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Best of Gay D.C. XVIII

Washington Blade readers vote on favorites in the community

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Christmas comes early this year! Long an October staple, the Blade’s annual Best of Gay D.C. readers’ poll awards gets bumped up to September this year as we’re keeping next month open for our 50th anniversary festivities (shameless plug: the Birthday Gala is Oct. 18; tickets at blade50th.com).

So we’re taking this week’s edition to celebrate who and what you think are the best Washington has to offer its LGBT residents. 

For every perennial winner like Freddie’s Beach Bar, the 9:30 Club or Miss Pixie’s — which have all extended their dominance again this year — there are newer faces like Ricky Rose (Best Drag King), Donald Mitchell (D.C. Gay Flag Football) and Lexie Starre (Best Burlesque Dancer). 

Some winners and runners-up flip-flop in succeeding years. Rayceen Pendarvis and Bishop Allyson Abrams have something like a volleyball game unfolding in these pages in the Best Clergy category. Time for a sermon-a-thon?

We’re also taking this edition to honor the Blade’s own Lou Chibbaro, Jr. a staple of the paper since the mid-‘70s and celebrating his 35th year as a full-time staff member this year. In a Blade “Best Of” first, we give an award to one of our own. Chibbaro is the recipient of this year’s Local Hero Award, a title that has previously gone to Danica Roem, Gavin Grimm, Rev. Dean Snyder and more.  

Thankfully here, nobody has to “sashay away.” That’s the beauty of gay Washington — we can enjoy Pitchers one night, JR.’s another. Check out Nellie’s Brunch one weekend and Hank’s Oyster Bar another. It’s all good. 

About 3,500 nominations and 20,000 votes were cast in 99 categories for the 18th annual Best of Gay D.C. Awards. The Blade’s Stephen Rutgers coordinated the process. The photographers are credited throughout. This year’s contributing writers are Brian T. Carney, Patrick Folliard, Evan Caplan, Philip Van Slooten and Joey DiGuglielmo. Awards presented Sept. 19 at Dacha Navy Yard. 

The Blade staff congratulates each of this year’s winners and finalists. 

HERO AWARD: Lou Chibbaro, Jr.

Lou Chibbaro, Jr. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Longer than Johnny Carson was on “The Tonight Show,” longer than “Gunsmoke,” longer than Barbara Walters on “20/20” or Ted Koppel on “Nightline,” Lou Chibbaro, Jr.’s full-time run at the Washington Blade is not only a record (so far as we’re aware) in LGBT media, it exceeds the runs of many classic long-running shows or media personalities. 

Starting as a freelancer in 1976 and full-time in 1984 (the same year Alex Trebek started hosting “Jeopardy”), Chibbaro is not only an LGBT icon and institution, he’s a stalwart reporter still out there pounding the D.C. pavement with shoe-leather reporting of the highest kind. For these decades of selfless service, he’s the recipient of a Blade “Best of Gay D.C.” first — on the occasion of the paper’s 50th anniversary, Chibbaro gets this year’s Hero Award, an accolade previously won by Danica Roem, Gavin Grimm, Rev. Dean Snyder and others. 

Chibbaro moved to Washington in 1972, came out in 1975 and was alerted to the existence of the Blade (which had started just after Stonewall in 1969) by a gay counselor he knew in New York. Working as a reporter for a newsletter in energy and environmental issues, Chibbaro wandered into the Blade office, then on 19th St., on the second floor in the same building as the Lambda Rising gay book shop, and introduced himself to the editor, the late Joseph Crislip. He was soon contributing to the paper. He’d been contributing to a gay radio show broadcast out of Georgetown University but its plug had been pulled and Chibbaro was looking for another LGBT outlet. 

Chibbaro remembers an informal office. The paper was released monthly at the time. One of his early scoops (from tipster Paul Kuntzler) was about a plan — eventually abandoned — to have a gay presidential candidate speak at the Democratic National Convention in ’76. Initially, Chibbaro wrote under a pseudonym (Lou Romano), fearful his Blade work might inhibit his employability down the road. It was a common practice as Crislip, too, had a fake byline. By the late ‘70s, Chibbaro was writing under his legal name. 

