There are times that I might make an assumption about someone and not truly know who they are. This is one such time! I first heard of Misti when she was named one of the Grand Marshals for Southern Decadence in 2015; until then I had never heard of her, which isn’t surprising since we didn’t move in the same social circles.
I had written a blog posting regarding the naming of five Southern Decadence Grand Marshals, and how I thought it wasn’t necessary and somewhat excessive. It wasn’t until Misti invited me to a fundraising event that I started to get to know her, and she was not only polite, but very friendly. You have to understand that my blog article about Southern Decadence wasn’t very glowing, and yes I was very harsh. But Misti and I became friends over time, and I have come to respect and admire her dedication to the LGBT community in New Orleans.
Misti grew up in a small, conservative town just outside of Monroe, LA. She admits that living in such a small town shaped her views on the LGBT community; however, in 1999 she moved to New Orleans for a job, and it was here that she started to become a part of our community. It wasn’t until 2008 at the request of friends that she developed and conceived the persona of Johnny Passion, a scary move for her, since she had never been involved in the “drag” community. But over time she started to perform as Johnny Passion, in the LGBT community this is known as being a “drag king”, honesty I had never heard the term “drag king”.
In 2011 she would be named one of the Grand Marshals for New Orleans Pride, she described the appointment of this as a “complete honor”. Then in 2015 Misti would not only be named Southern Decadence Grand Marshal, but a Grand Marshal for the Gay Easter Parade. Two events that she states “both were a true honor, and no matter what I’ll always be a part of the LGBT community”, and give her a platform to bring the community together and become exposed to different aspects of our community.
June 2016 can be considered a milestone in her life, after 8 years of being together she would marry her wife Catherine, and in November of the same year would legally adopt their children. As she speaks about the adoption she starts to become emotional, it’s apparent that she loves them very deeply. A true testament to how they raise their children, her oldest son Ethan who is straight works at New Orleans Oz.
I asked her what is most important to her and she stated “respect yourself, respect others and pay your dues”. What I found most surprising is how she feels about people who win crowns/titles and don’t give back to the LGBT community. To Misti if you have won a crown, or hold a title, you have a duty to give back to the community, and to most it’s just about the crown/title and not giving back to the community that helped you win the title. To her that demeans and diminishes the reason you were given the honor.
"It's not just about raising money, or looking good. You have to set an example for the community, give back, and be humble" Misti Gaither
I have to say that over the past year I have come to know and respect Misti, not only as a person in our community, but for her efforts to raise awareness regarding issues affecting the LGBT community, and those that are important to her. To this day I have to thank her for changing my perception about others in the community, and allowing me to a part of her life!
Currently Misti currently the special events coordinator at the Four Seasons Bar in Metairie, and continues to support and raise funds for the LGBT community in New Orleans and surrounding areas.
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