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: 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.
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
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)
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.
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.