Queer Girl City Guide: There’s No Place Like NOLA

Won’t Bow, Don’t Know How: Pride Events

PrideFest: This official pride event takes place on the weekend in June closest to the anniversary of Stonewall. PrideFest is notoriously low-key; don’t expect to see huge crowds or the massive parades common in other large cities. There is usually a second line style parade, a stage with local performances, and a resource fair on Bourbon and St. Anne, the “gay corner of Bourbon.” Pride sponsors pageants, fundraisers, and events throughout the year, so check out their website if you are coming into town.

Southern Decadence 2011

Southern Decadence: The powerhouse of NOLA queer events. Decadence is a home-grown festival held each year on Labor Day Weekend. During Decadence, every business in the French Quarter brings out their gay flags, thousands of people get gratuitously laid, and we celebrate the very sexual and debaucherous side of queer culture. Historically Decadence has been a cisgender gay men’s event, but this is changing. Dykeadence was founded in 2009 to provide safe, high-quality queer events for women, trans people, and people of color during Southern Decadence weekend. The main events are a clothing optional pool party, a queer burlesque show, a kinky costume party, and one of the largest women’s dance parties in the South.

NOLA Masquerade: In New Orleans, we don’t stop celebrating pride when summer ends. The season extends right into November, when NOLA Masquerade takes place. The mission of NOLA Masquerade is to unify the African American LGBT community while promoting awareness of the challenges that face the community, all under a fabulous canopy of booze and glitter.

Etouffee, Jambalaya, and Other Dishes You Can’t Pronounce: Food

Food in New Orleans is a ritual and an obsession. Every local is an expert, and many a bar debate has been started over where to get the best po’ boy in town. By far the most important meal of the week is brunch, the holy hangover cure. My three favorite brunch places (which span four neighborhoods) are:

Satsuma Cafe: Satsuma may be the brunch jewel in the crown of the Bywater neighborhood. High ceilings, local art on the walls, cute side patio, a menu with enough variety to please the strictest vegan to the most voracious meat eater – and much of the food is locally sourced! This is the place to be on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so expect a wait along with your delicious meal.

Surrey’s: Surrey’s boasts two locations – one in uptown NOLA, the other located in the Lower Garden District – and a vegetarian-friendly menu. The mushroom gravy and fresh juice bar make it worth the trip in either direction.

Ruby Slipper: Locations in uptown and Mid-City. Great Bloody Mary, even better crab cakes.

Camellia Grill: Greasy, good diner food. No tables, just a long, winding counter where one can order burgers, onion rings, reubens, milkshakes, and other staples. One location uptown on the streetcar line, another in the French Quarter. Try the pecan pie.

If you get caught needing a late night snack downtown, check out 13, Angeli’s, or the Clover Grill, where someone covered in glitter will serve you up a huge burger any time of night. For Po’ boys, stop by Parkway Bakery in Mid-City or Mahoney’s in Uptown, and for the best oysters you can suck out of the shell, stop by Acme Oyster House or Drago’s. Walk the French Market for souvenirs, local art, and fresh seafood on a to-go platter.

oyster bar at the French Market

New Orleans has its fair share of fabulous cafes, and every neighborhood offers its own version. My personal favorite is Zotz, a gothic-esque, artsy hole-in-the-wall where you’d be hard pressed not to find a handful of queers at any time. There’s also the lesbian-owned JuJu Bag Cafe in Gentilly, which offers both brunch/lunch dishes and everything to meet your caffeine needs. If you’re Uptown, check out the punk-ish venue Hey! Cafe or Mojo’s for a cozy and hip place to burn off a hangover. Should you find yourself downtown strolling the French Quarter, stop in at Envie, which provides both caffeine and boozy drinks to folks of all walk. The Ben Gallery, in Mid-City has a big outdoor porch popular with students and the work-from-home crowd, and the nearby Fair Grinds specializes in vegan treats, fair trade coffee, and a weekly knitting circle. The bohemian Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods offer plenty of stops, but the Orange Couch offers something a bit unusual. Stop in here if you’re coming from the other L.A. and need to ease your way into New Orleans. Sleek and minimalist, with mochi treats and other high end café snacks on hand.

Who Dat Nation: Local Sports

Superdome on game day

There’s really only one sport in New Orleans: football. The Saints are the only thing every single person in this city has in common. Even gay bars are full of screaming fans on game days. There’s also the Zephyrs baseball team and the soon-to-be-renamed Hornets basketball team, which I’m sure are fantastically fun to watch… but I’d be lying if I said this town paid attention to anything that doesn’t involve touchdowns with a pigskin.

