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Think NYC Pride is outrageous? Welcome to New Orleans, where 'Southern Decadence' reigns.

Southern Decadence bucked all expectations, and no city does satire better than New Orleans.

Think NYC Pride is outrageous? Welcome to New Orleans, where 'Southern Decadence' reigns.
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New Orleans Tourism

The year was 1972, and New Orleans was having the quintessential queer party.

The theme was Southern Decadence. Partygoers were expected to dress up as their favorite “decadent” Southern elite.

The more outrageous the better of course.


40 or 50 friends gathered just outside the French Quarter at a rundown cottage house called Belle Reve, drinking, smoking, and lounging beneath a big fig tree, dressed to the nines.

It was meant to serve as an epic send-off for a friend leaving New Orleans, but it soon became much more than that.

The following year, they gathered again in a French Quarter bar, showing off their costumes and then walking along Esplanade Avenue.

From that point on, the “parade,” as it was later named, became an annual tradition — a very queer, very Southern tradition that is now recognized around the world as the Gay Mardi Gras of New Orleans, which over 200,000 people attended last year.

Paul Broussard and NewOrleansOnline.com

Southern Decadence now spans an entire weekend full of events celebrating queer culture and everything that makes New Orleans unique.

Southern Decadence bucked all expectations, and that's largely because no city does satire better than New Orleans.

That's how SarahJane Guidry sees it, at least.

“Satire is one of the best ways marginalized people can have an impact on public conversations," explained Guidry, the executive director of Forum for Equality, a statewide human rights organization. “It publicly celebrates outrageous and fun personal expression."

Image via Derek Bridges/Flickr.

Being visible as queer, transgender, or gender-nonconforming is already a powerful form of resistance, and at a time when LGBTQ people were expected to cower in the closet, such an outward celebration of Southern queer culture became so much more than a party.

New Orleans has always been considered a home for queer outcasts, no matter where "home" actually is.

Paul Broussard and NewOrleansOnline.com

That's partly why there is an amazing history of queer creatives and artists in New Orleans, Guidry explains.

From the Gay Mardi Gras Krewes of the ‘50s to bounce music made popular by queer artists like Big Freedia and Katey Red, the queer community brings a kind of energy to New Orleans that’s unlike anything else.

“The LGBTQ community in New Orleans is as unique as the city itself and has always taken the best of what we have and made it better,” Guidry said.

And the party's unique spirit remains.

The Southern Decadence of today is a nod to that “outsider” feel, evolving from a bar crawl to a full-blown weekend-long event, complete with a parade that anyone can join. The music, costumes, and dancing are all an invitation, a “come as you are” to every person who’s ever felt a little bit (or a lot) different.

Image via Infrogmation of New Orleans/Wikimedia Commons.

As people continue to gather for the parade every year, Southern Decadence is perhaps as political as it is whimsical.

Southern Decadence saw some of its biggest crowds on Labor Day weekend, markedly claiming the public space so often denied LGBTQ people, particularly trans and gender-nonconforming people.

Paul Broussard and NewOrleansOnline.com

And while there is always still more work to be done, real progress is happening.

Beyond the meticulously crafted costumes and dazzling music in the streets, Louisianians are making real strides. Just recently, the governor signed a fully inclusive executive order protecting LGBTQ state employees — hopefully a sign of things to come.

“New Orleans stands as a beacon for equality in the South and can throw a hell of a party,” Guidry said. “So, we celebrate these victories."

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

Photo courtesy of Macy's

Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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