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Pine Lake

Pine Lake

©2001, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Denny, Dallas. (2001, Fall). A word from the editor: Pine Lake. Transgender Tapestry, 95, pp. 6-7.






A Word From the Editor

Pine Lake

By Dallas Denny


I live in the tiny municipality of Pine Lake, Georgia, population 621. With its canopy of trees and cabin-like houses, Pine Lake is rather like summer camp. The namesake lake is gem-like, a park in its entirety, with paddle boats and canoes, basketball court, playground, benches and gliders, walking paths, peaceful anglers, white sand beach, picture-perfect gazebo and beach house, and an assortment of wildlife which includes bass, catfish, and giant carp; geese, ducks, and herons; owls, woodpeckers, hawks, and an abundance of songbirds; box turtles, snappers, and sliders; salamanders and bullfrogs; squirrels, chipmunks, opossums, raccoons, and muskrats; and, last year, a beaver, which was determined to build its own lake and so was humanely trapped and transported to a wilderness area.

In the 30s, Pine Lake began as a resort for Atlantans, a fishing camp, selected because it was far enough from the city to be peaceful and wild, yet close enough to be accessible. During the post-World War II housing shortage, people began to live in Pine Lake year-round and the community was incorporated. In the course of the Baby Boom years, the one- and two-room cabins were expanded, bathrooms moved inside, wells capped and outhouses dismantled when city water and sewage became available. Ever since, Pine Lake has been under more-or-less continual re-invention and renovation.

In its latest incarnation, Pine Lake has become a community of musicians, artists, poets, writers, and nonconformists. Not coincidentally, a significant percentage of the citizenry is gay and lesbian and there are at least three transfamilies. The city is an outpost of individualism in a landscape of cookie-cutter conformity. The houses, which have been repeatedly renovated and enlarged until they threaten to overflow their tiny lots, are quirky and unique. Unlike surrounding communities, which levy fines on residents for bad taste, Pine Lake has no restrictions on funkiness; residents can paint their houses any color they wish and decorate in any way they see fit—and do. The neighborhood association is active; not a week goes by without a community breakfast, dinner, concert, class, festival, or dramatic performance. The city’s police force, notorious in the ’90s for its habit of writing expensive traffic tickets to non-residents traveling through the city on its single main artery, has been scaled back, but Pine Lake is still acclaimed the safest city in Georgia. It’s indeed a safe harbor, where doors of cars and houses are rarely locked. Pine Lake is a place where the streets are safe day and night, where walking is a common activity, where neighbors are known by name and personality, an actual community in this postmodern age—indeed, much like summer camp.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about Pine Lake is that it remains true to its nature despite the change in its relation to Atlanta. Once remote, it now merely seems remote, for it is surrounded by a city which long ago reached it, breached it, and grew 50 miles and more beyond. Paradoxically, at ten miles from Atlanta City Hall, this little retreat which was once considered so far away has become an enviable close-in location.

I bought my Pine Lake house in November, 1998, when the city was beginning to reinvent itself. I’m 200 feet from the lake, in one of the expanded 1930s cabins. It’s my first home after a lifetime of living in attics, basements, garages, and rented houses and, once, a mobile home. I’ve had grand fun improving my sturdy but shabby lady, slowly turning her into a storybook cottage, and I thoroughly enjoy being a member of the eccentric tribe of Pine Lakers.

One day, as I was walking lakeside, I flagged down Pine Lake Mayor Al Fowler as he was driving by. The nice thing about a city of 600-some residents, it’s not hard to corral Hizzonor. “Al,” I asked, “Does Pine Lake have a transgender nondiscrimination ordinance?”

“I’m not sure,” he said, “but I think so. I’ll take a look and send you the language by e-mail.”

A few days later, I received Al’s e-mail, containing the relevant sections:

 From: The City of Pine Lake Personnel Manual, revised and adopted October 1999:

The City of Pine Lake is an equal opportunity employer. It has been, is, and will continue to be our policy to afford equal employment opportunity to all qualified persons regardless of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, transgender, age, sexual orientation, marital status, political belief or handicap.

From: The Adopting Resolution Establishing and Creating the City of Pine Lake (GA) Human Relations Council, adopted July 1999:

Whereas, the denial of rights by reason of race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, transgender, age, sexual orientation, marital status, political belief or handicap is contrary to the principles of freedom and equality of opportunity and is destructive to a free and democratic society, and….

Pine Lake did indeed have a nondiscrimination policy. I felt a bit cheated. It was already on the books. I hadn’t had to fight for it.

Here in Atlanta, transgender education efforts date back at least 15 years, long before the T was added to GLB. It started slowly enough, with Lynn and Jerry Montgomery doing outreach to the Atlanta Gay Center and Lynn having dinner with the chief of the highway patrol to get the state of Georgia to ease up transsexuals at drivers license examination stations. By the early 1990s, Margaux Schaefer was attending meetings of the Mayor’s Gay and Lesbian Public Safety Task Force, armed with articles I had written for the local gay press. Members of the Sigma Epsilon Tri-Ess chapter and Atlanta Gender Explorations support group were speaking at colleges and universities and to groups of helping professionals. By 1992, there was a transgender booth at Atlanta Pride. I remember sending the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) tent into a state of panic by asking their position on transgendered folk.

By 1996 or so, transpeople were thoroughly integrated into the social fabric of Atlanta. Mayor Bill Campbell had a transgender advisor. PFLAG. Pride, and most other GLB organizations had become transinclusive; there were transfolk on the boards of directors of a half-dozen GLBT organizations. We were receiving prominent, positive coverage in the press and on radio. Donna Johnston had even joined that most conservative and presumably transphobic group, the Log Cabin Republicans. Several hundred transgendered and transsexual people were doing some form of educational and volunteer work.

Atlanta is mind-numbingly large. The metropolitan area consists of perhaps 20 counties, with Fulton and DeKalb being the two originals. In year 2000, something remarkable occurred in the two core counties. First, the schools of my own county, DeKalb, passed a transgender nondiscrimination policy. Decatur, the county seat, passed a transgender nondiscrimination ordinance, and so did the county government. Later that year, the City of Atlanta, which spills over from Fulton into DeKalb, passed its own ordinance. That’s what got me thinking about my own little city.

What’s amazing about the ordinances is the way they came about, for we transgendered fold didn’t ask for protection. In each case, it happened spontaneously, instigated from within. In Atlanta, for instance, Mayor Bill Campbell went to the City Council because he had learned a police office was transitioning and wanted to ensure there would be no trouble. This is different from other municipalities, where transgendered people have taken the lead in getting ordinances passed. It’s not that the transfolks in Atlanta wouldn’t have demanded such protections— but we didn’t need to. Change came about spontaneously after years of quiet gender education.

In the transgender community, our collective attention is focused on the political arena. Yet for every activist doing political work, there are dozens or perhaps hundreds of others quietly doing gender education. For those of you who are doing this work, let me assure you— it may not be glamorous, but it’s effective. You’re slowly changing the world.

I live in the tiny municipality of Pine Lake, Georgia, population 621, the smallest city in the world with a nondiscrimination ordinance. And I didn’t even have to ask for it.