July 14, 2014 at 2:37 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
LGBT Louisianans: ‘We’re family’
Baton Rouge, PFLAG, Louisiana, gay news, Washington Blade

Former PFLAG Baton Rouge President Carol Frazier greets fellow LGBT rights advocates at a restaurant in Baton Rouge, La., on July 12, 2014. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Sergio Oramas, who’s gay, and Ksaa Zair, a transgender woman who identifies as “demisexual,” live in a two-bedroom apartment in the St. John neighborhood of Baton Rouge.

Their rent is $600 a month, but Oramas tries to get as much overtime as he can at the Sears warehouse where he has worked for two months to “substantiate” Zair who remains unable to get a job. She said half of the money she receives from Medicare each month pays bills and rent, while “another good section of that” goes to the hormones she buys from a website outside the U.S.

“We’re family,” Zair told the Washington Blade on Saturday, referring to Oramas.

Oramas and Zair are among the dozen LGBT residents of Baton Rouge, advocates from groups that include Equality Louisiana and Louisiana Trans Advocates and allies with whom the Blade spoke on Saturday as they ate traditional Louisiana cuisine at a local restaurant.

Tom Merrill, chair of Baton Rouge Pride, grew up in Plain Dealing, a small town in northwestern Louisiana. He has lived in Baton Rouge for nearly 29 years.

“There are lots of things here that you just don’t find anyplace else,” Merrill told the Blade as his partner of nearly two decades, Rick Cain, listened. “Your family’s not necessary the people that are related to you by blood. That’s really true in a larger culture here, that everybody’s your family.”

That sense of family was palpable during a nearly two hour lunch with the group.

Carol Frazier, the former president of PFLAG Greater Baton Rouge, hugged Merrill and others after arriving at the restaurant. She also described this reporter’s lunch of thinly cut fried fish over rice with crawfish étouffée as looking “yummy” after a waitress brought it to the table.

Terri Higginbotham, who is the chapter’s secretary, told the Blade that her now 20-year-old son came out to her as gay when he was a freshman in high school.

She said she received Mother’s Day cards from some of the LGBT youth with whom she works. Higginbotham added some of them even list her as their mother on their Facebook pages.

“They don’t have families who will help take care of them,” she told the Blade. “That shouldn’t be the case. If you have a child, you should love and care for that child either way. It doesn’t matter who they love. It doesn’t matter who they want to marry. It doesn’t matter if they want to shave their head and move to Mozambique.”

Katrina prompts Baton Rouge Pride

Merrill and other LGBT rights advocates launched Baton Rouge Pride in late 2006, slightly more than a year after the city’s population swelled by nearly 200,000 because of the influx of those from New Orleans and other areas of southeastern Louisiana who had been displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

“We were in the post-Katrina period where Baton Rouge was the largest city in the state, but we had really nothing going on for Pride,” said Merrill.

Their first event was a picnic that took place in June 2007.

Baton Rouge Pride takes place in June because of the anniversary of the Stonewall riots and what Merrill described as “the historical significance of that.” The weather, however, quickly became an issue.

The heat index in Baton Rouge on Saturday was well above 100 degrees. Merrill told the Blade that paramedics ran out of chemical ice packs last year because of the high temperatures.

“They were throwing ice in latex gloves and putting them on people’s heads,” he said.

The annual event now takes place in a casino along the Mississippi River and features a resource fair and entertainment. Equality Louisiana also holds a march along the riverfront to the nearby state capitol alongside the Capital City Alliance, a local LGBT advocacy group.

Baton Rouge Pride last year honored Frazier and PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby, who grew up in Eunice, La., as their grand marshals.

Roughly 20 people whom a fundamental religious group bussed into Baton Rouge protested this year’s Pride, compared to a handful of protesters who usually gather outside the event each year. Merrill told the Blade that they tell those pushing children in a stroller into the casino that they are “going to hell.”

“As adults we have no problem with that,” he said. “You don’t say that sort of thing to a three-year-old. We, particularly as Southerners, would never say negative things in front of small children. That affects their lives, but they don’t seem to have that same idea of politeness.”

family, gay news, Washington Blade

Tom Merrill and Rick Cain (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Baton Rouge ‘voice of sodomy’

Matt Patterson, research and policy coordinator for Equality Louisiana, moved to Baton Rouge to attend graduate school. He and his partner, Bobby Beaird, who is the vice president of PFLAG Greater Baton Rouge, celebrated their fifth anniversary on July 4.

Patterson told the Blade that he became the “voice of sodomy” last year after news that the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office had arrested at least a dozen men under the state’s sodomy law since 2011. He said he is one of the few people who are willing to speak to the local media about LGBT-specific issues.