Roller Derby is the shiznit, but of course you know that if you’ve ever seen a bout. The Big Easy Rollergirls put on a full season of awesomeness, so don’t miss the chance to see them battle it out with women across the country. There are a handful of local lesbian-friendly sports leagues, like the Bayou Women’s Tennis Club, the Greater New Orleans Women’s Soccer League, the NOLA Softball League, and the New Orleans Women’s Rugby Club Halfmoons if you’re looking to get involved in local team sports.

Gender Studies 101: Collegiate Life

New Orleans has a thriving college population due to the ten colleges and universities in the city. I didn’t go to school here, but I can tell you that almost every school has a queer group, and at least half the girls on OkCupid are undergrads or grads… at least, it seems like it.

Tulane University: the Queer Student Alliance and Tulane Women Organizing Righteous Dykedom for undergrads, along with TOGA for the med school students and Lambda Law Alliance for law students.

Delgato Community College: Gay and Lesbian Alliance (GALA)

Loyola University – Etcetera for undergrads, and the Lambda Law Alliance for law students

University of New Orleans – Safe Space UNO, UNITY for LGBTQIQ and Allies , and the Women’s Center.

How’s Your Mom ‘N ‘Em?: Support for LGBT Families

Hagar’s House: Sanctuary for women and children in New Orleans that provides a residential community, resource coordination, and a safe space to transition into sustainable housing. Trans-friendly.

COLAGE: The local chapter of a national movement of children, youth, and adults with one or more lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent/s.

PFLAG New Orleans: Promotes the health and well-being of GLBT persons and their families and friends. Meetings are the second Thursday of the month at Central St Matthew’s United Church of Christ on Carrollton Ave. PFLAG New Orleans offers twenty-five annual scholarships to LGBT students of all ages across the state, so check the website for details on how to apply!

Catholic Charities Crescent House Domestic Violence Services: Offers services for victims of domestic violence in Orleans Parish. Local crisis line: 504-866-9554.

Metropolitan Center for Women and Children: Provides services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape in Jefferson, St. Charles, St. James, and St. John Parishes. Local crisis line: 504-837-5400.

Hate Crimes Project is a program housed at Family Services of Greater New Orleans which provides support and free counseling for victims of hate crimes, along with resources and awareness-raising campaigns in the community.

Doin’ the Dirty Work: Social Activism

Women With a Vision: Works for reproductive justice, particularly for women of color, queer women, and transwomen. They were instrumental in fighting the infamous Crimes Against Nature law used to target and imprison transwomen and sex workers.

New Orlean’s Women’s Health and Justice Initiative: A radical feminist of color organization dedicated to improving the social and economic health of women of color and our communities, by challenging the use of punitive social policies, practices, and behaviors that restrict, criminalize, exploit, and police the bodies and lives of low-income and working class women of color.

Critical Resistance: Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe.

NO/AIDS Task Force: Multiple locations offer free HIV testing, sex education outreach, and services for people with HIV/AIDS.

Forum For Equality: A statewide organization fighting for gay and lesbian rights.

Southern Poverty Law Center: A national civil rights organization with a local office that fights for justice against hate and bigotry.

The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond: A collective of anti-racist organizers working to create an equitable society.

BreakOUT!: A group of LGBT youth working to end criminalization and create policy change in for LGBT youth in New Orleans.

Louisiana Trans Advocates: Statewide organization that provides support and political advocacy for all who fall under the transgender umbrella. There is a local group that meets monthly, and the organization maintains a list of trans-friendly health care providers.

LGBT & Feminist Bookstores

Community Book Center has a wide variety of black socio-political literature, including many black LGBT writers, black feminist books, and progressive writers. Check out the children’s books as well!

Faubourg Marigny Books (FAB) on Frenchmen is the only LGBT-specific bookstore, though it’s geared more toward gay men and the 1990’s. Check it out if you are wandering music venues on Frenchman in the evening; it’s open late.

Iron Rail is anarchist bookstore, lending library, and resource for radical organizing. It’s as bad-ass as it sounds, and a great place to donate books you don’t need.

Saints & Sinners Literary Festival is an LGBT literary festival taking place annually in May. SAS brings in some of the country’s most famous LGBT authors and offers workshops for authors, discount student passes, and readings galore.

