Decadence no longer a ‘boys’ club

A+pair+of+revelers+walk+through+the+French+Quarter+at+Dykeadence+in+this+undated+photo.+Photo+credit%3A+Courtesy+of+Dykeadence
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Decadence no longer a ‘boys’ club

A pair of revelers walk through the French Quarter at Dykeadence in this undated photo. Photo credit: Courtesy of Dykeadence

A pair of revelers walk through the French Quarter at Dykeadence in this undated photo. Photo credit: Courtesy of Dykeadence

A pair of revelers walk through the French Quarter at Dykeadence in this undated photo. Photo credit: Courtesy of Dykeadence

A pair of revelers walk through the French Quarter at Dykeadence in this undated photo. Photo credit: Courtesy of Dykeadence

Jules Lydon

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Each Labor Day weekend, Southern Decadence, the largest gay event in the south, commences and welcomes the gay community from around the United States and the world to New Orleans. However, the event hasn’t always been geared toward those that identify as lesbian or transgender.

Southern Dykeadence was created in 2009 as a response to the lack of diversity celebrated within Southern Decadence, which was established in the 1960s and was comprised of primarily gay men.

“Gay, white, cisgender men have typically been the face of the LGBTQIA+ community, so bringing in diverse perspectives and identities is a big step in creating a more open and inclusive queer community,” Marisa Jurczyk, LGBT activist and sophomore sociology major, said.

In 2015, analytics company Gallup found that out of every city in the country, New Orleans had the fourth-largest gay population (5.1 percent). Last year, Southern Decadence broke all previous attendance records with over 200,000 attendees and brought an estimated $250 million into the city, according to the official Decadence page and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Even though Decadence is in its 46th year and is now the fifth-largest annual event, standing in line with the likes of Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, Essence Festival and French Quarter Festival, many members of the larger LGBT community felt that the celebration needed to include a more diverse cast of LGBT community members.

Similar to its male-centric counterpart, Dykeadence started as a small, grassroots celebration. With a dedicated group of 300 people, Dykeadence has grown to include and provide a space for more than 1,000 men and women. Their annual party during the Dykeadence festivities, Fleurt, has gained national recognition and has grown into one of the largest lesbian events in the south. This growth will be visible once the festivities begin on Aug. 30 and continue until Sept. 4, but it fills a need larger than a six-day festival.

Despite its large and vibrant LGBT community, New Orleans lacks regular and consistent spaces for people who identify as lesbian and transgender to gather.

Prior to its closing in 1999, Charlene’s was a bar where community members met to plan and enact legislation affecting LGBT people, including writing the first New Orleans Gay Rights Ordinance. Today, Charlene’s, along with all of its sister bars, are gone.

“The majority of the time, when something is labeled LGBTQ+ in New Orleans, the reality is that it’s actually only for certain kinds of gay men. And if you’re not in that population, there’s nothing for you. Which is why spaces like Dykeadence are so important — they give voices to people who feel rejected from the mainstream, male-centric events,” Kourtney Baker, recent Loyola graduate and LGBT advocate, said.

Dykeadence events start during Decadence this Labor Day weekend from Thursday, Aug. 31 through Monday, Sept. 4. Groups representing Dykeadence will also walk in a Decadence parade on Sunday, Sept. 3.

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