Permalink to this Image | Gallery of Rachel's Works One Essay Response madden says: May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm The image of the rainbow flag billowing in a hot New Orleans wind is a comforting image for many queer people. The flag lets us know friends are around and they want us to know. Seeing this symbol can suggest that someone is nearby who wouldn’t stare in snide curiosity when two women hold hands or when a gender queer person chooses a gendered bathroom. It is like the bright beam of a lighthouse assuring queer people, whether in the calm waters of New Orleans, known as a gay Mecca in the south, or the rougher seas of Provo, Utah, that we’re close to a safe shore. While New Orleans is often reduced to the “hedonism of Bourbon street,”  the rainbow flag hanging in front of a typical New Orleans house also reminds the viewer of the more mundane, yet still important, displays of sexuality that make New Orleans a bastion of sexual expression and freedom. It is the embodiment of a simple gesture of acceptance towards queer people. Dominant images of New Orleans held by outsiders frequently involve the debauchery of the largely straight sexual displays during Mardi Gras or the queer carnival “Southern Decadence.” These celebrations are key parts of New Orleans life, but the city and its relationship to sexuality cannot be reduced to these two hyper sexualized events. In chronicling his own experiences in gay New Orleans life, Gary Richards says, “some tourists see New Orleans as a site of sexual excess and not [a] mundane sustained [queer] community.”  The rainbow flag is an example of the subtler signs of both sexual acceptance and the existence of a visible and proud queer community that unapologetically declares, “I’m here and I’m queer and I’m not going to hide it.” As in the photo of the US-Mexico border fence above, Rachel Tanur’s photo offers a glimpse of insider interpretations of a place that is also the subject of overbearing outsider perspectives of that locale. The simple rainbow flag is a visual assertion of a longstanding community supporting sexual acceptance in New Orleans that cannot be reduced to the widespread images of flashing breasts and buttocks during holidays on Bourbon Street. Residents of New Orleans and those of Brownsville find their images of their home overpowered by sensationalized and oversimplified stories of binge drinking and lewd acts, and illegal immigration and drug violence respectively. Rachel’s photograph and my own image of the Brownsville graveyard offer alternative insider narratives that do not match up with the dominant interpretations of the US-Mexico border or New Orleans. For residents of Brownsville, the border is a line interpreted by the Department of Homeland Security to be a territorial boundary enforced by a fence and border patrol manpower to keep out people crossing illegally. This militarized view of the border does not match up with local understandings of Brownsville as part of a close bi-national community that includes Matamoros, Tamaulipas. To queers and their allies in New Orleans, the city’s relationship to sex and sexuality might be too often reduced to Mardi Gras and Southern Decadence, and perhaps should be considered a center of sexual freedom in the U.S. because of the sustained queer community that has existed in the French Quarter since the 1960s, if not earlier. Rachel Tanur’s photograph of the flag may seem to capture an ordinary object surrounded by lush greenery overflowing from flower boxes and clay pots, but it is the very ordinary nature of the flag that makes it a striking reminder of the everyday actions by LGBT people and allies that sustain queer spaces and communities.  Richards, Gary. 2010. Queering Katrina: Gay Discourses of the Disaster in New Orleans. Journal of American Studies 44 : 519-534. You must be a Rachel Tanur Memorial Prize applicant to submit an essay response.