Southern Decadence in New Orleans by Howard Philips Smith; Frank Perez
Publication Date: 2018-08-02
Founded in the summer of 1972 by a few friends as a modest celebration, the Southern Decadence festival has since grown into one of New Orleans's largest annual tourist events. The multiday extravaganza features street parties, drag contests, dancing, drinking, and bead tosses, culminating with a boisterous parade through the French Quarter. With over 200,000 participants--predominantly LGBT+--these unbridled, pre-Labor Day festivities now generate millions of dollars in revenue. Howard Philips Smith and Frank Perez's Southern Decadence in New Orleans brings together an astounding array of materials to provide the first comprehensive, historical look at Southern Decadence. In an engaging account spanning five decades, the authors combine a trove of rare memorabilia from the event's founders, early photographs and film stills, newspaper and magazine articles, interviews with longtime participants, a list of all the parades and grand marshals, as well as reproductions of early Southern Decadence invitations. Throughout, the authors explore the pivotal moments and public perceptions related to the festival--including the myths and conjecture that often inaccurately characterized it--and provide an in-depth narrative detailing how a small party in the Faubourg Tremé grew into a worldwide destination predominantly for gay men. Lauded by city leaders as the second-most profitable festival in New Orleans (outshone only by Mardi Gras), Southern Decadence emanates an air of frivolity that masks its enormous impact on the culture and economy of the Crescent City. But with such growth comes the challenge of maintaining the original spirit of camaraderie while managing expanding administrative and logistical responsibilities. Southern Decadence in New Orleans serves as a historical record that helps ensure the future of the celebration remains forever linked to the joyous impulse of its humble beginnings.
Buried for decades, the Up Stairs Lounge tragedy has only recently emerged as a catalyzing event of the gay liberation movement. In revelatory detail, Robert W. Fieseler chronicles the tragic event that claimed the lives of thirty-one men and one woman on June 24, 1973, at a New Orleans bar, the largest mass murder of gays until 2016. Relying on unprecedented access to survivors and archives, Fieseler creates an indelible portrait of a closeted, blue- collar gay world that flourished before an arsonist ignited an inferno that destroyed an entire community. The aftermath was no less traumatic--families ashamed to claim loved ones, the Catholic Church refusing proper burial rights, the city impervious to the survivors' needs--revealing a world of toxic prejudice that thrived well past Stonewall. Yet the impassioned activism that followed proved essential to the emergence of a fledgling gay movement. Tinderbox restores honor to a forgotten generation of civil-rights martyrs.
Much of the disparate outcomes experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other identities along the spectrum (LGBTQ+) people of color are directly linked to the practices of public actors and through institutional policies. This is perhaps no truer than for LGBTQ+ individuals of color in their interactions with police. This article argues that intersectional subjection fosters an environment prime for predatory policing and uses it as a framework to examine perceptions of predatory policing practices and its role in the exploitation of LGBTQ+ people of color in New Orleans. Research findings suggest that participants perceive predatory policing as part of the everyday practices of the New Orleans Police Department, where modes of power and social control tactics are regularly used to maintain systems of oppression. Ultimately, the goal of this project is to use the lived experience to explore the presence of predatory policing to understand how it has contributed to the marginalization of LGBTQ+ identifying individuals of color.
Through 32 in-depth surveys with drag kings, I ask how do trans*/nonbinary individuals find a way to make a home in the Southeastern United States? I answer this by examining the use of drag kinging as a resource to explore gender identity and find resources for gender transition. This study adds to previous research on drag kinging by expanding beyond large cities and college towns to include a broader look at the Southeast, where queer lives have often been rendered invisible. I highlight the importance of geographic location on attitudes about gender and resources available to trans*/nonbinary people. In contrast to other areas of the country, trans*/nonbinary drag kings in the Southeast use drag as a place to explore a “felt” identity that is stifled in the broader culture.