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25 November 2020

Trans New Orleans: Part III - Activism and Legal Changes

Part I: the early years to news of Christine Jorgensen

Part II: to the two fires of 1972-3

Part III: Activism and Legal Changes


Perry Desmond’s mother died, and wished to remember Perry ‘as you were’. Perry’s ex-lover had turned to Jesus, and kept sending her religious literature. She finally read it, and approached the Baptist Church next to the laundromat. The minister visited her at home, and she converted, and was persuaded that to God she was still a man. Perry reverted to male clothing. He (from now on) became a minister after a while, and a celebrity on the Christian circuit. He became a pioneer in the Exodus ex-gay movement.

Travis’s Bar on Rampart Street became the drag venue after Club My-O-My closed. It sponsered a Miss Drag Universe Pageant.


During a few weeks in the spring, five gay men were attacked and killed. The spree stopped when two black trans women tipped off the police. Sixteen-year-old Warren Harris who had been raised in a devout Baptist home was arrested. During questioning he expressed revulsion for gay men – this despite living with a trans woman. He was sentenced to three life sentences.

The Anita Bryant crusade against gay and trans persons came to New Orleans – her first public appearance after her successful overturn of the gay rights ordinance in Miami. Perry Desmond spoke out in support, but otherwise it became the first large mobilization of gay protesters.

Lucille Mar (born 1956) was arrested for prostitution. However a medical examination showed that she had previously been a man, and the Louisiana Law against prostitution applied only to women. The charges were dropped. 

Faubourg Marigny Bookstore opened, the first gay/feminist bookstore in the US South.


At Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Vicky West, the cover artist for New York’s Drag Magazine, was with a contingent organized by New York’s Lee's Mardi Gras Boutique when she met cis photographer Mariette Pathy Allen who was impressed by her posture: “who focused straight back at me. As I peered through the camera lens, I had the feeling that I was looking at neither a man nor a woman but at the essence of a human being”. As it turned out they lived 20 blocks apart in New York. They started going to parties and other events together.


Joanna Cluse had genital surgery from Dr Biber in Colorado. Joanna met and married a loving Jewish man, but cheated on him, and then asked for a divorce. Her next fiancé dropped her when he discovered her past.

Neil Cargile/Chenille, Tennessee cross-dresser and dare-devil pilot, landed a passenger at New Orleans, who then walked into the propellor and was decapitated.


Regina Adams, who had escaped the Upstairs Lounge fire, became a well known performer in New Orleans, first as a drag performer, and then as a woman. In 1980 Regina legally changed her name to Regina Adams, honoring the man who should have been her husband.

Colin Markland, previously sex-change surgeon at the University of Minnesota, was professor and Head of Urology at Louisiana State University.


Leslie Townsend was in New Orleans. She worked as a female impersonator and a sex worker.


Tara O’Hara had been raised by a Jehovah's Witness family in New Orleans. In the early 80s, he was working in Berlin as an English teacher. When he discovered Romy Haag's drag club he went back again and again, and started wearing drag to the club. This lead to a part in the show and he gave up both teaching and the Jehovah's Witnesses. She was in Rosa von Praunheim's 1983 film, Stadt Der Verlorenen Seelen (City of Lost Souls) along with Jayne County and Angie Stardust where they all play versions of themselves.

Future sex-change doctor Toby Meltzer graduated with a MD from Lousiana State University, then did a four-year residency at the Charity Hospital in New Orleans.


Perry Desmond died of a heart attack aged 48.


Gilbertine Liveaudais was a fashionable trans woman who managed to be at the best galas, balls and soirées. She was a self described and unapologetic “quadroon”, who had been raised in the Magnolia Housing Development. She always did well in the Miss Drag Universe Pageant. She performed at Travis’s Bar. 


Marsha and Rip Naquin-Delain moved to New Orleans. They expanded the coverage of Ambush Magazine to include the city.

Crystal Little, ex-navy, had been oscillating for 20 years. After her mother died, she started to live openly as a woman. Her son stopped speaking to her.


Marsha and Rip Naquin-Delain acquired the building at 828 Bourbon Street. The ground floor was the office of Ambush Magazine and Naquin and Delain lived upstairs.

Joanna Cluse returned to LaFayette. One evening, while drunk, she crashed her car and almost killed her passengers. In 1988 she married a single father of two children. They moved to Marietta, Georgia, and she became a Christian wife and mother, and stayed off drugs and alcohol.

