My reaserch interest is focused in queer population and how its interseccionality lives together with the different challenges that each culture presents to a not heteronormative body. In my research about New Orleans I found that the city praises itself of being GLBTQ friendly being pioneering in U.S. with events like Fat Monday Luncheon, 1949, and civil movements like the Steamboat Club in1953; and remarking that the city has always being supportive of GLBTQ rights (non-discrimination ordinance, 1991; Gender Identity Law, 1998).
But when it comes to disaster situations, the more difficult and discriminatory existence of the GLBTQ community came to light, like in the aftermath of Katrina, because, like several testimois imply, during the tragedy all civilians where equal, but when it came to asking for aid and accesing to health services the failures and lack of resources and information to attend this diverse community was evident. Forcing them to negotiate their existence in heteronormative ways just to access to the basic needs for survival, e.g. transwomen being registered like men, transmen not being able to take showers, lesbian couples being registerd like sisters, among other sobering examples.
Charlotte D'Ooge describes that "While the traditionally gay male neighborhoods of New Orleans such as the French Quarter, the Marigny, and the Bywater were part of the 20 percent of the city that did not flood badly, the areas with a traditionally high proportion of lesbians and queer people of color, notably MidCity, were hit hard." The people that used to live in these prior queer friendly spaces were forced to leave the city, and in many cases hasn't been able to come back, being relocated across U.S., and the city itself hasn't recognized the existence of these neighborhoods as "gay friendly" focusing its regeneration and tourist appeal just in the traditionally white, male and gay spaces, a common reduction of all the GLBTQ community that leads to the concealment of all the gender and sexual diversities, here linked also to their socio-economic background.
The failing public system led queer people to look up for health and aid into the queer community developing support networks independently led by bar owners our event managers that were famous before the disaster, showing that in the disaster context the GLBTQ community couldn't trust neither the services from the State nor international support like the Red Cross. W. L. Leap does an important theoretical remark in this subject pointing out that "For purposes of theoretical neatness, perhaps, anthropologists may not want to assume the identity of the subject before it is actually named. But as the panelists made clear, FEMA made such assumptions repeatedly as matters of policy and practice -- and queer-identified subjects were inconvenienced, sometimes significantly so because of it" making a call to researchers that study this population in disaster situations.
A final anotation, that I wasn't able to fully develop, was my surprise to find out that several religious and fundamentalist groups blamed the gay community and its debauchery for causing the anger of God and consequentely the hurricane Katrina, the linking of climate disasters with religious beliefs in the XXI century strikes me as hidden the actual origins of the tragedy.
Cited articles and web pages:
D’Ooge, Charlotte. 2008. “Queer Katrina: Gender and Sexual Orientation Matters in the Aftermath of the Disaster.” In Beth Willinger (ed.) Katrina and the Women of New Orleans, pp. 22–4. New Orleans, LA: Tulane University.
Leap, W. L., Lewin, E., & Wilson, N. (2007). Queering the Disaster: A Presidential Session. North American Dialogue, 10(2), 11–14.doi:10.1525/nad.2007.10.2.11
RICHARDS, G. (2010). Queering Katrina: Gay Discourses of the Disaster in New Orleans. Journal of American Studies, 44(03), 519–534.doi:10.1017/s0021875810001210