Atlanta's New Director of LGBTQ Affairs: 'Much Of Focus' Will Be On Trans, Nonbinary Equality
Malik Brown has been named Atlanta's first director of LGBTQ Affairs. He formerly served as the city's LGBTQ Affairs Coordinator and is also a member of the Executive Committee member of the Human Rights Campaign’s National Board of Governors, the nation's largest LGBTQ advocacy organization.
Quick to mention he is a born-and-raised native Atlantan, Brown also wasted no time driving home that much of his focus in his new role will be addressing the ongoing difficulties faced by the transgender community.
"This is the deadliest year on record, with at least 38 trans women and nonbinary folks being killed," he said. "You'll see a lot of our work is going to be focused on the trans and nonbinary communities, specifically more housing support."
He also wants to give trans people in the city more access to employment initiatives in hopes of reducing homelessness within the community. He said the city has mandated that employers and housing providers take a 90-minute "cultural competency training" on transgender issues, in hopes of reducing discrimination.
"What we didn't want to do is get folks placed into these jobs and then be misgendered," he said.
Brown said he hoped that his office would be able to facilitate greater communication among city's advocacy organizations, including the Trans Housing Atlanta, Georgia Equality, and Trans Housing Coalition.
He also mentioned hopes for future efforts for clothing drives for trans youth in the city.
Transgender women, especially trans women of color, face disproportionate discrimination across the United States, according to studies by the National LGBTQ Task Force.
Brown also said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has already agreed to making all single-use bathrooms in city buildings gender neutral. Bottoms has also committed to listing her pronouns in her social media bios, per a suggestion from Brown's team. He said there's also been efforts to make city buildings more inclusive.
"We just raised the trans flag for Trans Awareness Week and the Trans Day of Remembrance," he said.
While Brown was hesitant to say if Bottoms would support a broader push to make non-city single-use bathrooms gender neutral, he seemed to indicate it was a conversation he was hopeful to have once the pandemic had passed.
"It is certainly my hope that when Atlanta businesses are in a better financial situation, that we can work with all of them on gender-neutral issues," he said.
Another initiative temporarily stalled by the pandemic is his office's focus on LGBTQ arts and culture.
"Unfortunately, before COVID, we had a lot of plans for an LGBTQ arts festival," he said.
There are plans to partner with W Hotels in the city to showcase LGBTQ art, as well as partnerships being forged for digital exhibits and events showcasing local voices.
“Since taking office, our administration has prioritized the well-being and advancement of Atlanta’s large and diverse LGBTQ community and municipal LGBTQ affairs,” Bottoms said in a press release. “By creating a Director-level LGBTQ Affairs position in the Mayor’s office and continuing the work of the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Board, we are creating institutional support for LGBTQ Atlantans.”
The Bottoms administration has achieved a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (MEI) every year since taking office.