Dave Parsons, punk rock author and record producer, lived in New Orleans for a while. He started performing mime and doing Charlie Chaplin impersonations. An Italian film crew found him and asked him to do Charlie at their film premier in Rome. He then ended up in Switzerland making a living as a Chaplin impersonator, and was the official Charlie Chaplin impersonator to the Chaplin family, working with them for 15 years. Dave as Donna completed transition in 2003, but died shortly afterwards.


Marcy Marcell, who missed the Upstairs Lounge Fire by being late, founded the Gay Appreciation Awards, a charity fundraiser.


  • Oliver Stone (dir) JFK. Scr: Oliver Stone & Zachery Sklar, with Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison, Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald, Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw. US 189 mins 1991. The major film about the 1963 presidential assassination which is shown as having been planned in New Orleans, with gay conspirators and a few fleeting drag queens, leading up to the trial of Clay Shaw. While some gay men may have been involved, the presentation here was upsetting to gay reviewers. Comment from GLAAD.


Megan Chavalier and Alex Forrset performed as drag queens at Papa Joe’s on Bourbon Street. Chavalier later moved to Hollywood and became a trans pornstar.

The City Council passed its first Gay non-discrimination ordinance.


  • Mark Frost (dir). Storyville. Mark Frost & Lee Reynolds (scr) with Bernard Zette as Tom Plunkett. US 113 mins 1992. Plunkett is a trans model who witnesses a murder, and then retreats to a male identity so as not to be found. Finally Plunkett – en femme – does appear at the trial to give evidence and is shot at, but survives. 


New Orleans Ordinance introduced same-sex domestic partnerships in 1993, Naquin and Delain were the first to be registered.

Section 5-66, ccs 18, 537, the ban on gay bar employee from 1959 was repealed; Ordinace 14.240 from 1935, that prohibited cross-dressing in public except on Mardi Gras, also repealed.


Joanna Cluse had embraced her Christian beliefs more deeply, and by 1994 had concluded that she was outside God’s will. She shared her conclusion with her husband, and they separated. She returned to Louisiana as a woman.


Trans woman Chrystal Little became director of the GLBT Community Center. She had already been president of Gulf Gender Alliance.


Joanna Cluse participated in Crossover, the ex-transgender group. Eighteen months later she did a 40-day fast, and then in January 1999 returned to being Joseph. Joseph had his breast implants removed. He became pastor with Crossover and with Exodus, and became a star feature on the Exodus Gender Identity page, where he explained: “Satan’s stronghold on my life was such that I could see no other course for my life than a complete sex change operation. I believed God had made a mistake and given me the physical attributes of a man, and I determined to set things ‘right’ ”.

Louisiana became the first state in US South to pass a hate crimes law that covered sexual orientation.


New Orleans added gender identity to the list of groups protected from discrimination.

Katey Red was signed and became one of the first trans rappers in the sissy bounce genre.


Big Freedia, who had started singing in her local Baptist Church, started her career in bounce music.


Peter Oiler, a 20-year Winn-Dixie supermarket truck driver in Harahan outside New Orleans, was fired when his manager found that outside work he was Donna. The case was taken up by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which filed a federal lawsuit on his behalf under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits sex discrimination, and the Supreme Court case Price Waterhouse v. Cooper which had barred sex stereotyping in the workplace. The US District Court Judge ruled against Oiler on both counts in 2002, and Winn-Dixie then sued Oiler for legal fees of $9,000. Casetext.

Bobbi D’ean Perry was featured in the Times-Picayune as an example of trans women being benevolent.

  • Bill Grady. “The Girl Can’t Help it, So She helps Others”. Times-Picayune, 23 July 2000.


JoAnn Guidos had waited until his mother died, and finally became JoAnn full time at age 51. Ex-wife Kathy and her new husband were friendly and together the three of them fixed up a couple of properties to be run as bars.

Robert Durst, from a New York real-estate dynasty and a murder suspect, was living sometimes as Diane Winn in New Orleans.


The husband of Ilsa Strix (Karin Winslow), a top dominatrix in Los Angeles, who had left him for Lana Wachowshi, one of the directors of the Matrix films, moved to New Orleans to be with his second wife, body piercer, tattoo artist and body modification enthusiast Elayne Angel - he took her name, and became Buck Angel. He then sought work as a trans-porn actor.

The Louisiana anti-sodomy law was rendered unenforceable in 2003 by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas. However the 1805 law otherwise remained in effect and the police started using the clause that prohibits “unnatural copulation” against sex workers. They were charged with a felony, had “sex offender” added to their drivers’ license, were forbidden to wear a costume at Mardi Gras, and were denied public assistance. Of those so arrested, 78% are black, almost all are women and many are trans. Archived newsarticle.

Rose Venkatesan of Chennai, Tamil Nadu, graduated in biomedical engineering from Louisiana Tech University. She commented that she found the people there to be “aggressively homophobic”.