“So somehow whenever shit happens in Baton Rouge, I always wind up being the person to go on the local news to talk about it,” said Patterson.

Frazier’s decision to launch PFLAG Greater Baton Rouge stems from her gay son’s suicide in 2002 when he was 37.

She told the Blade before eating her lunch that he moved from Baton Rouge to Nashville because he felt he wasn’t accepted. Frazier, a former journalist, said he had a “corporate-type job” that she said did not compliment “his real life.”

“I felt as though I were to represent the parents who may have not have been as kind to their gay child as I was,” she said. “It was my way of saying let’s all work together to make this a world we can all live in comfortably.”

Baton Rouge, PFLAG, Louisiana, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

    • Walter

      “She” is not a she. “She” is a he who enhanced himself by the ultimate plastic surgery. S/he will never bear children, she will never have a period, she will never go through the change. She will never modify her genetics. Chromosomes cannot be changed. I am a gay male, who has had many trans friends over the years. Let them lop off their penises, graft on breasts or have an addidictomy, but they are not the opposite sex. Don’t piss on my head and try to convince me it’s raining.

      • DC Native

        Walter, LOL! You can’t possibly have trans ‘friends’ and speak like that! That’s just like when some white gays make racially motivated statements and right behind that comes the statement well I have black ‘friends’

        Simply funny!

      • Ksaa Zair

        first and for most, this is the person you’re speaking about, Walter. Let’s get some misconceptions out of the way first. You have obviously defined a “true” woman as a person with the ability to 1) bear children, 2) have periods, 3) have a menopause.
        Okay, now that we’ve established that Angelina Jolie, Fran Drescher, Roseanne Barr, and Suzanne Somers arnt women, let’s talk about things you possibly might not know of.

        As a transwoman, you’re obviously unaware that yes, i /will/ go through menopause. As science advances you cannot definitively say that chromosome alteration isnt possible soon, either. You also seem unclear as to how GRS works. We do not “lop off” parts of our body parts. Denying me my gender identity is no different than someone denying you your own sexual identity.

        Also, i thank you for your opinion on the extremely limiting insight into my life. You seem to know me well enough to make substantiated arguments about my life via an online site. Did you happen to read the section in the article about how my brother takes a large amount of the bills to himself so that i may have my hormones?

        I think the worst insult all is the fact i just recently had … debates with some of the Conservative Christian Right. They said the same things. It hurts to know a voice of the LGBT community supports the efforts of those trying to silence it.

      • Indigo Sage

        So a white gay dude is saying privileged, bigoted, ignorant things, not surprised. Some people who are trans never get surgery for one. And it shows your ignorance making that sort of claim.

        I don’t understand bigots and their wanting to control, dictate and define the lives of others. Science backs trans identities and biology. Harvard says you are wrong. I doubt some privileged gay inc clown has more knowledge than fucking Harvard. So just give up and stop resisting change.

        The same horseshit you spew was said of gay men back in the past to this day.

        The fact that a gay man who very likely faced discrimination should not do the same. You are a traitor to the oppressed and you are a fucking traitor to yourself, becoming like the people that activists were supposed to oppose to defend and protect the oppressed

  • Walter, I have always been a blunt person. However, before I give my usual blunt and direct statement I will present some things to you.
    1: Verda is a close friend of mine, insulting her in any way/shape/form is tantamount to declaring war on me. This is a loosing proposal for you.
    2: The fact you Claim to have Transgendered Friends means you simply want to have a “Get out of jail free card” to insult others whom you have decided are Sub-Standard to yourself. I dare you to tag all of them to see your comments here then see how many of them are going to stand by you ever again. My money (What little of it I have) is on the fact they will toss you aside as you have so easily tossed them aside with your comments.
    3: Before you think you can stab at me with one or two phrases to try and invalidate things I say here, consider this: You are saying the exact same thing the Westborow Baptist Church says about Transgender people. How does that little fact make you feel? Just because you throw someone else under the bus doesn’t mean you get to stand on the sidewalk untainted. More than likely you’re just next in line to get tossed.
    Now, if you have even bothered to read the things anyone says you might actually have some measure of hope for the better later. Now that I have said all this I can happily post the short an blunt statement I wanted to when I started: Those who stir the shit pot should have to lick the spoon. You first, Walter, seeing as you were the first to comment on things you clearly were not properly educated or informed about.

    P.S. I feel it is sort of cowardice on your part to try and remain anonymous after you made such an “Educated” statement. If you were proud of your words, make it clear who you are.

