As a homo searching for his flock, knowing that New Orleans is a gay-friendly city was an immediate draw. As I searched for neighborhoods that would appeal to me most, one question kept popping up: "Where's the gayborhood?" Let's think of some renowned gayborhoods in certain other cities: The Castro in San Francisco, Chelsea in New York, DuPont Circle in DC, and the Gayborhood in Philadelphia. Now, try to think of which neighborhood would most likely be labeled "gay" in New Orleans.
On the New York Times' list of cities with the highest LGBT populations, New Orleans ranked fourth with 5.1% of the population identifying as such. According to NerdWallet, the city was placed at number 12 on its LGBT-friendliest cities based on data pulled from the Human Rights Campaign. The Advocate gives us an honorable mention, listing the city as the 16th gayest city in America on their 2014 list. So, New Orleans is the city to be in when you're queer, single and ready to mingle (or gay and partnered up, for that matter). But, even with its renowned reputation, New Orleans seems to lack the vital thing other LGBT-friendly cities possess: a specific gayborhood.
But why do these gayborhoods (or "gay villages") even matter? In the Vice article, "The Future of Our Gay Neighborhoods", Professor Amin Ghaziani sums it up this way: "Historically, gay neighborhoods are spatial expressions of a specific form of oppression." Most of these spaces popped up in the '70s, post-Stonewall, as people shifted from congregating at bars to specific neighborhoods.
Now, back to this question of where the NOLA gayborhood is. The French Quarter is a good first thought, but the neighborhood doesn't distinguish itself much, gay-ly speaking, from other areas, with the exception of the occasional rainbow flag and gay bar. A better option might be the Faubourg Marigny, which is often thought of as a gay village with its various bars, famous gay bookstore, and two local LGBT organizations: Belle Reve on Royal and The Lesbian and Gay Community Center on Decatur. But, both of these neighborhoods still have a general character that overshadows its association with the gay community. So, there's not quite a distinct gayborhood here, but is that necessarily a bad thing?
If we think about recent political developments, the transition into more mixed spaces doesn't seem so troublesome. Gallup's poll on whether or not gay or lesbian relations should be legal had 68% of respondents in 2015 agreeing that they should be, whereas in 1977 this number was at only 43%. Considering that the city has become more receptive to LGBT individuals, the need for specific locales for LGBT people to gather around would, logically, follow this trend.
For instance, gayborhood or not, The French Quarter has still always been an epicenter for LGBT movements. New Orleans' storied history with gay rights might have started decades ago with Dixie's Bar of Music, which opened in the CBD in 1939. This world-famous bar paved the way for queer individuals. Legendary "Miss Dixie" Fasnacht corralled all types of people together including straights, gays, celebrities, Uptowners, Downtowners and more. Bars like Dixie's and Café Lafitte (the oldest continuously-open gay bar in the US) led the movement and continue to do so today, while newer additions like Oz uphold the same queer spirit. The Gertrude Stein Democratic Club also formed in the French Quarter, paving the way for a distinct LBGT network consisting of organizations like the NO/AIDS Task Force. Literary legends (and famous queers) Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams made temporary homes in the Quarter, which they would revisit from time to time. And if all of that that isn't enough of a draw for LGBT individuals, the annual Southern Decadence Fest and New Orleans Pride events certainly are.
What makes New Orleans' LGBT movement unique is that it doesn't need to concentrate in one part of the city. Considering that most of the city focuses itself on social events, it would make sense that the community thrives more so along social borders than geographical ones. This may make it seem less organized than other gay areas in the country. But, it should be seen as a testament to New Orleans' status as an LGBT-friendly city that gay individuals can live comfortably wherever they see fit.