There are so many better places for LGBTQ+ people to patronize than TEN Atlanta / X Midtown

From Ten Atlanta’s Facebook page. They didn’t credit the photographer so go figure.
From Ten Atlanta’s Facebook page. They didn’t credit the photographer so go figure.

Note: At some point during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic, Ten Atlanta changed their name to X Midtown. It’s pronounced Ten and it was speculatively done to make this article not googlable anymore. Well, listen up, SEO gods: X Midtown still blows chunks.

Hey friends,

Why are you still inviting me to Ten Atlanta? I mean, yes, I know you’ve seen me there with a vodka-soda in hand dancing my ass off to some megamix of “…Ready For It?” by Taylor Swift, and you bet it’s a sight to behold. No shame. But I do that everywhere, and I can do that anywhere. TEN Atlanta doesn’t deserve my or your queer dollars.

This claim on Ten Atlanta’s Yelp page hasn’t been corroborated, but it’s kinda funny tho isn’t it?

This claim on Ten Atlanta’s Yelp page hasn’t been corroborated, but it’s kinda funny tho, isn’t it?

But first, allow me to go to bat a ‘lil for 10th and Piedmont as an intersection and local landmark. Though, obviously, I’m not talking about the wholly unenjoyable restaurant 10th & Piedmont. There’s no way to go to bat for that place. No, I mean the rainbow-crosswalked, incessantly poppin’, an intersection that’s hailed as the gayest corner in Atlanta. It’s a good thing that this place exists. It’s a blessing that gay people not only have a place to dignify themselves as a community in public and that that place is a microcosm for mainstream gay culture entirely. Despite a multitude of gay spaces, Midtown is the gayborhood in Atlanta and those communities do not shape overnight. There isn’t a single real estate mogul that would ever build any bullshit live-work community like Madison Yards dedicated to the community the way that Midtown has achieved over the decades.

But like mainstream American gay culture, through classism, racism, transphobia, and cis-normativity, there’s a distinct dog whistle of unwelcomeness that continues to plague the community. You can feel it when you’re there. It’s not just the bachelorette parties or the straight-but-hunky bartenders. It’s hard enough to feel accepted by any community, but in Midtown there’s a cough-inducing cloud of Hollister cologne, polos, hair gel, and distinctly Queer As Folk 2003 sensibilities of what a ‘gay person’ is or looks like. Those days are long behind us, and the umbrella of sexual and gender minorities is growing.

The battleground, it seems, just happens to be Atlanta’s premiere shoulder-shrug of a gay bar that, according to its website, “is dedicated to bringing Atlanta an establishment that offers guest a fabulous experience!”

As TMZ reports over Atlanta Pride a few weeks ago, RuPaul’s Drag Race star Tatiana had a different experience.

Look, I’m not gonna pretend to know exactly what happened that night. The whole thing seems a little strange and it’s likely we won’t get to the bottom of it. As WUSSY MAG puts it,

“Throwing a visibly queer person into a jail cell is innately dangerous for that visibly queer person. A drag queen is going to be booked into a sex segregated cell with men in a full drag look. They may have to spend the night. Or several days. They are exposed to a unique risk of harassment and sexual assault. This, and the prospect of this, is terrifying. The idea that a queer bar might do this to one of us for drunken misbehavior is terrifying.

They will spend the rest of their lives with an arrest record. They will be exposed to job discrimination permanently. They will have to describe the event in every background check forever. They may have to pay attorneys fees. They may have to take time off work, or get fired, to show up to court, because a bouncer brought in the police instead of pulling them from the club.”

Oof, that doesn’t sound good.

Police presence at Pride is an ongoing issue, one that I don’t think has a very pragmatic solution yet. It makes sense to have a police presence at one of the most popular bars on one of the most popular nights of the year.

However, there does seem to me that there was a sort of vindictiveness to the cops being called over to deal with Tatianna, who was in full drag and definitely could’ve been removed from the establishment. Like, it just doesn’t seem necessary, even though it might’ve been. I wasn’t there. I only know the optics of a particular situation.

Which is what WUSSY MAG was calling attention to; the optics. One false move or act of non-violent belligerence could land you in jail at Ten. But the story doesn’t stop there.

Once WUSSY’s story dropped, Ten Atlanta owner and one-time Maserati model James Nelson took to their comment section with some very choice words:

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Now, attacking journalists for questioning decisions made by people in positions of power isn’t quite the move in 2019. However, the orbits that James frequents might feel different. Apart from following Donald Trump’s Facebook page, which we can just ignore, for now, Nelson also follows two hard-right, “Fake News”-busting, journalists. I imagine he might be more inclined to agree with them.

This isn’t as severe as what the owners of Burkharts Pub, another Atlanta gay space, said on their respective Facebook pages before it got shut down, but again, it’s either the loud, thudding sawtooth synthesizer of “Work Bitch” by Britney Spears that’s making my ears ring or all the dog whistles.

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Nothing we haven’t heard before, right?

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So he seems to be kinda anti-Hillary, which definitely isn’t a crime, but… oh…dammit,

Is this who we want running one of the most popular gay bars in Atlanta?

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Nelson was also sorely disappointed when Mary Norwood lost her mayoral race in 2017, even going so far as to attack the Human Rights Campaign and the Georgia Democratic Party for… supporting the democratic candidate instead of the “independent progressive”?

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I don’t think I’ve ever met Nelson, nor have we interacted much since he friended me back in 2018. And I would love to know what he looks like today in case I saw him around town, but his profile photo has not been updated in nearly 5 years.

But I did find this interview he did for Q Magazine

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What’s your favorite thing about TEN Atlanta?

Our patio. It is one of the best in the city. And I have to add the diversity of our crowd is a close second.

What compliment do you consistently receive about the venue?

How wonderful our staff is. Hands down we have some of the best bartenders in the city, and I am proud of each one of them.

What does TEN’s place in gay Atlanta mean to you?

It symbolizes the unity within not only the LGBT community, but our neighborhood as a whole. … We must continue to fight for our rights, stand together as one, and for me TEN represents the place we can all come together for those few hours and have the enjoyment we are all entitled to.

From Ten Atlanta’s Yelp Page

From Ten Atlanta’s Yelp Page

So, there’s been a whole lot of YIKES found on Ten Atlanta owner James Nelson’s Facebook page. Do with this information what you will. However, to extend even the most generous of leeway to Mr. Nelson would overlook a lot of the behaviors and attitudes that continues to suppress queer people both socially and politically. These stances from a person in his position are far more harmful than Chick-Fil-A’s conservative Christian ‘values’, in my opinion. At least that’s not in my own backyard and purported safe, inclusive space.

So yeah I’m taking the party elsewhere until the bar’s under different ownership, and won’t be promoting parties and events there. It’s one thing to be overtly anti-queer. At least that’s honest. But as one of Nelson’s friends puts it “Lot’s and lot’s of people support Trump. People you would never assume would support him, they’re just in the closet…”

To which Nelson replies, “This is very true.”


Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets weeks in advance. Feel free to validate him on Twitter (@TylerScruggs), Instagram (@Scruggernaut), and YouTube.

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