    • Ksaa Zair

      You call claim on us that we should not presume what kind of life you live is no difference than when you id so. You presume to know my life. Hun, i live in rural Southern Louisiana and grew up in a place where segregation didn’t take place until i was in middle school. I’ve been targeted by the Religious Right more then enough times for my life. But i still live. Thankfully, it was due to my own wit to save myself, rather than their failure at their success.

      You call being trans a psychosis. You do realize that until the DSM4 being gay was the same right? A Mental Illness. I’m sure you’re unaware by your speech: things covered in the DSM under illness are things legally covered by medicaid and medicare. in my state it’s officially recognized as a mental handicap and disability, still.

      would it make you happier to remove my sense of independence and freedom by saying that we split the bills well, and instead of i buying my pills with my SSI (after all, so far I’ve simply allowed the misconception of being paid by medicare, which isnt how it happens; furthermore, i dont have madicare. I have madicaid.) my brother buys them for me with his over-time money. Happy? you focus far too much on an extremely narrow view of the world.

      And if you think your tax money goes where it’s suppose to go, i laugh at your trust in the government. the majority of your tax money doesn’t even go to improve this country. it goes into corporate and political pockets.

      I would /love/ to get off of SSI. i hate it. i feel like a user. i /want/ my own job and life. so i’ll tell you what, YOU give me a job and the money to live, since nobody else is willing, and i’ll get off of SSI and stop “using your taxes”. Fair? fair. “Step up or Step Out” is a common phrase in my region. you dont want me using your taxes, give me a job when nobody else will.

  • Karen O’Connor

    Walter, I may not be as old as you, or seen “As much” as you, however I have been to Afghanistan twice (both times with the 101st Airborne Division just so you know). Your tax dollars are supposed to go to things like getting my knee fixed or paying for my physical disability money. Neither of which I have gotten yet and it has been over a year since I got Honorably Discharged.

    Another point to educate you on: According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs being Transgender is a disability which qualifies a person to receive up to and including 100% of Veteran Disability pay. So you want to trust the government? These are the government’s rules.

    I have heard people say these Exact Same arguments against gays and lesbians that you are saying against trans people. Why not cut through the BS and sign up for the Westborow Baptist Church newsletter? You certainly are “Educated” enough for it…

  • Walter, people like you are why trans people have so many issues. And technically the event you just stated makes you look like an ass. He should have charged you with Assault and Battery. If it had been me I would have also charged you with a hate crime. Your opinion sure fits in that category.

    Honest question: Have you ever heard of TDOR? Transgender Day of Remembrance. 263 Deaths. Hate Crimes. These are only the CONFIRMED ones. Only in 2013. How many more were covered up or classified as regular murders? People with your same mindset caused those deaths. I hope you are proud of that Walter.

    On another note, how does it feel to be insulting someone who is more of a person than you are? Verda has gone far out of her way to save a War Veteran who nearly wound up homeless by inviting them into her own home and risking her own physical health by spending her hormone money on food for that said Veteran. What have you ever done for ANYONE besides yourself? Insult anyone different than you, perhaps? Trample on other people’s rights and feelings? Wave a “I’m gay so I can get away with it” flag?

  • Ksaa Zair

    Now, i’m sure. You are precisely what is the problem with this country. You are the reason this very article exist, due to this, to show awareness. I’ve seen other post you’ve put up and your opinions on them. You seem primarily white-centric, and exclusively-self-supportive of person communities. In these other post, you truly do fit the stereotype of Extreme Conservative Right.

    You want to know why we’re holing up ENDA? (which isnt true. we support ENDA. it’s the hetero-normative Religious Right that dont want ANY of the LGBT to have right. not just trans*people. Fact check objectively, not be biased.) Because YOU, the “Gay” back at Stonewall Inn threw us under a bus back then, politically. YOU abandoned us, originally. So thanks for bringing that same homophobic mentality forward. you’ve done us all a justice. You’ve also just validated all those who fight you AND ENDA.

    also. you CAN have him arrested. it’s called “trans panic defense” in court. it’s the primary reason we are killed, also. “OMG! it’s trans! *stabs*”. completely legal. because that’s justice in Conservative Right Religious America.

    Also, thank you for demeaning my life to a simplified format of genetics. because that makes up all that i am. Did you know that XY does not pair with XY right? They pair with XX. So you cant be gay, either. After all, it doesn’t work that way.

    Also.. what about all those people that are not XX or XY? XXY? XYY? X? XXX? XXXX? XX Male Syndrome? XXYY? are they not human, for they are not either XX or XY?

    We are not attempting to call it rain. we are simply calling you on your bull. Instead of saying it’s our fault, how about doing researching yourself about your opinions, and prove us wrong with facts, instead of just saying it. And please. no FOX or CNN news references. we all know they lie worse than the devil, both, as is.

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