Through many editors, location changes, buyouts and more, Chibbaro has remained. He attributes his longevity to a passion for the subject matter.

“I came to Washington as a political junkie and when you’re interested in politics, Washington is the place to be,” Chibbaro says. “And as a gay person and someone who slowly got to know the community quite well, the types of stories we do are very interesting to me. They have significance and can have an impact.”

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia recognized Chibbaro’s local crime beat reporting by presenting him with its 1998 Justice for Victims of Crime Award, citing his “outstanding service to crime victims and their families” through his news reporting.

Among his other life achievement awards are Community Pioneer from Rainbow History Project (2009), GLAA and GAYLAW  Distinguished Service Awards (2010, 2013 respectively), Anita Bonds Community Cornerstone Award (2016) and the Partnership Award from the CAEAR Coalition. 

“I have for many years viewed my career at the Washington Blade as both a job as well as a community service,” Chibbaro said. “It is truly an honor to receive the Hero Award.” (JD) 

NIGHTLIFE

Best DJ Presented by BYQueers

Keenan Orr

Keenan Orr (Photo courtesy of Orr)

His music has been called “a sharp mix of disco, electro, funk and classics of the ‘80s and ‘90s” with past residences at Cobalt, the Rock and Roll Hotel and more D.C. venues. Orr spins at Sleaze at Wonderland Ballroom (first Thursday of every month) and is starting a new Thursday event soon at Uproar. He also has residencies at Eighteenth Street Lounge and MARVIN. And yeah, he’s gay. Look for him on Facebook to follow his upcoming appearances. (JD) 

Runner-Up:  DJ TWiN

Best Dance Party

Avalon Saturdays, Soundcheck

Avalon Saturday at Soundcheck (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1420 K St., N.W.

dougiemeyerpresents.com

Editor’s Pick: Sleaze, Wonderland Ballroom

Poised to celebrate its one-year anniversary in October, Avalon Saturdays at Soundcheck is a hit. 

During lunch break from a day at jury duty, party promoter extraordinaire Dougie Meyer explains, “At Avalon, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do. We brought a community together and gave them another safe space in D.C. to have fun and be themselves. Those who wanted to come for a drag show and those who want to dance to circuit music into the wee hours get that too.”

Things are still being tweaked, a year into the proceedings. 

“We’ve learned that to make Avalon great, we have to change something every week whether it’s the position of couches or discounted tickets or whatever. Our dedication to making our customers happy has earned us regulars, week after week, and that tells you you’re doing something right.”

Nothing is on autopilot here.

“A lot of people think you open the door, and — boom — there’s a party,” he says. “No, we have a team of people busting their asses all week long to make it happen. But on Saturday, it’s a night of fun and a good time with a changing roster of drag queens and DJs.”

And yet Avalon Saturdays isn’t resting on its laurels. Meyer says, “Our lineup through October is insane — our one-year anniversary party is followed by a Halloween party. We’ve already booked an international DJ for January 2020. The party keeps going.” (PF)

Best Bartender

Jo McDaniel, A League of Her Own (at Pitchers)

Jo McDaniel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Jo’s second consecutive win! 

2319 18th St., N.W.

pitchersbardc.com

Runner-up: Matthew Strother, Green Lantern (a 2011 and 2012 winner for his work at Secrets)

Best Burlesque Dancer

Lexie Starre

Lexie Starre (Photo by Your Rouge Photography)

D.C. Gurly Show

dcgurlyshow.com

Runner-up: GiGi Holliday

Sexy Lexie Starre got her start in burlesque with the D.C. Girly Show, the District’s longest-running queer burlesque troupe. She’ll be back onstage in December with the troupe’s Raise the Roof show, a fundraiser that will benefit local organizations.

In the meantime, she produces Pretty Boi Drag with her wife Pretty Rik E (who was the Blade’s Best Drag King last year). They started the troupe in 2016 and have been selling out shows ever since. They focus on elevating the visibility of drag kings, especially drag kings of color, and present both large productions as well as Open Mic nights where both new and veteran kings can get stage time.

Lexie is also working on getting her new business up and running. Wingo Circle Birth Services (wingocircle.com) provides labor and postpartum doula services and inclusive childbirth education classes for queer parents and families.

