Rayceen Pendarvis had a long and colorful career in all kinds of endeavors before starting the “Ask Rayceen” show at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in 2013. The show started as a natural outgrowth of the kind of life-affirming wisdom he’s been sharing for years.
He calls the show a “safe space and forum for LGBTQ people to express themselves and showcase local talent.”
The show is now held at LIV Nightclub (2001 11th St., N.W.) on the second floor. The next installment, slated for Wednesday, May 6, will find Rayceen holding court with a variety of local and national LGBT leaders such as Sharon Lettman-Hicks of National Black Justice Coalition, David Mariner of the DC Center, Ruby Corado of Casa Ruby and several others. Ramona Montanez and DJ Angie D will provide music. Rayceen will also interview several emerging leaders. The show, which features live music, discussion, comedy, games and more is always held on the first Wednesday of each month March-November. Doors open at 6 p.m. for the show at 7. Admission is free.
Rayceen identifies as gay, a “gender-bender” and “earth mother to the gays.” The native Washingtonian works by day as a nail technician at VSL. He’s coy on a few topics such as age (“I take advantage of my AARP card!”) and relationship status (“I recently met someone who enriches my life”).
He lives in Brentwood and enjoys prayer, uplifting the community and giving back in his free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Essentially, I was always out. Hiding it from myself was the hardest thing. Once I embraced who I am, that made it easier for me. When others around you experience your honesty and see you standing in your truth, that makes it easier to dialogue with anyone.
Who’s your LGBT hero?
It’s difficult to pick one. I am in awe of my trans sisters who stood on the forefront of the LGBT movement and broke down barriers, from the ballroom to the boardroom to the ballot. I’m particularly impressed by the work of Earline Budd, Lourdes Ashley Hunter and Janet Mock.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
The best nightspots of the past were the Brass Rail and Tracks. They represented two different eras but both celebrated freedom for people regardless of age, color, ethnicity, nationality, sex, gender expression or sexual orientation. We all came together and danced our troubles away! The best nightspot now is Liv at 11th and U Street, N.W. on first Wednesdays, where “The Ask Rayceen Show” continues that spirit of inclusion, unity and community.
Describe your dream wedding.
It doesn’t matter where, when or how much it costs — what matters is having that special day with the man I love and sharing it with family and friends.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
The issue of police brutality, the prison industrial complex and the school-to-prison pipeline. I’m pleased that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is gaining momentum. But like most issues, we should be mindful of intersectionality and that ultimately it all impacts LGBT communities.
What historical outcome would you change?
The assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Kennedy.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The release of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album and music video.
On what do you insist?
That we are all kind to one another.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
My last Tweet: “May 6 #AskRayceen Show @ Liv (U St NW): Community Forum + Live Music by Ramona Montañez (@RamonasSpot). Doors open 6 p.m. Admission is FREE.” If you follow @AskRayceen, you know that Twitter is an excellent forum for making shameless plugs!
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Not All Queens Wear Crowns”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I certainly wouldn’t change mine. I am perfect the way I am.
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
I am convinced there is a heaven because of all the hell LGBTQ people have endured in this life; and those who use religion as an excuse to hate and kill — their access to heaven will be denied!
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
To strive to be as inclusionary as possible. Please don’t cast anyone aside; everyone should be brought to the table. I also want them to know that what they do matters. Never give up, because our work is never done.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
All of the amazing members of Team Rayceen, because I know they would do the same for me.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
The idea that we want to “convert” people or “turn out” heterosexuals.
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“The Boys in the Band”
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Shaking hands. I much rather greet someone with a hug.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
An Emmy for best talk show. (I speak it into existence!) My most cherished award is the Angel Award, in honor of my mentor and mother Avis Penda’vis, presented to me at the 2014 Latex Ball in New York City by Luna and Sol Pendarvis.
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
I wish I knew that HIV/AIDS was about to hit my community so that I could have informed, educated and encouraged everyone to use condoms so that they could have lived.
I’m free and it’s my home.