LGBT and Women’s Services

There aren’t any LGBT-specific health clinics in New Orleans, but Planned Parenthood is a great resource for reproductive health and sexual health needs, though they won’t provide help with transitioning. I recommend NO/AIDS for free HIV testing and services for people with HIV/AIDS; they have multiple locations. The LGBT Center and Louisiana Trans Advocates keep a list of LGB- and T-friendly healthcare providers.

The NOLA LGBT Community Center is located in the Marigny triangle, a neighborhood bordering the French Quarter. It offers some support groups, a library of LGBT-related books, and resources and information on local community groups. It’s volunteer-run, so the hours depend on when volunteers are available to keep the door open. Though the Center maintains an FB page with upcoming and ongoing events, there isn’t much you will learn from them that we haven’t incorporated here. It’s not really a tourist hotspot, but more suited to local groups looking for a place to meet.

Haircuts & Tattoos

What do you mean you don’t trust anyone with a pair of scissors? Yeah, me either. So where should you go to get your hair cut? Recommendations from several friends: Rocket Science Beauty Bar, Sarah Earl at Lacey Stevens Salon on the Northshore, Monica Tinoco at Regis Salon in Lakeside Mall, Headquarters in the French Quarter, TruRoots (specializing in Black/African/Carribbean natural hairstyles), and my fantastic hairstylist, Destiny King at Paris Parker Aveda in Lakeside Mall.

Tattoo-a-go-go was recommended by a queer friend whose work is fabulous, as was Kai Kita at Mid-City Voodoux Tattoo. My favorite artist for custom work is Cornbread at Pigment; he’s also inked several of my(queer and trans) friends. He’s not a pick-a-tattoo-off-the-wall kind of guy; he is a true custom artist. My favorite piercer is Pat Roig at NOLA Tattoo and Piercing. He trained under Elayne Angel at the former Rings of Desire shop in NOLA. Pat is queer/trans-friendly and definitely who you want to go to if you want a genital piercing.

Louisiana Laws

Unfortunately, Louisiana’s legislature isn’t very queer-friendly. Louisiana has no state ENDA (employment non-discrimination act) covering sexual orientation or gender identity. There is an amendment to the Louisiana Constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman. Single individuals can adopt, but second parent adoption by someone who is not married to the first parent is not legal. There’s no legal recognition of any kind of same-sex relationships. Louisiana does have a hate crime law which covers “actual or perceived gender and sexual orientation,” but not gender identity. Transsexual individuals can get their gender on their birth certificate changed but only with a letter from a doctor certifying full sexual reassignment surgery (top and bottom).

New Orleans itself is much more progressive. Orleans Parish (which includes only the boundaries of the city) has an ordinance banning employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. New Orleans has a domestic partnership registry for same-sex and different sex partners, and the city offers insurance to same-sex partners of civic employees.

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Caroline has written 1 article for us.


    • There’s not a lot of organization or infrastructure in the community; you have to kind of know people to find where people are. Facebook is how most events are advertised, but you can only invite people to events if they are on your friends list… which means it’s totally ineffective advertising. There’s a lot of us, it’s just that we don’t do a good job of getting the word out. OKCupid opened my eyes to how many queers there are in this city that I had no idea existed!

      I’m working on a website to change that. I want a central place where anyone can find queer events in NOLA easily.

  1. Ooh, awesome, thanks! I was hoping someone would do one of these for New Orleans! I’d never been here until I moved down a couple weeks ago, and I am definitely still trying to find my bearings. The only person I actually know here is my mother, and not that I don’t love my mother, but… well. There is really only so much time a girl can spend hanging out with her mom. And more to the point, she knows very little about gay bars. :)

  2. Caroline…..I dont read auto-straddle!! But I just saw your link, read it and loved it!! You did it and I think it’s amazing!!! Thank you, thank you

    P.S You were spot on with us having a large number of black queer people. Until Katrina, New Orleans had the largest population of black LGBTQ people, past that of New York, DC, and ATL!!!!

  3. New Orleans is legitimately one of the greatest cities in the U.S. The first time I went, I fell in love, so much so that I’m currently planning a move there. Thanks for this…going to really come in handy in a few months.

  4. YES! So happy to see a Queer Guide to my city – I was hoping it would happen. Fellow NOLA queers, you should send me a message – it’s been really hard for most people I know to meet queer female-identified people in the Crescent City. I’ve really enjoyed Vanity at Bourbon Pub, Allways (especially Queerlesque events), and the Country Club. I was really sad when Rubyfruit closed as well. My favorite events, bar none, are NOLAW bouts. Awesome spaces that are explicitly anti-racist and anti-sexist, costumes, entourages, and arm-wrestling – what more could you ask for? At the last event I went to, Kristen Schaal from The Daily Show arm-wrestled one of the refs and got “married” to her fiance on-stage. I can’t express how much I love New Orleans – it’s also an incredible space to learn from amazing community organizers and activist leaders and to understand the process of being an active and engaged member of a community.