Lexie’s been performing since 2011 and says that some of her favorite showbiz memories were performing “Proud Mary” with her wife as Ike and Tina Turner (fringe and all!) on the main stage at Capital Pride and auditioning for “America’s Got Talent” with the D.C. Gurly Show. (BTC)

Best Drag King 

Ricky Rosé

Runner-up: Pretty Rik (A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.)

Multi-title holding drag king Ricky Rosé’s ethos is pretty simple: follow your dreams and all drag is valid.

Speaking via phone from a bus en route to a gig in Richmond, Va., Ricky explains their drag persona: “I’d say Ricky Rosé is like the name — brings glam to ghetto. Also, I’m your cool dad. I like to throw it back to my Latinx culture, lip-syncing mostly reggaeton and salsa. I’m a very proud Puerto Rican.”

Based in D.C., Ricky has been doing drag for two years. “Shortly after seeing my first drag king show, my heart wanted to jump out of my chest. I knew I’d found my calling and passion. I went home the same day and started practicing makeup.”

Offstage, Ricky’s chosen name is Yadiel. Ricky Rosé is a longtime nickname. “I wanted to stick true to myself while discovering my true form through gender identity. I’m non-binary in daily life. I’ve questioned gender identity as a kid and came into my non-binary gender through drag. I feel at home most in drag.”

Ricky, who frequently performs in queer venues all over town and holds down a day job at Sephora on 14th Street, is grateful for the votes from Blade readers. “It means people are seeing my work and appreciating what I bring to the stage. My goal has been to discover who I am and share and celebrate that with folks.” (PF)

Best Drag Queen

Bombalicious Eklaver 

Bombalicious Eklaver (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The drag-alter ego of Ed Figueroa, famous for making space for other Asian drag queens in the region. Follow her at @bombalicious.eklaver on Instagram.

Runner-up: Brooklyn Heights

Best Transgender Performer

Riley Knoxx

Riley Knoxx (Washington Blade photo by Blake Bergen)

Runner-up: Ana Latour

Riley Knoxx is the world’s number one Beyoncé impersonator. A heady job that’s taken her around the globe and afforded her a comfortable life. And while Knoxx performs with drag queens, she isn’t a drag queen. “Because I’m transgender, my performance style is very much what you’d get if you went to a Beyoncé concert. I try to make it as close to that as possible.”

Need proof? Check out her cameo in Taylor Swift’s star-studded “You Need to Calm Down” video alongside luminaries such as Adam Lambert, Adam Rippon, Billy Porter, Katy Perry, RuPaul and many more! 

When Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love” dropped in 2003, Knoxx took note. “People began to connect me with that song, and they started coming out to see me as her. My popularity grew with hers. So, naturally I thought there was something to this, and from that point on I only performed as Beyoncé.”

To remain on the top of the heap of a million Beyoncé impersonators takes work. As part of the job, D.C.-based Knoxx studies the star’s every move — how she walks, talks and holds the mic. She also dutifully mimics Beyoncé’s hair, wardrobe and makeup style. As a performer changes over the years, so must the impersonator.  

“Part of my career’s longevity is that I’m willing to change. I’ve never gotten bored, and so neither does the audience. It’s very different from year to year. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And growth has always been my goal.” 

Knoxx has always been a performer. She remembers being 5 years old, substituting a flashlight for a mic and pillowcase for long hair as she sang Whitney Houston songs around the house. 

“My trans experience was hard in the beginning, but performing helped to make it better. Having people who loved me before I loved myself was a big thing for me. As a transgender person, it has kept me going in a world that isn’t always loving toward transgender people.” (PF)

Best Rehoboth Drag Queen

Magnolia Applebottom

Magnolia Applebottom (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

The drag alter ego of Jeremy Bernstein hosts events all summer at the Blue Moon and other Rehoboth venues. Follow her at @mrsmagnolia on Instagram. 

Runner-Up: Regina Cox

Best Drag Show

Nellie’s Drag Brunch

Nellie’s Drag Brunch (Washington Blade photo by Vanessa Pham)

Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

900 U St., N.W.

nelliessportsbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Pretty Boi Drag (last year’s winner)

Best Singer or Band

Wicked Jezabel

Wicked Jezabel (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Also won this award in 2013, 2017 and 2018! Frankie & Betty held the title 2014-2016. 

Editor’s Choice: White Ford Bronco

Best Straight Bar

Dacha Beer Garden

Dacha Beer Garden (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fifth consecutive win in this category!

1600 7th St., N.W.

202-524-8790

dachadc.com

Editor’s Choice: Players Club

Best Karaoke

Freddie’s Beach Bar

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Doug Horn)

Freddie’s was runner-up last year.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Uproar

Best ABSOLUT Happy Hour

Number Nine

Number Nine (Washington Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

A Blade “Best Of” ping-pong game — A repeat of the 2017 outcome after flip-flopping last year! 

1435 P St., N.W.

numberninedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Trade

Best Live Music

9:30 Club 

9:30 Club (Photo by Katherine Gaines)

A perennial dominator — whopping 14th consecutive win in this category! Won every year since 2006 (plus 2002 and 2003 — every time the category has been included).

815 V St., N.W.

930.com

Editor’s Choice: Wolf Trap

Best Neighborhood Bar

Larry’s Lounge

Larry’s Lounge (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1840 18th St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: JR.’s

Best Bar Outside-the-District

Freddie’s Beach Bar

Freddie’s Beach Bar (Washington Blade photo by Doug Horn)

Extending their record! — with this win and the Best Karaoke win, that makes 23 wins for this Best of Gay D.C. favorite. Freddie’s has won this award every year since 2002 in addition to several others. It’s a Best of Gay D.C. all-time record for a single category.

555 S. 23rd St.

Arlington, Va.

freddiesbeachbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Baltimore Eagle

Best Outdoor Drinking

Dacha Navy Yard

Dacha Navy Yard (Photo courtesy of Designing the District)

Dacha Beer Garden won last year! 

79 Potomac Ave., S.E.

dachanavyyard.com

Editor’s Choice: Red Bear Brewing Co.

Best Place for Guys Night Out Presented by BYQueers

Pitchers

Pitchers (Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

2319 18th St., N.W.

pitchersbardc.com

Editor’s Choice: Ziegfeld’s/Secrets

Best Place for Girls Night Out Presented by BYQueers

A League of Her Own (at Pitchers)

A League of Her Own (Washington Blade photo by Molly Byrom)

Second consecutive win in this category! 

2319 18th St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: Ladies Tea at Hank’s Oyster Bar

Best Queer-Friendly Night Out Presented by BYQueers

D.C. Weirdo Show

D.C. Weirdo Show (Photo by StereoVision Photography)

dcweirdoshow.com

Editor’s Choice: Gay Bash

The D.C. Weirdo Show, the monthly cult favorite for freaks, geeks and exposed butt cheeks, started in 2006 at the Palace of Wonders on H Street before settling into its current home at the Dew Drop Inn in Brookland. Since 2015, the show has been hosted by Dr. Torcher and her fabulously weird colleagues. She typically serves as host and also performs as a fire eater, sword swallower and comedian. Her husband Mark is the tech weirdo; he does sounds lights and posters. Abraxas is the stage manager extraordinaire; as Dr. Torcher says, “she keeps the show flowing, manages props and sets the cast up for success.”

Dr. Torcher says, “The show is a supportive, creative stage for performers with tremendous talents in burlesque, clowning, comedy, performance art and sideshow. We’ve also had yo-yo stunts, pole dance, contortion, drag, dire flow arts and voguing.  

“Our audiences know that they will see a polished, thoughtful, strange and entertaining show. We’re an intentional reflection of the stories and communities that make D.C. everything it is. We center performances by queer people and people of color.”

Their next show, called “Weirdos for Life!” is this weekend (Sept. 20). Dr. Torcher is always on the lookout for new talent. New performers are included in every monthly show and the annual “Happy New Weirdo” show is all “new-to-us” performers. There’s an application on the website. Dr. Torcher says the troupe is always looking for “those who perform amazing physical feats and who represent stories that don’t usually get told on stage.” (BTC)

Best Rehoboth Bar

Blue Moon

Blue Moon (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Blue Moon was editor’s pick last year. 

35 Baltimore Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

bluemoonrehoboth.com

Editor’s Choice: The Pines

Best Rehoboth Bartender

Jamie Romano, Purple Parrot

Jamie Romano (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Third win in this category! Won in 2011 and 2013; was runner-up 2016-2017 (fair warning — he’s straight). 

Purple Parrot

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

Runner-Up: Sutton Ward, The Pines

Best Rooftop View

VIDA U Street Penthouse Pool

VIDA Penthouse Pool (Photo courtesy of VIDA)

Second consecutive win!

1612 U St., N.W.

penthousepoolclub.com/u-street

Editor’s Choice: POV Rooftop Lounge

FOOD

Best Ethnic Restaurant

Rasika

Rasika (Photo by David Liu via Flickr)

633 D St., N.W. & 1190 New Hampshire Ave., N.W.

rasikarestaurant.com

Editor’s Choice: Tiger Fork

Best Bloody Mary

Hank’s Oyster Bar/Hank’s Cocktail Bar

Bloody Mary at Hank’s Oyster Bar in Dupont (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

819 Upshur St., N.W.

hankscocktailbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Logan Tavern (last year’s winner)

Best Brunch

Le Diplomate

(Photo courtesy of Starr Restaurants)

Second consecutive win! 

1601 14th St., N.W.

lediplomatedc.com

Editor’s Choice: Farmers and Distillers

Best Locally Made Product

Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.

(Photo courtesy of Mason Dixie Biscuit Co.)

Approachable, affordable and portable Southern staples. Third consecutive win in this category. 

2301 Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

masondixiebiscuits.com

Editor’s Choice: Capital City Mambo Sauce

Best New Restaurant

St. Anselm

(Photo courtesy of Starr Restaurants)

Editor’s Choice: Little Havana 

St. Anselm

1250 5th St., N.E.

stanselmdc.com

Of the several Stephen Starr restaurants, St. Anselm shimmers bright. Located by Union Market, this meat-forward upscale-tavern-style restaurant is based on the Brooklyn locale of the same name. Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley helms St. Anselm, a storied and award-winning chef, and a veteran of Jose Andres and Mike Isabella restaurants. 

Thick, hearty steaks livened by liberal helpings of herb butter are served in a vibrant atmosphere that’s part button-up and part button-down makes this an unsurprising choice for a favorite meaty meal. Beyond slabs of meat, diners are agog at the impressive shellfish and non-traditional steakhouse items like flaky biscuits with ramekins of pimento cheese and crispy “BoBo” chicken dressed up (or down?) with mumbo sauce. 

Chef Meek-Bradley, says that she and her staff “are so honored to be recognized by the (LGBT) community as Best New Restaurant. We are thrilled to be seen as a welcoming place to all of D.C.’s amazing diverse people.” (EC)

Best Food Festival or Event

Taste of D.C.

Taste of D.C. (Photo public domain)

“Largest culinary festival in the mid-Atlantic.” Runs Oct. 26-27.

thetasteofdc.org

Editor’s Choice: RAMW Restaurant Week

Best Craft Cocktails

Hank’s Cocktail Bar

Hank’s Cocktail Bar (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! 

819 Upshur St., N.W.

hankscocktailbar.com

Editor’s Choice: Columbia Room

Best Fast Casual Dining

Stoney’s 

Stoney’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1433 P St., N.W.

stoneys-dc.com

Editor’s Choice: CAVA (last year’s winner)

Best Local Brewery

D.C. Brau

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“Popular craft brewery offering free tours and tastings.” Fifth win in this category!

3178-B Bladensburg Rd., N.E.

dcbrau.com

Editor’s Choice: Red Bear Brewing Co.

Best Local Distillery

Republic Restoratives

Republic Restoratives (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

1369 New York Ave., N.E.

republicrestoratives.com

Editor’s Choice: District Distilling

Best Burger

Duke’s Grocery

Duke’s Grocery (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. 

