September 15, 2011 at 2:17 pm EDT | by Joey DiGuglielmo
Queery: Stephen Rutgers

Stephen Rutgers (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Some 17th Street N.W. lovers yearn for a day when businesses and residents can co-exist more peacefully. That’s part of why the Urban Neighborhood Alliance organized. The 17th Street Festival — a hit in its first outing last year — is designed to advance that cause and also to provide locals with a fun afternoon.

“I’m kind of the young person in the neighborhood,” says 24-year-old Stephen Rutgers, co-chair of the event and vice president of the Alliance. “It’s about 17th Street coming together as a community … some people aren’t interested in that, but I think they’re being swayed a little bit. We’re making a consistent effort to get people involved.”

The Festival is next weekend — Saturday the 24th from 2 to 6 p.m. — and will stretch on 17th from P to Riggs streets. There will be food, attractions for kids, entertainment and more. Rutgers guesses between 4,000 and 5,000 were there last year. He’s hoping to double that amount this year.

Rutgers grew up in a large Mormon family in Murrieta, Calif. He says he’s an East Coaster at heart and was recruited to George Washington University to run cross country. He graduated in May with both a bachelor’s and master’s in tourism and sports and event management. The victim of a buyout and downsizing earlier this year, he’s job hunting now.

He and his boyfriend, Mark Rutstein, have been together two years and live together in the U Street corridor. Rutstein’s work at Cobalt (he’s general manager) keeps them active on 17th Street.

Rutgers still enjoys running and also likes reading and volunteering for the festival in his free time. Visit for details on that event.


How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?

My mom found out the week before I left for college. The rest of the family found out the day I flew out. My dad was hardest because of his religious beliefs.


Who’s your LGBT hero?

There are so many, but Frank Kameny had a huge impact on the D.C. gay community and 17th Street. It was an honor to meet him last year when we recognized him at the 17th Street Festival. I was able to have dinner with him at the festival and he is one of the most fascinating individuals to talk to.


What is Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?



Describe your dream wedding.

Something very simple surrounded by my closest friends and family.


What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

There are a lot of things, but changing the 17th Street neighborhood and the way it operates.


What historical outcome would you change?

The 2000 election of George W. Bush.


What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

Michael Jackson’s death. His name is synonymous with success. He was an example of pure talent and he inspired the whole world.


On what do you insist?

“There are two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” Indira Gandhi


What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

Something about the 17th Street Festival.


If your life were a book, what would the title be?

“Taming The Crazy”


If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

Nothing because I was born this way.


What do you believe in beyond the physical world?

I don’t know if anyone truly knows, but at least the stars are nice to look at.


What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

I think there needs to be better outreach of the younger generation and building the movement from that and not just off of rich donors.


What would you walk across hot coals for?

Mark Rutstein


What gay stereotype annoys you most?

That gays don’t like sports.

What’s your favorite gay movie?

“Latter Days”


What’s the most overrated social custom?

I don’t think there are any overrated social customs. I think people have forgotten to take the time and do things for others every once in a while.


What trophy or prize do you most covet?

I really don’t like receiving trophies or prizes, but knowing that I have made a positive impact on someone or the community is the best reward I could receive.


What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That I didn’t need to worry about friends/family accepting me because if they truly loved me they would accept and be proud of me no matter what I do or who I was.


Why Washington?

Why not Washington is the better question. No matter who you are or what you believe in there is a place for everyone here. If you ever feel like you don’t fit in you just walk a couple blocks over and you will probably fit in just fine.


Joey DiGuglielmo is the Features Editor for the Washington Blade.

  • Does Stephen really think Loony-Tooney Al Gore would have done any better? The Blad had to have made a typo or Stephen’s mouth made a mis-statement. If not, make me barf.

    It’s a shame Stephen hasn’t found God. If he did, he would likely find a tranquility and peace he has never known, PLUS he’d know who created all those stars he likes to observe.

    I wonder if he’ll still say he’d walk across hot coals for Mark Rutstein 2 years from now??

    • perhaps laurelboy2 doesn’t realize that there are many other fiction books to read that could provide tranquility like Puff the Magic Dragon or Holly Hobby Goes to Lunch with Barbie. Wow, a bitter religious Republican. Go figure. Not a surprise. Good job Stephen! Nice to see some ambition within our youth these days.

    • Not trying to provoke, but why are you so bitter? Just curious?

    • Why do you think that people have to “find God” to live a peaceful life? This world needs less religion and more people who just generally know how to treat others and live for themselves. But since you are religious, isn’t there something about judge not lest ye be judged? And here you are judging gay relationships and somehow determining they have less meaning and longevity than your own.

      • You haven’t been around in the gay world too long, have you? If you had you’d know how many men and women gays and lesbians go through. I’ve spent my adult life observing it and laughing about it with my friends and others.

  • Laurelboy2- I hit the “Translate” link and I still could decipher the point you were trying to get across.

