Looking for a fun, inclusive city with great food and an endless list of things to do? You need to check out Baton Rouge.
Southern Pride is our monthly column exploring and celebrating LGBTQ culture in Southern cities. This month we’re heading down to the bayou to check out the scene in Baton Rouge, LA.
Imagine living in a Southern city where music spills into the streets, festivals run year-round and foodies can indulge their taste buds with some of the most delectable food that Louisiana has to offer. We aren’t talking about New Orleans. There’s a city that’s perfect for LGBTQ families and individuals that is only an hour’s drive away from The Big Easy. It offers all the aforementioned, and boasts an affordable cost of living to boot!
If Baton Rouge hasn’t been on your list of places to call home, it’s time to give it a closer look. Find out why its LGBTQ community members are proud to call the Capital City home, and what they have to say to those looking to move to the area.
Baton Rouge Is Diverse
Located 157 miles north of the Gulf of Mexico and 80 miles out of New Orleans, Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana. The second-largest metropolitan city in the state, it has a population of approximately 802,000 and is a true melting pot with Black or African American citizens making up over half of the residents, and a robust LGBTQ community.
“œBaton Rouge is a melting pot of many different people with several LGBTQ+ owned and operated businesses, some of which have been around for over 50 years,” says Christopher Bradford, Chairman of Baton Rouge Pride.
The city’s diversity helped pave the way for its robust international restaurant scene which features a variety of cuisines including Cajun, French, Italian Thai, Indian and Mexican.
“œI love Baton Rouge because it has a vibrant quality of life with a diversity of people,” says Anita Byrne is a consultant at SSA Consultants. “You can get involved and make a difference “” no matter what your passion is you can find purpose and joy here.”
LGBTQ Resources Abound
There is no shortage of LGBTQ resources available in Baton Rouge.
“œBaton Rouge Pride is growing beyond just its regular festival,” says Bradford. “œThe organization now boasts a new, ever-growing, LGBTQ+ Business Directory for the local area, several meetups for different members of the community, monthly events and is moving into a family-friendly direction with youth events.”
Additionally, Bradford shared that there are several other organizations that help the LGBTQ+ community such as the Progressive Social Network and Louisiana State University’s Spectrum LGBTQ+ Student group which puts on the Louisiana Queer Conference (2020 was the conference’s 10th anniversary). Baton Rouge also has a large chapter of Louisiana Trans Advocate, a state-wide trans advocate network.
Bobbi Crouch is a pharmacist for AHF Pharmacy and a PRIDE team board member. She explains that as an organization PRIDE has made huge steps to reach out and be accessible to other LGBTQ groups through their website and social media.
“œBaton Rouge PRIDE’s goal is to be sure that they are a point of access for families and individuals who want to know what’s going on in our community, whether it is events at a bar or parents who just want coffee,” explains Crouch.
Not unlike New Orleans, Baton Rouge knows how to party (thanks partially to LSU), and the LGBTQ community gets in on the fun.
“œBaton Rouge is a typical college town with lots of festivals and events that go on year-round,” explains Bradford. “œFrom Mardi Gras Balls (we have an all-gay krewe, Krewe of Apollo Baton Rouge), to the Blues Festival and Mac-n-Cheese fest, all are very open to the LGBTQ+ community.”
Additionally, LSU and Southern University hold sporting events and put on spring parades. According to Bradford, community organizations like Baton Rouge Pride look for volunteers to help create events for all members of the LGBTQ+ community of all ages.
A City With a Small-Town Vibe
“Though we are a “œcity” we really do have the small-town atmosphere in many ways,” explains Bradford. He suggests that new residents prepare themselves to love LSU and Southern Athletics, big time.
According to Bradford, several local churches are LGBTQ+ forward. He says St Margaret’s Episcopal Church is lead by openly gay priest Tommy Dillon, and Metropolitan Community Church is founded on acceptance for all by the LGBTQ+ community over 50 years ago with a presence in Baton Rouge for over 30 years now.
Additionally, Bradford says LGBTQ folks moving to the area should immerse themselves in the food scene and check out the extensive list of LGBTQ+ owned businesses. In particular, he recommends the local gay bar (George’s Place) and the club (Splash).
What Locals Are Saying
When asked what advice or information they’d like to share with LGBTQ+ families and individuals moving to the area, here’s what a few Baton Rouge locals had to say:
“œBorn and raised in the Greater Baton Rouge area, there’s truly nothing like this community. There’s room for advancement in your career, great friends to be made and things to do.” – Christopher Bradford, Chairman of Baton Rouge Pride
“œI would encourage them to join Baton Rouge Pride, Forum 225, and The Walls Project, and sign-up for updates from the Downtown Development District and 225 Magazine. Then show up and get involved! Visibility matters.” – Anita Byrne, consultant
“œIt is my home. It is where I met the love of my life, my wife Lacy. We are able to live our life to the fullest together and that is very important to me.” – Bobbi Crouch, PRIDE team board member