1513 17th St., N.W.

dukesgrocery.com

Editor’s Choice: Shake Shack

Best Caterer

Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Company

(Photo courtesy of Rocklands BBQ and Grilling Company)

Washington, Alexandria and Arlington

rocklands.com

Editor’s Choice: Occasions Caterers

Best Juice/Fuel Bar

Barry’s Bootcamp

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win!

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Editor’s Choice: Smoothie King

Best Chef

Jamie Leeds, Hank’s Oyster Bar

Jamie Leeds (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! Locations at The Wharf, Dupont Circle, Old Town Alexandria and Capitol Hill. 

hanksoysterbar.com

Runner-Up: Patrick O’Connell, Inn at Little Washington

Best Coffee Shop

Compass Coffee

Compass Coffee (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fourth consecutive win!

1335 7th St., N.W.

compasscoffee.com

Editor’s Choice: La Colombe

Best Special Occasion Restaurant

Floriana

Last year’s runner up! 

1602 17th St., N.W.

florianarestaurant.com

Editor’s Choice: Rose’s Luxury

Best Ice Cream/Gelato

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams (Photo via Instagram)

1925 14th St., N.W.

jenis.com/scoop-shops

Editor’s Choice: Ice Cream Jubilee 

D.C.’s hottest club, even in the throes of winter, is often this brightly lit scoop shop of national notoriety. Jeni founded the first of her chain’s premium, artisan-style, cult-fave ice cream shops in 2002, and opened the front-and-center 14th and U spot in 2017.

 Jeni’s uses all-natural ingredients and sources from direct- and fair-trade suppliers for the highly Instagram-ready cups and cones. The super-creamy scoops layer fruit, nuts and other ingredients for unusual combos. Two top flavors may explain why the shop’s a winner: the brambleberry crisp, vanilla mixed with toasted pie topping and thick, sweet-tart jam; and the almond brittle, of brown-butter-almond candy crushed into buttercream ice cream. Yes, you can taste test them all. The vegan hot fudge topping doesn’t hurt. Be aware of the price point: a scoop is a cool $7.50.

When it opened, the shop’s team said, “We believe ice cream has the power to bring people together, so we’ve created the kind of space we’d love to gather with friends and strangers over a scoop of ice cream.” (EC)

Best Farmer’s Market

FRESHFARM Dupont Circle Market

Dupont Circle Farmers Market (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! Sundays 8:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. year round

1600 20th St., N.W.

freshfarm.org/dupont-circle.html

Editor’s Choice: Eastern Market

Best Food Truck

Peruvian Brothers

Peruvian Brothers (Photo via Facebook)

4592 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria

peruvianbrothers.com

Editor’s Choice: Captain Cookie and the Milk Man Food Truck

Best Pizza

Timber Pizza Co

(Photo courtesy of Timber Pizza Co.)

Editor’s Choice: Comet Ping Pong 

809 Upshur St., N.W.

timberpizza.com

When it comes to top District-beloved pizza, it’s going down: you’re yelling Timber. 

The sizeable crispy-bottomed, blistered pies attract down-the-block lines in their hot Petworth digs. 

Owners Andrew Dana and Chris Brady, both from the D.C. area, started Timber when they realized that, “we hated our jobs … but we loved lunch,” they wrote. Dana and Brady founded their current brick-and-mortar shop in 2016 in Petworth after wowing crowds at farmers’ markets from its food truck starting two years prior. 

To helm the pizzeria, they brought on Chef Dani Moreira, who brings a distinct South American panache to her creative pies that are just traditional enough to be called “Neopolitan-ish.” 

At the popping shop, diners share communal tables and lots of napkins over stylishly titled pies coming out fast and hot from the wood-fired oven. Cheekily named pies include The Bentley, with chorizo, sopressata, Peruvian sweet peppers, and locally made spicy honey.

White and green pizzas, just as popular as red-sauced pies, add pops of Italianate color, and Chef Moreira brings out killer not-to-be-missed Argentine empanadas stuffed with saucy braised beef and sofrito. 

“As a D.C. native the best thing in the world is being voted Best Pizza by the people of D.C.! We’re always proud to be a friend of the LGBTQ community,” says Dana, not only co-owner, but also self-titled “chief dough boi.” 

