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Gay New Orleans, post-Katrina

“All those preachers who blamed the gay community for Katrina — our neighborhoods were the ones that had the rainbow over us and were blessed.”

— Larry Bagneris, executive director of the New Orleans Human Relations Commission

The flooding that destroyed much of New Orleans was folllowed by a second flood — from the mouths of bigots in the pulpit that were focused on “God’s retribution” on gay folks. There was an impact, but how do they explain why so much of the “decadent” areas were spared — where hets and homos of all colors famously partied and (over) indulged? By their logic, God just hates poor black people — oh, nevermind. They were on the list too. (365gay):

A few Christian political activists blamed Hurricane Katrina on gays, noting that it hit immediately prior to gay-friendly New Orleans’ famed “Southern Decadence” gay festival.

But, in fact, about the only parts of the city that weren’t severely damaged by the massive flooding from burst levees were the gayest areas. And the New Orleans gay scene appears to be bouncing back faster than the city in general.

“The 20 percent of the city that was spared, 80 percent of those parts of the city are gay [neighborhoods],” said Larry Bagneris, executive director of the New Orleans Human Relations Commission. “The benefits of living in that environment — the French Quarter, the Marigny, the Bywater, Uptown — where most gay people live, they were spared the water. We’ve come back not only to dry land, but to our jobs.

You’ll recall some of the bile…

* The Rev. Robert Guste of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Kenner said “the city’s large number of gay bars could have been a contributing factor, the “debauchery” of Mardi Gras, gambling and pornography. “Does this not invite divine judgment…God was knocking on our door and telling us to get our house ready.”

* Sen. Hank Erwin (R-Montevallo-Alabama) opined: “New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness.”

* Rabbi Yehuda Levin of Jews for Morality tossed off this one: “in the aftermath of the flood that there was a significant amount of sexual crime, rape going on there. We know the Days of Decadence immorality, homosexual immorality — they were expecting at least 125,000 people literally at the time that the flood struck. I mean, I don’t think it takes a spiritual rocket scientist to make the connection.”

* Repent America director Michael Marcavage lost his cookies: “Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city. From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence’, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same.”

* and we cannot forget the Rotting CryptkeeperTM: New Orleans, symbol of America, seen for what it is: a putrid, toxic, stinking cesspool of fag fecal matter…It is a sin NOT to rejoice when God executes His wrath and vengeance upon America…Pray for more dead bodies floating on the fag-semen-rancid waters of New Orleans.

In all seriousness, this article is also interesting because it’s one of the first I’ve seen that breaks down the damage by identified gay/lesbian residential neighborhoods.

“The flooding hit a lot of the community that is less visible than the bar crowd,” said Randal Beach, co-chair of the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans. “A lot of the people whose social activities revolve around the bar scene live in and around the French Quarter, and they were fortunately spared the flooding. But many others in the community — particularly the women’s and trans[gender] communities — lived in areas that were badly flooded. New Orleans also has a large black community, and the overwhelming majority those people lived in neighborhoods that were severely damaged.”

…Lesbians took a harder hit, Bagneris said, because “more lesbians lived in [the flooded] Mid-City and Lakeview [areas], and many have kids that have to go to school.” Most schools have not reopened, which prevents people with school-aged children from coming home, even if they have a home to come home to, which most evacuees do not.

The city’s lesbian population is likely to remain depleted for some time, said Belinda Hernandez, an openly gay executive producer at WDSU-TV. “A lot of the lesbian population relocated — and we don’t even know where they are,” she said. “Lakeview is gone. Much of Mid-City was under water as well.”

The city’s Lesbian and Gay Community Center may close because of a lack of resources. NOLA’s center hosts the Metropolitan Community Church; Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and other community institutions, as well as a resource library.

“It’s devastating,” Beach said. “We have met several times trying to figure out how to keep the doors open. The base of our support has always been in the community itself, we’ve never had a lot of corporate support, [and] many of our heavy donors are scattered around the country. Many we haven’t been able to talk to. We don’t even know where they went.

“Also, it’s hard to ask people for money when they don’t even have a house,” he said. The center has 100 to 150 core donors but has been able to contact “no more than half a dozen of them,” Beach said.

Read the rest of the article; it features interviews with local bartenders, who don’t have anything nice to say about FEMA.

Thanks to Blender Chandler for the pointer.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding