Katrina's queer victims: Still suffering

One year later the lives of many LGBT New Orleans residents remain in tatters—no thanks to George Bush's "faith-based" charities, most of which condemn homosexuality and refuse to recognize, much less assist, our families.



It has been one
year since Hurricane Katrina barreled through New
Orleans. Thankfully the waters have receded, as has much of
the stench from the wreckage. What still lingers in
the post-Katrina relief efforts is the odious fault
lines of heterosexism and faith-based privilege.

While seemingly
invisible in this disaster, lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender, and queer evacuees and their families faced all
kinds of discrimination at the hands of many of the
faith-based relief agencies because of their sexual
orientation, gender identity, or HIV status.

And with most of
the evacuees being African-American, along with the
fault lines of race and the fact that sexual orientation is
on the "down-low" in much of the African-American
community, many African-American LGBT evacuees
experienced discrimination from both their communities
and black faith-based institutions.

"The Superdome
was no place to be an out black couple," said Jeremiah
Leblanc, who now lives in Shreveport, La. “We got
lots of stares and all kinds of looks. What were we
thinking? But my partner and I were in a panic and
didn't know what to do when we had to leave our home."

George W. Bush's
faith-based organizations fronted themselves as
"armies of compassion" on his behalf. But these
organizations' caveat to LGBT people was, If you
are gay, you ought to stay away.

And with black
churches, many of which are known for their unabashed
homophobia, conducting a large part of the relief effort,
African-American LGBT evacuees and their families had
neither a chance nor a prayer for assistance.

"When we were all
forced to leave the dome, we were gathered like cattle
into school buses,” said Leblanc. “[My
partner] Le Paul and I both needed our meds, clothes,
and a way to find permanent shelter after the storm,
but we knew to stay the hell away from the black churches
offering help. We couldn't tell anyone we were sick
and HIV-positive. And when we got to Houston, we saw
the Salvation Army, but Le Paul and I knew to stay the
hell away from that too."

The Salvation
Army delivered no salvation to a lot LGBT families. On its
Web site, the Salvation Army states: "Scripture forbids
sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The
Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians
whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively
same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of
life. There is no scriptural support for same-sex unions as
equal to, or as an alternative to, heterosexual

With an
administration that believes that restoring a spiritual
foundation to American public life has less to do with
government involvement and more to do with the
participation of faith-based groups, Bush slashed
needed government programs by calling on churches and
faith-based agencies, at taxpayers’ expense, to
provide essential social services that would also
impact the lives and well-being of its LGBT citizens.

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