New Orleans Events for LGBTQ+ Visitors
Tennessee Williams, born Thomas Lanier Williams III, hailed from a small Mississippi town and lived as an adult in St. Louis. He found his true home in New Orleans — and changed his name! It was here he began to write some of the world’s finest plays.
“There are only three great cities in the United States,” Tennessee Williams once reportedly said. “New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans. All the rest are Cleveland.”
With no insult to Cleveland, New Orleans remains a unique destination that rival cities of the globe. In addition to its distinctive architecture, delectable cuisine and idiosyncratic culture, New Orleans is a welcoming place, a town where visitors can release their inhibitions and don their natural personalities. Clichés and the inevitable reciting of “laissez les bon temps rouler” or worse, “N’Awlins,” makes natives roll their eyes because they know that the beauty of New Orleans lies far beneath the beads thrown to tourists and the giant plastic cocktails sold on Bourbon Street. It’s about what the city represents.
“It is impossible to capture the essence, tolerance, and spirit of south Louisiana in words,” Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose once wrote.
Instead, we’ll offer a few LGBTQ+ events for those who want to let their rainbow flag fly and be surrounded by like-minded souls.
Saints + Sinners Literary Festival
The 19th Annual Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, which celebrates the best in LGBTQ+ authors and books, returns in person this year, part of the
Tennessee Williams & New Orleans Literary Festival. It also spotlights LGBTQ+ publishers so aspiring writers take note. The festival is held over three days at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, always a gathering spot for literary minds. Past authors who have frequented the hotel were Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams. This year’s event will be Friday through Sunday, March 25-27.
Every Easter, a parade of church-goers donning colorful hats leaves Antoine’s Restaurant to parade to Mass at the famous St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. It’s quite the spectacle, and it continues after Mass.
But there’s also the Gay Easter Parade, which began as a way for the LGBTQ+ community to show off their sense of fashion and pride. According to the Gay Easter Parade website, it’s a parade of “ladies in gowns or summer suits with Easter Hats and gentlemen in summer suits or tuxedos.” Visit https://www.gayeasterparade.com/ for more information but also their Facebook page for updates.
Of course, what would New Orleans be without a Pride festival and parade? You can bet New Orleans Pride is one of the nation’s best. And naturally, it happens in June.
Southern Decadence, the South’s largest LGBTQ+ event takes place over Labor Day Weekend in the French Quarter, with a giant lineup of festivities. It began as a group of “decadents” having fun over the holiday weekend and has grown to a massive celebration. This year’s event will be Sept. 1-5 and will include drag shows, community events and, of course, a vibrant parade through the French Quarter.
In case you haven't picked up on this, New Orleanians love to parade. And we'll use any excuse to do so.
Need more reasons to don costumes and get crazy? Halloween New Orleans (HNO) not only offers such fun but also raises money for those living with HIV and AIDS. (The event began as a dinner party to honor friends who had succumbed to the disease.) Events for the four-day festival include the annual Lazarus Ball, costume contests (naturally), costume ball and parade (again, naturally — it’s New Orleans!). Proceeds benefit the Lazarus Project, a home in New Orleans for men and women living with AIDS. Halloween New Orleans has raised more than $4.6 million for the project, according to their website.
The Greatest Free Party on Earth
And, of course, there’s Mardi Gras. Visitors will overload their iPhones on Mardi Gras Day with all the elaborate costumes that residents will don, but nothing comes close to the exuberance and outlandishness of the Bourbon Street Awards. It’s gayness at its finest, with costumes running the gamut from extravagant to risqué (and occasionally nude with headdress). It’s also the place for gays to enjoy Mardi Gras on Fat Tuesday.