  • This is the strength and passion that makes me love you so much.
    …and a comment for the moron laurelboy2 – maybe if the oh mighty powerful God was so mighty and powerful as scripture makes him out to be he wouldn’t allow people who run the Mormon Church amongst many other religions to lead with bigotry and discrimination. If he created those stars that Stephen likes to look at he surely wouldn’t create the leaders of the religious world today nor allow the scandal that takes place from within it’s walls. Religion is for values and discipline in development. The tranquility and peace obviously wasn’t so tranquil and peaceful in a religion that excommunicates gays or maybe he would still be Mormon. Get a life sweetie. ….and who cares who he says he would walk across hot coals for as long as he is happy in that moment and not an old nasty person like yourself.
    Bravo Stephen. Thanks for your community service.

    • Oh, but I’m young and cynical. And, I didn’t say anything about organized religion or churches: I simply referenced God. Further, I hope your relationship is as long lasting as mine has been, but we all know the realities of the gay world…

  • To laurelboy1…I’ve know Stephen all his life… I gave birth to him. Where you get the idea that Stephen hasn’t found God, needs to find God or hasn’t found tranquility or peace is beyond me. Stephen has dedicated most of his life to tranquility and reaching out in hopes thas all communities can co-exist more peacefully. I could write pages on what Stephen has done for not just the DC community but for the other communities starting back when he was in high school. If you go back and re-read what his objective is in organizing the 17th Street Fair, you might realize that you are the one that needs to find tranquility and peace. It appears to me you are being judgemental. If you had really “found God” then where is your love and compassion for all mankind and support of Stephen? I also agree with Mark. While I’d be sad if Stephen chose not to walk across hot coals for Mark, if Stephen is happy in that moment, while he’s following his passion of making a difference in this world and living true to who Stephen is… then that’s all that matters.

    Stephen… continue doing what you do best and be proud of it. You have a community of supporters across this country who are proud to call you their friend, inspite of their religious beliefs. If more people were willing to work hard and be committed to bringing peace among all communities like you, this world would be a better place.

  • @Laurelboy2…wow, who are you to make such comments? There are never any cheeseburger sliders around to throw at an idiot when you need them…sighs

  • Stephen, awesome responses! Keep up the good work and I wish the absolute best for you and your relationship with Mark!

  • @laurelboy2 finding God is more than just reading a bible, sitting through a service or wearing a crucifix around your neck. Doesn’t the bible talk about needing faith and good works and to practice in silence not to boast ur “practices” in front of others… Stephen’s faith and good works speak for themselves – his compassion, dedication to causes and positive spirit is and should be a model for all.

  • I won’t even bother to address the Al Gore issue, because we all know how poorly George W. ran our country. But instead we will start with finding God and having peace and tranquility.
    If you would have ever bothered to pick up a Bible, assuming you are Christian, you would understand a few things about the God that you are insinuating Stephen lacks. Jesus preached love, kindness, understanding, tending to the poor, and evangelizing through speaking the Word and following in His path. Now just from the few remarks you made, you seem to have missed the mark on most of those. Today’s Christians are quick to judge and cast down others, when they themselves cannot even muster up the humility to work in a soup kitchen, let alone wash the poor and destitute’s feet (something Jesus would do, in case you ponder WWJD?). Peace and tranquility? This sounds more like a Zen state to me, and I don’t think Jesus really has any place in Buddhism. This is all objective, to say it has nothing to do with knowing Stephen personally or not, based only on your cry for attention.

    Now, having known Stephen for several years, and Mark as well, I would like to tell you that you are way off base. Stephen is constantly and consistently finding ways in which to work in and with the community on projects and events that benefit everyone, not just the top 2% that a Bush fanatic would focus on.

    As for hot coals, who are you to belittle his love or affection for someone. As you’ve made it clear you know nothing about him or Mark. So if the God you speak of has it in his plan that Mark and Stephen, in two years, and still hot coal dancing together than so be it. I mean even I’d walk across at least tepid coals for Mark, he’s a good guy.

    So, my suggestion, find a new hobby that more fully lives out your faith. Like, volunteer at a Christian youth center, a soup kitchen, a hospital, or something that you can find more fulfilling than scouring the internet for articles that you can blast your disdain for humanity and trumpet your “beliefs.”

    *takes off reading glasses*

    Just Sayin’


  • Stephen is very simply one of the hardest working, kind, and intelligent human beings I’ve ever known. He will continue to do great things I’m sure. Stay true to who you are Stephen…..congrat’s on all you have accomplished so far :)


  • Stephen, you are a wonderful and amazing person and I love what you’re doing for the community. We need more people like you in the world…heck, you make me want to get involved! Everyone should be so lucky to have a friend like you and I cherish our friendship everyday ! You’re the best and we love you!

    As for you, laurelboy2, you want to get on your bitch box because you don’t like Stephen’s political beliefs, go ahead, the last I heard, we live in a country that provides us that freedom, but to attack Stephen personally? That he needs to find God? We’re all God’s children & weren’t we created in His image To question his relationship with Mark? You obviously don’t know them, so hide behind your sarcasm…I hope it keeps you warm at night! Me, I’ll just smile when I see them together (in 2, 10 or even 20 year from now) because that’s what it’s all about & THAT is what God intended from day one! And you know what else? the stars are really nice to look at! You should try it sometime!

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