New Orleans Pride board nearly disbanded after contentious social media post

Updated: Jun. 15, 2020 at 11:04 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Across the country, June is dedicated to celebrating pride and the LGBTQ community. So in the midst of COVID-19, a post on the New Orleans Pride page asking how others were celebrating wouldn’t strike such a nerve.

But when the executive president, Chris Leonard barred discussing any politics, members say it was a little tone deaf.

“Given the history this summer was a perfect opportunity to realize how out of touch it’s been,” said Frank Perez. There were a litany of responses criticizing the “no politics allowed”.

Author and LGBTQ historian, Frank Perez was supposed to serve as one of the pride parade’s grand marshals. He says given the social and political climate, this post helped surface criticisms in the pride community.

“One of the criticisms of pride over the past several years is that it has not been very open to feedback, the other criticism is that it’s been fairly exclusionary a lot of people feel left out of pride especially the African American community the black trans community trans community in general and others,” said Perez.

After the backlash, the New Orleans Pride board in a statement says they convened to discuss the post, and “how the board would like to move forward in a different direction”.

The board continues saying Leonard did not attend the meeting, and publicly resigned without answering to or consulting the board.

In response, all board members resigned except one saying they want to "look forward to seeing a new, diverse, and transparent organization in the future."

“Our community is as diverse as society at large and there are dissenting voices and there are suppressed voices so that’s kind of what all this is about,” said Perez. Pride is important according to Perez, which is why he created another page asking what should happen with New Orleans pride.

“It would be impossible for me to encapsulate all the different voices, and people are happy some people are not some people think it’s a chance to rebuild, there’s members of the black trans community who think we don’t even need to have a pride until we really start addressing some of these fundamental systemic issues of social inequality police brutality discrimination and so forth,” said Perez.

Especially on the heels of a landmark supreme court ruling further protecting the rights of LGBTQ people, Perez says it's time to really listen.

“It’s ok to be gay here, but if you drive an hour in any direction maybe it’s not ok to be gay, so for all the young people who are thinking about committing suicide, it’s a terrible problem for those who are in the closet, for those who feel like there’s no hope, I think pride can be a beacon of hope for them,” said Perez.

Neither Leonard nor the one remaining board member responded to requests for comment.

Perez says they plan to hold a community forum in the future for how to move New Orleans Pride forward.

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