  5. And not to ramble forever, but Trolley Stop on St Charles is another great late-night place, open ’til at least 2 am with diner food. Women With A Vision’s offices were just burned – it appears to be a case of arson. To support them, check out http://wwav-no.org/wwav-after-the-fire. And PISAB (People’s Institute) does incredible work – their Undoing Racism trainings are the shit.

    • Decadence is primarily gay men, though Dykeadence offers events around the city for everyone on the queer spectrum. In my head they are different things, but in reality, it’s just a weekend full of chaos and magic and more glitter than you can imagine.

      Decadence is a weekend with little organization and no “official” events (no matter what anyone says). It was begun by a group of friends, and people keep trying to take over and claim they “run Decadence.” But no one believes them. The parade has an official start time, but anyone, anywhere can join in. A few bars have events, but mostly it’s men in the streets. Dykeadence is better organized; there is a list of events, for example. You make of the weekend what you will. Go to everything, especially the parade, and you will have a fabulous time, no matter who you are with!

  6. This is really helpful… I’ve been here in NOLA for a year but this opened me up to a lot of stuff (I don’t see much, as a grad student).

    Not to hop on the bandwagon, but re:sports, I’m part of a new roller derby league that is actively recruiting (i.e. no tryouts) skaters of any level, gender, etc etc. And we’re awesome, if you want to get into that kind of stuff. Look us up: Crescent City Derby Devils.

    I think you also should have linked to the LesBe Nola FB page, just because it updates on events a lot:

    Thanks for this!

  7. So stoked to see this! I just moved to NOLA from Boston about 2 1/2 weeks ago to start training with teachNOLA. They’ve been keeping me busy so far, but when training is over in 3 weeks I can’t wait to start checking out everything on this list. It’s so cool to be living in a city that is so vibrant and full of all of these amazing opportunities to get involved in activism and community building. I’m really excited to get started with my life down here!
    NOLA queers, we should have a pride meetup next weekend!

    • Hi Becca! Could you share with me your transition from Boston to NOLA? I am thinking of making the same move! I know there is a tiny chance that you will see this but thought I would try anyway :D

  8. Just so everyone knows, the Carnival Kings are going back to the Pub on Tuesday nights at midnight, so Frat House won’t have queer events anymore.

    If you’re around NOLA this weekend, there is a ton of stuff going on because it’s Pride Weekend:

    NOLA Pridefest: https://www.facebook.com/nolapridefest

    Carnival Kings @ Ampersand Friday night: https://www.facebook.com/events/346909225379443/

    2 Shows from Vanity/Queerlesque!/La Familia on Saturday at Allways: https://www.facebook.com/events/461764547170340/

    Happy Pride, ya’ll :)

  9. Hey! this is a sweet guide, but one thing:
    Why do you mention when a bar is “predominantly african-american,” but don’t talk about race otherwise?
    I understand if you’re trying to. . .offer resources for people of color queers who might be looking for a queer, mostly people of color safe space to hang out in. . . but why not say when spaces are mostly white then? Or something else?

  10. THANKS! I’ve been wondering when someone would write a post for the queers of NOLA. I’m moving there within the year and while I’ve been around the city (all the love to Frenchman! And, One Eyed Jacks. ALSO: check out The Spotted Cat and Mimi’s in the Marigny, also great chill hangouts with lotsa music.) I haven’t had much experience with queer NOLA. So anyways, this is rad. Gotta get me down to that country club shebang, sounds rad.

  11. OH SHOOT. i read the second page. Fuck yeah, tattoo-a-go-go. I got all my work done there. They are super great and in a really pretty area of Magazine. There’s a great coffee shop down that a way, too.

  12. As a native New Orleanian, this is by far and away the best possible city guide… and good goddess Caroline do you never sleep!! Heh j/k — and thanks for posting the Pride links. I am one of the co-organizers of Dykeadence (I also produce Queerlesque! and perform in other stuff). I just wanted to post directly in case anyone wants to know more about Dykeadence.