  • Big Freedia. Queen Diva. CD, 2003.


JoAnn Guidos was the co-owner with Kathy of Kajun’s Pub in downtown New Orleans. A few months later during Hurricane Katrina in August-September JoAnne kept her pub open as a place of refuge until armed troops forced the place to close, and all to evacuate.

Cathryn Platine and Ethan St Pierre from New York State’s Cybele Maetreum organized relief efforts for the LGBT victims of the hurricane.

Because of Hurricane Katrina, there was no Southern Decadence in 2005. Therefore joint Grand Marshalls Lisa Beaumann and Regina Adams reigned in both 2005 and 2006.

Amiyah Scott, 17, raised in New Orleans, completed transition.


New Orleans born female impersonator Elton Paris (1922-2007) died age 85. He had performed at Finocchio’s in San Francisco and with the Jewel Box Revue.


Tyra Fields, a health worker, facilitated a meeting of black trans women who had been harrassed and subjected to arrest without cause by the police. NewsArticle.

  • Big Freedia. Big Freedia Hitz Vol 1. CD, 2010.


Marcy Marcell died.

New Orleans bounce artists including Katey Red and Big Freedia were celebrated in an exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans.


Marsha and Rip Naquin-Delain were married in St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on their 40th anniversary.


Three Louisiana residents have been arrested after allegedly holding a transgender woman captive for months, treating her as their “slave”. 37-year-old David Rodriguez, Jr., along with Christina Marie Harper and Ambre Tubbs Lomas, both 39, were arrested on charges ranging from human trafficking to battery. Newsstory.

  • Big Freedia. Just be Free. CD, 2014.


Tristan Broussard, 21, Lake Charles, Louisiana, filed a sex-discrimination lawsuit after forced to leave his job. A company executive found out he was listed on his driver's license as female. The executive demanded he dress and act like a woman, something he refused to do.

Amiyah Scott cast in The Real Housewives of Atlanta – the first trans woman in the franchise. Later she was cast in the show Star.

Murdered: Penny Proud.


Goddess Diamond was found dead in a torched car. 


Rip Naquin died age 63 in August 2017 of liver failure. Marsha died four months later – some say of a broken heart.

Sophie White, filmmaker and actress started transition. That year she won an International Screen Writers Association award. She also pitched a film called Hummingbird loosely based on her own story of almost being pushed to suicide. They started filming with Sophie in the lead role. However another trans woman brought in as a consultant died by suicide, and they did not have the heart to finish post-production. 

Three unrelated murders of trans women in February: Ciara McElvee, Chyna Gibson & Jaquarrius Holland.


Joseph Cluse died on his birthday, age 64.

Armani Nicole Davenport, a trans pageant winner, was tried in New Orleans for illegally injecting another trans women with silicone. She pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, and was sentenced to two years probation and 50 hours of cummunity service. Newsarticle.


Sophie White cast in an episode of Chicago Med.

  • Amiyah Scott. Memoirs of a Mermaid: The Evolution of Amiyah Scott. Kindle, 2019.


New Orleans trans poet, Taylor Johnson, featured by the Folger Shakespeare Library. NewsArticle.

The House of Tulip organized an online fundraiser, and bid for some rundown properties to become a refuge for homeless trans and gnc persons.


The following were consulted

  • James T Sears. Rebels, Rubyfruit and Rhinestones: Queering Space in the Stonewall South. Rutgers University Press, 2001.
  • Roberts Batson. “New Orleans”. GLBTQ, 2004
  • Scott S Ellis. Madame Vieux Carré. University Press of Mississippi, 2010.
  • Jelisa Thompson. You make Me Feel: A Study of the Gay Rights Movement in New Orleans. BA Thesis. The University of Southern Mississippi, 2011.
  • Frank Perez & Jeffrey Palmquist. In Exile: The History and Lore Surrounding New Orleans Gay Culture and Its Oldest Gay Bar. LL Publications, 2012.
  • Frank Perez. ““My O My! The Most Interesting Women Are Not Women At All!”. Ambush Magazine, March 5-18, 2013: 12. Online.
  • Frank Perez. “Killer Tricks”. Ambush Magazine, September 24 – October 7, 2013. Online.
  • Ryan Pretcher. Gay New Orleans: A History. PhD Thesis. Georgia State University, 2017. 

Trans Legends on New Orleans 

History of Drag Culture in New Orleans 

LGBT+ Archives of Louisiana

1 comment:

genevieve said...

I loves this series about trans new orleans. I was to visit this city but Hurricane Katrina hit. It's still on my bucket list.