I’d made arrangements to meet up with Vanessa, a girl who I had met online. She was working that evening, so we’d have to meet up late. Well, New Orleans is a town where things do not start early, anyway. A mix of outfits for tonight; the jeans and boots from Thursday night with a black and purple print t-shirt from Kat Von D, the black PVC bomber and fingerless driving gloves. Oh, and the new hat.

I was out of the room about nineish, and had not heard from Vanessa yet. Took forever to find parking-had to resort to a hotel garage and their overpriced rates. I really had no plans at the moment, so I found something to eat and then dropped into some of the bars I used to go by. Most haven’t changed-for good or bad. Eventually I decided I was ready to go back, until I got a message from Vanessa. We decided to meet up at John Pauls on Elysian Fields. It’s a location that has been a dozen other bars, but I had not been there since it changed owners. I arrived a bit early, got a soda and chatted with some of the locals. It’s sort of a neighborhood bar, except the clientele is gay and they do drag shows there.

Vanessa arrived, and we really got along incredibly well. She’s the kind of person I wish I had known when I was living in New Orleans-fun, smart, confident. I’d have been a lot happier! We talked and had drinks until I had to leave about 3AM (something else I miss-no closing times), went back to the hotel and got some sleep before I had to drive back to Dallas that day…

So, what have we learned Zelda?

Well, what we’ve learned is that New Orleans is one of the best places a tgirl can visit. It’s a city where people really are accepting. The French Quarter is perfect for a day of shopping, eating, meeting people, and relaxing. You can walk it easily-just remember to wear comfortable shoes. In Spring and Fall, the weather’s moderate enough to be comfortable. Winter’s are usually mild. Summer, you may want to avoid unless you enjoy high humidity and heat even in the evenings. In the off-season hotels are not too bad, and if you find one with cheap parking all the better. The streetcars will take you down St. Charles and the Garden District with Magazine Street’s shops and dining nearby. A car will get you to many parts of the city, though the roads are rough and parking is sometimes a problem.

Some of the best little shops are in New Orleans. The food’s great, and you’ll find that there is more than “Cajun” cooking-almost every cuisine is represented, and the local Creole cooking is superb. Live music is a big part of the city, and you’ll find a wide variety of clubs. There is a large, active LGBT community (though the T is not so much) that enriches the city. And the people? I had two random encounters with people who I spent at least ten minutes talking to. There’s an openness there, a shared love of the city and knowing that things are always changing.

The city itself has an energy to it that I’ve never felt anywhere else. It’s a living place that you’ll either love or hate but never feel indifferent to.

It’s also got the most underwhelming transgender community I know of. I came of age in New Orleans as a transgendered person, and I am thankful that I had the people I did who helped me come out and who cared about me. Even when I was not exactly the shy retiring type. A few days ago, I got an email that Gulf Gender Alliance-my “home group”-is closing down due to a lack of members and activity. This group was suffering before Katrina; after it, it was only a matter of time.

There are quite a few Tgirls in New Orleans. Not that you’d know it most of the time. There are a number of drag queens and working girls out there, but crossdressers are rare. Most CD’s seem to be either closeted or won’t go out locally. The most-cited reason is a fear of being found out. New Orleans is in some ways a small town, where neighbors know each other and what’s going on around them. There’s a bit of conservatism in the business community. So yes, I suppose there is a real fear of being “outed.”

So I’d go to group meetings (when we were still meeting in Kenner at a hotel) where girls would show up, dress for the meeting, then change to go home. They couldn’t even consider going out! And that attitude seems to still be there. I asked a few people I knew if they’d want to go out and they’d always say no. Which is how I developed a certain fearlessness-I wanted to go out, I did, and I took the BS when it happened. Made me a better person, but still I’d have loved to have had someone to go out with…

New Orleans is such a great place, and if you’re living there or nearby, you are missing out on so much! There’s so much to do, so many things to see. I know people who live in cities that have fewer opportunities but get out. What’s your excuse?

I do know that people expect others to organize things for them. Guess what? YOU need to be the person! Get off your pretty little butt and seek out people. Or just go out one day and have coffee at Community Coffee House on Royal in a cute little outfit and be happy. It doesn’t take much, just a desire to be real.

Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. I just need to get back again…