Friday, June 13, 2014

DC Pride (& more): Why Washington (the District) Ranked Gayest U.S. City

Preparing to join the Parade with GLIFAA
DC is where I came of age, it's where I have truly great friends as well as amazing acquaintances. It truly is a magical, clean city with beautiful neighborhoods - and even shiny spots in up-and-coming barrios. For Pride there is something for everyone; although its such a small place, sometimes people are running over each other to get to where "everyone" goes. Nevertheless - the Pride Parade and Pride Festival provide some of the best places to hang on to joyous moments with old, knowing friends as well as young new fresh friends excited about new possibilities and star-struck by the power players of this always engaging city.

The various events listed on the Capital Pride Calendar highlight this city's all-inclusiveness from interfaith events to Trans Pride and Pride for every ethnic group! But of course it's the parties that get all the attention. Although the main gay clubbing venues, Cobalt and Town have plenty of events - even outside of Pride, DC has become home to a number of new parties thanks in part both to DC's concentrated gay (yes, male in this case) population as well as creative individuals who have put their strong personal networks to work for purposes of fun!

Otter Crossing in the Parade! Photo credit Tim Evanson
Monthly and periodic parties include Otter Crossing, at the Green Lantern first Friday's of the month (where they also hold must-go "shirtless-drink-free" Thursdays 10pm-11pm). Creator David Brown also helps Pocket Gay Brett Andriesen with Safe Word at Number Nine, a swanky, posh 2-floor bar in the heart of Logan Circle. DC creative master and Nine barman Aaron Riggins also built WTF, an always fab-themed Sunday-night party at Town before most federal holidays. Dependable gayboy parties include Mixtape  (2nd Saturdays) with Shea Van Horn and CTRL, which occurs the last Saturday every month. DJ MAJR, Chicago trans-plant Mikey Adolphson returns to DC quarterly to hold Siren, another popular dance party.

The Capital Pride Festival Main Stage!
However, Pride (always the first full week of June) brings a whole new level of attention - and thus talent - from other DC groups. Brightest Young Things - a blog/party production company/event-listing-site - organizes periodic events all over, with some specifically for gays - including Pride's main opening party "Blast-Off" this year. "Official" parties can sometimes be a bit over-hyped and over-crowded - but this year's space theme brought out the costumes! Usually I spend Fridays "mentoring" at Town (+18 plus every Friday). Saturday pride-partiers attended Mixtape at Howard's Theater or saw the latest RuPaul Drag Queens at Town (if people made it inside, they oversold it!). Sunday's Festival main stage (always with Capitol Dome backdrop) included performers of all types. Though after traveling in Europe it was annoying to see drinks prohibited from areas near the stage & separate areas for those 21 and over. For a full run down on how Pride works, read here.

GLIFAA - Gay Diplomat float in the parade -
Photo credit Tim Evanson
Believe me you will have fun in DC - but Pride is also about reflecting on the rights won by the LGBT community (and the path forward) and this year marked another milestone as a military color guard led the parade! Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force members celebrated LGBT rights and the military had recruiting booths at the Festival! As a prior government employee - I always walked (being in the parade is ALWAYS more fun than watching) with GLIFAA, now officially the LGBT+ pride group for U.S. foreign affairs agencies. This mainly means the U.S. State Department - but also USAID, Department of Commerce and other organizations that have employees abroad. The military participating in the event marks a key transition from forcing you out with a dishonorable discharge (6 years ago) - to openly welcoming LGB (and maybe soon T) service-members.

First military color-guard in any Pride Parade
Photo credit Tim Evanson
You can also attend Pride events at all the major government departments - Secretary Kerry will attend one at Main State's most prestigious State reception venue: the Ben Franklin Room. But Cabinet-level and other officials government-wide will mention Pride and honor LGBT individuals during the month of June - including the President himself. Besides official events, plenty of happy hours bring gays together - not surprisingly DC is big enough for 2 federal employee umbrella groups, the new FedQ which held a fabulous pride happy hour event at the Brixton (a great rooftop bar) - and FedGlobe which traditionally holds happy hours every first Thursday of the month at Cobalt.

Finally - I want to gets get one thing straight - well I mean gay - Dupont Circle no longer is the heart of DC's gay community, something I always hear from out-of-towners. Of course, it remains highly populated with LGBT individuals - but you're much more likely to see concentrated groups of gays in Logan Circle, where gentrification peaked a few years ago, and now Shaw where new restaurants and condos are sending the young gays even further east into LeDroit Park and NOMA.

Thus - come to America's gayest city! Enjoy Drag Brunch at Perry's, lunch at Chix or Taylor Gourmet, and snack on margaritas & tacos at El Rey. Then dine at Hanks, splurge on fancy new restaurants along 14th Street or go all out at Komi. Sing Showtunes on Mondays at standby JR's, compete at Drag-Bingo Tuesdays or Trivia Wednesdays at Nellies, tip boys wearing only socks at Ziegfelds/Secrets, hang with the in-crowd at Duplex Diner on Thursdays or drink over the Whitehouse at POV at the WCheck more bar reviews here or find the crowd you might like on this map of the 20-some gay bars in DC!

Play Stonewall Kickball if you like a little sports with your drinking (or even Bocce or Darts!) and DC Gay Flag Football if you like sports with a little drinking. Read the Washington Blade (oldest gay newspaper in the U.S.) and get events and gay venues in MetroWeekly. I missed mentioning the new H Street Corridor, cute restaurants along 8th Street in Capitol Hill, or shopping in Georgetown - or even all the free national museums and monuments that make DC what it is for most Americans!

I've just scratched the surface - but you get the idea. Washington (the district) is a (very gay) multi-faceted city - don't forget home also to many Embassies - and thus food from the world-over. Sure, it can be conservative and a touch buttoned-up - but try to tell me that during Mid-Atlantic Leather weekend in January or the High Heel Race down 17th Street right before Halloween! You'll meet some of the best people here - guys and girls who've come to try and "change the world" in some big way - along with those who know they change it every day in some small way.

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