GAY AND AIDS COMMUNITIES RESPOND TO KATRINA

Every large-scale disaster has its survivors with special needs, and Hurricane Katrina is no different, especially with the large community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people, as well as those living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans.

The most comprehensive list of LGBT and AIDS charities responding to this crisis is listed at PageOneQ.com.

The National Youth Advocacy Coalition, an advocacy group for LGBT and questioning young people based in Washington, has launched a targeted Hurricane Katrina LGBT Relief Fund “to ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community receive the critical support they need to regain stability in their lives.” Go to nyac.org.

The Montrose Clinic in Houston is assisting displaced LGBT people and people with HIV/AIDS. Go to montroseclinic.org.

The World Rainbow Fund, which got involved with relief after the tsunami last year and the famine in Niger this year, is funneling LGBT donations to food programs. They are at rainbowfund.org.

Gay City News contributor Doug Ireland is urging people to donate through the American Friends Service Committee, which won the Nobel Prize for its relief efforts after World War II, especially with those liberated from Nazi concentration camps. Ireland calls them a “leanly-run, effective, on-the-ground service.” Go to afsc.org.

The Gay & Lesbian Switchboard of Houston is providing assistance for people displaced by the hurricane, support groups, referrals to safe homes, and connections to resources. That organization is at gayswitchboardhouston.org.

One charity you might want to avoid is Operation Blessing, a Pat Robertson production. FEMA and CNN have been promoting donations to this charity, despite its connection to the right-wing crusader, whose most recent affront was his call for the assassination of the Venezuelan president.

The Cruisingforsex.com website, which had been based in New Orleans, tried to use PayPal to funnel donations to relief efforts. They were sent a cease and desist letter from the online payment service, saying that the Web site violates PayPal’s “Acceptable Use Policy.”

Just as in the 9/11 catastrophe, surviving partners of gay people killed in the hurricane or its aftermath are discovering that they have few legal rights, especially in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama which have state constitutional bans on recognition of gay relationships. Under intense pressure after 9/11, the American Red Cross finally adopted a policy recognizing gay couples.

Repent America, a Christian fundamentalist outfit, blamed Katrina on the annual Southern Decadence gay festival that had been scheduled for New Orleans on Labor Day Weekend. “God destroyed a wicked city,” said the group’s director. Oliver Thomas, president of the New Orleans City Council said, “Maybe God’s trying to cleanse us.”

The French Quarter, the heart of New Orleans and its gay community, was actually the neighborhood least damaged by the storm. And this past Sunday, the first sign of defiant life returned to the city as 20 to 30 people, mostly gay men and drag queens, paraded through Bourbon and Orleans Streets in beads and outlandish and sexy costumes.

“We’re having a decadence parade,” a student, 21, told Agence France-Presse. “Look at all these costumes!” said another man. “I’m the happiest fag in America.”

—Andy Humm

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