“So, you want to interview me to see if I have an acceptable place to spend the night?” Gina Champion met me with worthy skepticism. Shannon Weber, whom I met in San Francisco, suggested I stay with Gina when in New Orleans. Gina and I had exchanged emails. She offered me a place for the night, though she was going out. I suggested we meet late afternoon, as I don’t like to stay in the homes of people I haven’t met. The point of my adventure is to meet people, not snare free digs.
Although our messages communicated accurate information, they lacked warmth. Fortunately, within ten minutes of sharing beers on Gina’s porch, our affinity clicked. Gina laughed when she understood I was not interviewing her to vet a place to stay. I immediately accepted her invitation to join Gina and partner Phyllis for a female-dominant evening at a Canal Street club; not an invitation she was inclined to make an unknown man until she discovered we were GBLTQ related.
Gina and Phyllis are Crescent City natives. Gina was briefly married to a man and has a 26-year-old son; she and Phyllis have been together over twenty years. “People from New Orleans never leave, but we had this urge to explore.” They moved to San Francisco in 2008. Two years later they put everything in storage and travelled the world. Phyllis said, “All my people are here. When we said we were moving to San Francisco, both families thought we were crazy. When we said we would travel the world, they thought we were off our rocker.” Their plan was to be gone a year, but after spending five months in Asia and Europe, family needs pulled them back to New Orleans.
The best adventures expose us to new people, new ideas, and help us better appreciate our homes when we return. “We didn’t realize how racist New Orleans was until we lived in San Francisco. This is a gay friendly city, in pockets, but about a year ago we had a series of gay bashing incidents.” Still, The Big Easy’s problems cannot eclipse the city’s charms. “There is a soul in this city. How can we get that good news out?”
How will we live tomorrow?
“I am a pessimist. The country is going to shit. The going to shit of America will lead us back to provincialism. That will return us to community. Will it also reinforce bigotry and prejudice?” – Gina
“When we first moved back to New Orleans, we lived in an area where people were petty and ugly. When we moved to this neighborhood, those people were surprised. All of our neighbors here are black. I like living in a black neighborhood. They mind their business, I mind mine, but we keep our eye on each other.” – Phyllis