New Orleans has always welcomed folks who like to let their freak flags fly. We paint our houses in garish shades of pink and purple. We throw block parties to celebrate holidays that few Americans have ever heard of. And many of us have armoires, closets, or sometimes whole rooms dedicated to costumes categorized by event: Carnival, Halloween, Southern Decadence, and on and on and on.
So, it’s no surprise that New Orleans has a history of making outsiders feel right at home. Generations of LGBT people know that first hand — even those with a passion for life’s nerdier endeavors.
New Orleans has a history of making outsiders feel right at home.
In fact, now is a perfect time for gaymers, cosplay fans, and others of that ilk to make the (star) trek to New Orleans and revel in the city’s geek chic. Whether you’re L, G, B, T, Q, or a straight ally, if you know how to tell a d10 from a TARDIS or a tapped mana card, here are some sights you really ought to see.
Stops and Shops
One of New Orleans’ newest bookstores is completely crushed out on geek culture. Did you leave your latest read at home? Keep calm and ask the staff: they’re happy to make recommendations. In the mood for games? You’ll find plenty to suit your tastes, from simple card games to complex RPGs. On Sunday nights at 6 p.m., owner Candice Huber and her crew also host their own LGBT-friendly game night: “We play everything from hidden traitor games like Resistance and Werewolf to storytelling games like Gloom to strategy games,” Huber says. “There’s truly something for everyone.” Stop in and search the room.
Though it’s best known as a music venue (with a kitchen that serves up some of New Orleans’ best eastern European fare), Siberia is also very passionate about the games. Mosey on over to St. Claude Avenue for Siberia’s semi-regular “Sword & Backpack” night. Bring your dice and roll ‘em ‘til the break of dawn.
Looking for something a little more low-key, a little less organized? These two neighborhood bars may be right up your alley. Cutter’s has a laid-back vibe and a solid selection of board games for patrons to use. (Cookouts are common, too, in case you need to nosh.) Next door at Big Daddy’s, you can often find a group of locals playing Magic the Gathering or tabletop games over a few beers, especially on Sunday afternoons.
Lower Decatur Street
If you’re a costume enthusiast, carve an afternoon out of your schedule to sift through Decatur Street’s endless array of shops, especially the ones between Ursulines and Esplanade Avenue. From superhero Spandex onesies to codpiece-friendly RenFair garb, these places have you covered (or uncovered, your call).
New Orleans’ Comic Con may not be as well-known as other meet-ups on the map, but make no mistake: our fans can hang with the best of them. This year, organizers have gone above and beyond the call of duty, bringing in some of geekdom’s biggest stars. Headliners include Doctor Who faves Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, and Jenna Coleman, Battlestar Galactica’s Edward James Olmos, and staunch LGBT ally/Captain America, Chris Evans. Bring all your feels.
Every year, the Carnival season starts on Jan. 6 and runs through Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras Day, which is Feb. 9 in 2016). In the weeks leading up to the big day, social clubs called “krewes” of every size, shape, and orientation don their snazziest, glitteriest gear and revel until the wee hours. Many gay krewes have elaborate formal balls, which we’ll write about next month and are well worth seeing. Just as exciting, this year, an upstart group of LGBT gaymers has spawned a new krewe called the Krewe of d20. It’ll parade as part of a larger group called Chewbacchus (appropriate, right?) on Jan. 30. Expect no beads, but if you’re lucky, you might get to rub against a few special pairs of dice.
Saints and Sinners began more than a decade ago as an offshoot of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival. The latter had become so popular with LGBT writers and readers, that the organizers saw the need to create a space just for queer authors, panels, and booksellers — and boy, did they. This year’s festival will feature dozens of novelists, poets, memoirists, and other wordsmiths who probably love libraries almost as much as you do.
NOCAZ just wrapped its second year, and by all accounts it was a huge success. Though the dates for 2016 haven’t yet been set, expect dozens of amazing zine artists selling books, buttons, and other goodies — and admission is free.