    Caroline in her post above described it pretty well — we are an umbrella of events produced by dozens of people and orgs. Literally they can range from a drum circle or book club to an impromptu all clothes off pool party (impromptu on the clothing removal). But the people who run the Dykeadence website, make sure Dykeadence is advertised all over the South and nation (already have friends from as far away as Seattle and New York coming in), find folks housing… that’s all we really do (though it is a lot more work than it seems but isn’t everything worth doing?). The events come from the people which is why we always say it is community-led and -driven. So — anyone living in Nola, check out dykeadence.com and if you have an idea for any kind of event — submit! And for out-of-town folks — I can honestly say (very crassly, I know) that every friend of mine who has come to Dykeadence has gotten laid. I promise there is much more than that — but we want to stay true to the spirit of SoDec too haha!

    Also, just as an aside about Queerlesque! — I am very explicit about the shows featuring all types of queer bodies and have worked really hard on that especially on getting masculine women and transmasculine people a safe (and sexy) stage. So I have performers who say they do draglesque, butchlesque, boilesque, translesque and — my newest — bearlesque. (of course femme or feminine women are also welcome and I hope it goes without saying that that includes feminine cis and trans women). I am always welcoming new performers and am happy to help train and mentor you or find someone whose style you like to help out. We aren’t a troupe — but we are a family.

    Thanks again Caro! You done us good. (I’m refraining from inserting some cheesy Nola-only line — like Laissez le bon temps rouler… Oh damn I did it ;D )

  13. I’m so happy to see this guide. I’m taking a road trip to NOLA next month with a group of queer friends, and this tells me everything we could possibly need to know. Thank you so, so much! I had no idea New Orleans was such a queer city. The only problem is that our two days in town is clearly not enough.

  14. ahhh y’all this is such a good guide. I love Zot’z! I don’t know if I would say it’s goth though, just artsy and super queer. Tuesday nights at The Pub on Bourbon are girls night upstairs, although it’s not something I’ve been to since high school. Also, St. Charles Tavern in the Lower Garden District is queer friendly and 24 hours with great breakfast food.

    La Trans Advocates is a great resource for trans* people all over the state, and has social support meetings in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, and Shreveport. I love the group, and it’s such a great way to meet other trans*, gender-variant, and allied people!

    Lastly, on June 23rd in Baton Rouge, we’re having the first-ever march for LGBT rights in the state. The Equality March starts at 9am at the corner of 4th street and North Boulevard. We want as many people as possible to come out with signs and t-shirts and loud voices!

  15. Just a note – The Tulane Women Organizing for Righteous Dykedom (TWORD) has changed our name to Student Women Embracing Equality at Tulane (SWEET) and you can find us at tulanesweet.tumblr.com! I’m the president of the club for 2012-2013 so if you have any questions feel free to contact me or message us on tumblr.

  16. So, it hit me that we’ve never done any sort of Autostraddle meet-up in New Orleans. Why is that? And would anyone be interested? Maybe a random weekend (or a Thursday night) in a random bar? Or maybe during a Ladies’ Night at Witt’s Inn or Country Club?

    • My friends and I will be in town the 13-15. We’d love to meet queer women in town while we’re there, if you’d be willing to take us out somewhere. We definitely want to see Country Club.

      • Unfortunately my young cousin is staying with me that weekend, so I won’t be going anywhere near the queer scene or bars in general. But you should definitely check out Country Club (even if you don’t make it on Ladies’ night, it’s still a great place). I haven’t heard of much going on this weekend, but if I do, I’ll try to post it here.

  17. Pingback: New Orleans – A Great Summer Travel Destination | Purple Roofs Gay Travel Blog

  18. Hey all! My gal and I are headed to New Orleans November 16th through 20th. We have yet to determine where we are staying. Any recommendations on good queer or centrally located hostels? Or queer coops that would lend a couch! Thanks y’all

  19. NOLA sounds incredible, can’t wait for my visit (3-5 feb) although timing really could have been better what with the Super Bowl. If anyone’s around then and fancy meeting I’m always keen to meet fellow straddlers…

  20. I can’t even tell you how helpful this was! I was just in NOLA for Mardi Gras. Spent 4 nights wingwomaning my friends and failing to find ANY gay ladies. Thank you for restoring my faith that I am not crazy. The city itself was super cool, but Bourbon is so overrated.

    • We are about to head down again in a couple of weeks, and I was wondering if you had any new ideas! A bunch of the awesome places in this article are no more…..What did you find?

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  22. my wife is applying for jobs in NOLA and we are looking to move soon. we are looking for places to rent, but we have 3 animals (2 dogs and 1 cat) and we also need affordable. do you have suggestions on how to find a good place?

  23. Pingback: The Lost Lesbian Bars of New Orleans | Viral Social

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