Pride of Place: A photo essay celebrating New Orleans’ LGBTQ community | Events

Pride of Place: A photo essay celebrating New Orleans' LGBTQ community | Events


… The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky

Also on the faces of people going by

I see friends shaking hands, saying how do you do

They’re only saying I love you

— Louis Armstrong, “What a Wonderful World”


NFL Campaign Initiatives - NOLA - Day 1

Southern Decadence celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2022.

This Pride month, I’m reminded of the power of the rainbow flag. Twenty years ago, I stood on Bourbon Street as Grant Storms, the self-proclaimed “Christian Patriot,’’ and nearly 200 of his followers marched toward Southern Decadence revelers, carrying brooms and signs that read “Adam and Eve, Not Adam and Steve’’ and “Sodomy: It’s to Die For.’’

As I stood behind my camera lens, capturing the tense standoff, I couldn’t help but be struck by the hateful messages and clenched fists juxtaposed against the joyful revelers on the balconies above, draped in colorful rainbow flags. The symbolic potency of the contrast struck me with a force I still feel today.

Each color of the Pride flag has a specific meaning — red for life, orange for healing, yellow for sunlight, green for nature, blue for harmony and purple for spirit. Together, the colors represent the full spectrum of human experience and identity.


Flexin’ during Pride 2022

For much of my career, I’ve aimed my lens toward gay Mardi Gras krewes, the Gay Easter Parade, Southern Decadence, and drag brunches throughout the city. New Orleanians have long taken pride in our thriving and diverse gay community. In the face of discrimination and hate, New Orleans stands tall as a city proudly waving the rainbow flag, reflecting its dedication to creating a more inclusive and welcoming community for all.

Everywhere you look in the Quarter there are rainbows draped on buildings, on balconies, in the windows of businesses.

Peering through my camera lens, I have witnessed firsthand how the rainbow is a powerful symbol of unity and acceptance and I love capturing the many ways that people incorporate it into their own personal expressions. The popularity of the rainbow is not lost on New Orleans’ businesses, either. One example is Windsor Court’s annual LGBTea, a drag show tea hour, complete with rainbow cookies and cocktails.


Blake Robertson leads the parade during Brides of March 2023.

I was recently hired to photograph the relatively new Brides of March, a charitable pub-crawl in which dozens of men, and some women, second line through the Quarter dressed in bridal gowns. The coveted lacy garter, embellished with a rainbow ribbon, is thrown from the balcony of the Good Friends Bar to the “brides” gathered on the street below, much to the delight of passersby, children included. It was not lost on me that these men could be arrested in nearby states.


A big fan of Brides of March 2022

Two decades since the “Christian Patriot” and his band of bigots marched on Bourbon, I am stunned by how much of the progress made since has been eroded by a wave of anti-LGBTQ laws that threaten the significant freedoms gained.

Even the colorful flag that represents Pride is under attack: In April this year, a Covington resident paid $6,000 for a billboard to support librarians, who are also under attack these days. The ad read “Support Your Local Library,” set against a background of Pride’s rainbow flag, plus pink and light blue from the transgender flag and a black stripe to represent people of color. The message was swiftly taken down after the billboard’s owner received too many complaints.

Unfortunately, Louisiana is rushing headlong in the same direction that other Southern states like Florida, Tennessee and Texas have gone. Lawmakers here recently passed their version of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay’’ bill and are either in the process of passing or planning to pass more bills targeting the human rights of the LGBTQ community.


The Mystic Krewe of PUEWC marched in Southern Decadence 2017.

While our state’s political class may be busy hurting the LGTBQ community, here in New Orleans, we don’t bow down, as the popular Black Masking Indian song goes. We have a long history of standing up to injustice and fighting for what’s right, from the Civil Rights movement to Katrina.

In fact in the days after the storm, some religious leaders argued the storm was God’s wrath for Southern Decadence, the largest gay event in the South, which had been scheduled for the following weekend. In true New Orleans style, several dozen scantily clad gay men found their way through the devastation to Bourbon Street and led a parade under their tattered rainbow flag. They brought with them a renewed sense of energy and passion for the city.

Meanwhile Storms, the so-called Christian Patriot, has taken a more ignoble path: He was arrested in 2011 on obscenity charges for masturbating in Lafreniere Park and is no longer a threat to the gay community.


The Pussyfooters during the 2022 Pride Parade

Unfortunately, the movement he represented remains not only alive and well but growing. Which is why it is so important for all of us to more tightly embrace the meaning behind the Pride flag and redouble our efforts to defend the human rights and dignity of us all.

As a photographer who has witnessed the power and beauty of this community up close and firsthand, I am committed to using my photography to shine a light on the beauty of the LGBTQ community and on the injustices that they face.

The rainbow flag represents a beacon of hope and a call to action for all those who believe in equality and justice. I am proud to stand with them in this fight.

See more of Cheryl’s Pride photos below:


A scene from Southern Decadence 2016


Pups for equality!


Kim Welsh and Nancy Ochsenschlager at Southern Decadence 2022

The New Orleans Pride Parade, New Orleans Black Pride Weekend and more events celebrate Pride month

The New Orleans Pride Parade is at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 10.


A scene from the 2001 Southern Decadence parade


The popularity of Pride events aren’t lost on brands, like Smirnoff.


Play party organizers Undercurrent during Southern Decadence


Drag performer Kookie Baker during the Windsor Court’s 2017 LGBTea show


The Merry Antoinettes

Ignoring the past holds back the present. Silence is no cure for what ails a participatory nation.


Big Freedia poses with homeowner Sarena Teng in front of the Queen of Bounce House Float during Carnival 2021.


A girl dances outside of the Golden Lantern during Gay Easter

Eloise_Lewis_shows_her pride_2023.JPG

Eloise Lewis shows her pride


A scene from Southern Decadence 2007


Drag performer Lexis Redd D’Ville at a drag brunch hosted by The Fillmore

PearlDamour gives the Ocean a voice in 'Ocean Filibuster,' opening June 8 at CAC

The Ocean has a lot to say.

New Orleans events this week: Re:SET, Creole Tomato Festival, World Naked Bike Ride and more coming up June 6-12

Find more events and keep up with the latest at