Aaron Riggins wears a lot of gay hats. He tends bar at Number Nine, hosts the WTF parties at Town, coordinates the monthly Homo Hotel Happy Hour each month (it’s usually the third Thursday) and is working on launching Floq Travel, an agency he hopes will give gay men travel opportunities to destinations they may not be as likely to visit on their own.
“It’s for urban destinations they’re not currently flocking to but should be because they have rich culture, history, nightlife, culinary scenes and so on,” the 28-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., native says. “I’m thinking of places like Mexico City, Istanbul, Tel Aviv. … I was in Mexico City for Pride last year and was completely blown away by the volume of people, the energy. It was a completely different experience from the Prides I’ve been to in the U.S.”
Riggins, who’s worked in Washington’s travel industry since he came here in 2006, hopes to launch his first trip in June to Mexico City. In the meantime, he tends bar three nights a week and enjoys planning his events. So is he a party animal by nature? Riggins says not especially.
“There’s a difference between hosting a party and making yourself vulnerable to someone,” he says. “I think it’s more the bringing people together I enjoy. I have the same insecurities as everyone else.”
He’s launching a new party called Pop Goes the World on the third Friday of each month at Green Lantern. He’ll co-DJ and will feature pop music from around the world. It ties into the concept behind Floq as well.
“The idea is that there are destinations that might seem a little daunting to do by yourself,” he says. “It’s so easy to just keep going back to Provincetown but I like the idea of us dispersing a little.”
WTF happens three-to-four times per year and is always the night before a federal holiday. Visit homohotelhappyhour.com for information on all of Riggins’ activities.
He’s single and lives in the U Street corridor. He enjoys traveling, cooking and fitness in his free time. (Blade photos by Michael Key)
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
I first came out to friends at 15 when I was a sophomore in high school. The most difficult, but rewarding coming out experience was with my mother when I was 16. Considering her conservative tendencies, the outcome continues to be much better than it could have been otherwise
Who’s your LGBT hero?
I have to cheat and choose two. There are quite a few heroic and courageous LGBT activists who have relentlessly fought for the rights we enjoy today. Even before there was a major motion picture about him, I had always admired Harvey Milk’s courage and passion. On a more local and personal level, Shea Van Horn has been a hero for me. Like no one else, Shea has taught me to be myself, be diplomatic and to be a great friend.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Warning: Shameless self-promotion. Washington’s best nightspot is my “WTF” party with Ed Bailey at Town Danceboutique on the day before any federal holiday. The energy and programming are always ridiculous and so much fun. The next one is Jan. 15.
Describe your dream wedding.
Strangely, I haven’t given this much thought. I suppose my dream wedding would be a relatively small destination wedding somewhere on the Mediterranean. I wouldn’t need much, just my future husband, my closest friends and my family.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Recently, I’ve been traveling to Mexico and Colombia quite a bit. I’ve met several people from these countries whose lives and families have been so adversely affected by the violence and death resulting from the war on drugs. I hope to see progress on that front very soon.
What historical outcome would you change?
The series “Summer Heights High” only airing one season.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
As cliché and predictable as this now is, I’d have to say the rise of Lady Gaga. She is an amalgam and the epitome of everything pop culture over the last few decades. It seems she is trying to be a positive voice for the LGBT community.
On what do you insist?
People treating each other respectfully.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I think a song by Lana Del Ray, one of my favorite new artists.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
A travel narrative with “Wanderlust” somewhere in the title.
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
Find a way to make Rick Santorum gay, if he isn’t already.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
Magic and unicorns
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
I don’t think LGBT movement leaders need any advice from me. I’d like to say thanks and just keep going!
What would you walk across hot coals for?
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
See the American Family Association website’s “Homosexual Agenda” section and take your pick.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Le Fate Ignorati.” It’s an Italian film about a woman who discovers her suddenly deceased husband has been living a separate life with a male lover. While searching for the truth, she finds herself woven into his other life and becoming close with her husband’s friends. The film is a great example of the strength of the non-traditional family so often found in the LGBT community.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
I hate waiting until all of the food has arrived at the table to begin eating.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
Global Services status on United Airlines.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
That everything was going to be OK.
Washington, D.C. is a dynamic community of highly educated and ambitious individuals from all over the world. There are endless opportunities for culture and creativity. It keeps me engaged, on my toes and I can’t imagine myself living in many other cities in the U.S.