. Findings highlight that LGBTQ+ youth utilize all forms of media to affirm their identities, create like-minded communities, and take up space as a “fuck you” to the imagined cisheteronormativity in Georgia. The article centers the voices and critiques of LGBTQ+ young people as they negotiate competing discourses of queer acceptability and inclusivity, turning to new media platforms as spaces where they can find safety, as well as curate themselves and their experiences.