December 11, 2009 | by Kevin Naff
‘Mission Accomplished’ at Lambda Rising
Lambda Rising will be closing its doors after more than three decades as the heart of the local LGBT community. (DC Agenda photo by Aram Vartian)

Lambda Rising will be closing its doors after more than three decades as the heart of the local LGBT community. (DC Agenda photo by Aram Vartian)

The times they keep changing.

The DC Agenda broke news last week that Lambda Rising, a cornerstone of the city’s LGBT community since it opened in 1974, will close its doors in early 2010.

Deacon Maccubbin, the store’s founder and co-owner, said he plans to retire and that he and co-owner Jim Bennett, his partner of 32 years, decided they would rather close than sell to a new owner who might change the focus and mission of the business.

In addition to the D.C. store, Maccubbin said the sister store in Rehoboth Beach, Del., would also close.

“The phrase ‘mission accomplished’ has gotten a bad rap in recent years but in this case, it certainly applies,” Maccubbin said, noting that LGBT books can now be found in most general bookstores and retailers.

The growing acceptance of homosexuality (at least in some urban areas and liberal enclaves) has mitigated the need for certain gay-specific businesses. Unlike previous generations of gay youth, young gay people today can find endless information and resources online. But Lambda Rising represented so much more than a place to buy books. It has served as a hub of the LGBT community and a beacon for closeted youth yearning for a sense of identity.

So many of us, myself included, turned to Lambda Rising as teens for information on gay life and reassurance that we weren’t alone. I can’t imagine gay D.C. without it.

I remember walking nervously into the store as a teenager, afraid of being spotted by someone and outed. It was a scene played out thousands of times over the years. Even today, as older gay men who were pressured into marriage and having kids when they were younger, finally come to terms with their sexual orientation and come out, they come to Lambda Rising for help.

Just three weeks ago, when the Washington Blade was shuttered by its parent company, I found myself inexplicably drawn to Lambda Rising. I walked in and asked to see Deacon, who ushered me into his upstairs office. He was a sounding board when I needed to vent and offered his support to us in this new venture.

Deacon and Jim have earned their retirement after decades of service to the community. They’ve helped more people than they probably realize. Congratulations to them for accomplishing their life’s mission.

Kevin Naff is editor of the DC Agenda. Reach him at knaff@www.washingtonblade.com.

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

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