Comet Ping Pong, the restaurant made infamous for “Pizzagate” in the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign, was a two-time repeat winner in 2017-18. (EC)

Best Rehoboth Restaurant

Azzurro Italian Oven + Bar

Cacciucco Alla Livornese at Azzurro (Photo courtesy of Azzurro)

210 2nd St., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 

azzurrorehoboth.com

Editor’s Choice: Blue Moon (last year’s winner) 

This new Italian restaurant features an irresistible menu of signature dishes like carpaccio di bresaola, a mozzarella bar, and a stunning frutti di mare overflowing with clams, mussels, lobster and more. All pastas are homemade in house. Chef/owner Francesco is a first-generation Italian who grew up in the restaurant business. His wife and co-owner Tonya makes everyone feel welcome and often brings limoncello with the check. The rooftop bar is one of the town’s too-few spots for outdoor dining and drinks. A new, must-visit dining destination in Rehoboth Beach.

Best Local Winery

City Winery

City Winery (Photo via Instagram)

Second year for both winner and editor’s choice! 

citywinery.com

1350 Okie St., N.E.

Editor’s Choice: District Winery

MEDIA

Best Local Website

DCist

dcist.com

Editor’s Choice: Popville (last year’s champ)

Best Local TV/Radio Personality

Ari Shapiro, NPR

Ari Shapiro (Photo by James C. Svehla of COD Newsroom via Wikimedia Commons)

npr.org/people/2101154/ari-shapiro

Runner-Up: Chuck Bell, NBC 4 (2015, 2016 and 2018 runner-up; 2014 winner)

You can hear Ari Shapiro’s velvet voice every weekday afternoon on NPR’s “All Things Considered” (broadcast locally on WAMU 88.5 FM). He’s been co-hosting the show since 2015. 

According to his bio on the NPR website, during his tenure at NPR he’s reported from above the Arctic Circle and aboard Air Force One and has filed stories from dozens of countries and most of the 50 states.

The out journalist began his reporting career as an intern for NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in 2001. Since then he served as NPR’s Justice Correspondent in the aftermath of the 9-11 attacks, was embedded with the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, spent four years as White House Correspondent during President Obama’s first and second terms and spent two years as the network’s London correspondent before assuming his present position.

Shapiro has been widely recognized for the excellence of his reporting. At 25, he won the Daniel Schott Journalism Prize for his investigation into methamphetamine use and HIV transmission. He’s also been recognized for his coverage of disability benefits for injured American veterans, the American judicial system and Hurricane Katrina and has been included in the “Out 100” and the Advocate’s “Forty Under 40.”

The intrepid reporter has been out since high school where he wore a pink triangle on his knapsack. He married his longtime boyfriend Michael Gottlieb at San Francisco City Hall in February 2004.

When time allows, Shapiro also sings with the band Pink Martini. He can be heard on four of their albums singing in several languages. (BTC)

Best Local Influencer

Timur Tugberk, @timurdc 

Timur Tugberk (Photo courtesy of Designing the District)

Timur was last year’s runner-up. See this week’s Queery for more.

Runner-Up: Maggie McGill, @maggiemcgill

Best Radio Station

Hot 99.5

HOT 99.5’s Elizabethany at this year’s Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win! 

Editor’s Choice: The Tommy Show

PEOPLE

Best Amateur Athlete

Donald Mitchell

Donald Mitchell (Photo by Pedro Suárez)

D.C. Gay Flag Football

dcgffl.org

Runner-Up: Sharifa Love (D.C. Furies, Rogue Darts)

D.C. Generals captain and wide receiver, Donald Mitchell, led his team to victory in Gay Bowl XVII and was quick to spread the love. 

“Everybody on our team made some play that was memorable,” the Nashville native told the Washington Post after the win. “There wasn’t one or two or three standouts. Everyone put in.”

Whether this Southern generosity was a part of his charm or his nature, it was appreciated by his community who named Mitchell best amateur athlete for 2019. 

“I’ve been on several teams,” Mitchell continued in the Post. “And I’ve never been more proud of a team that came together to fight for each other.”

Well, this award is one win he can claim for himself and still be proud. (PVS)

Best Artist

John Jack Photography

John Jack Gallagher (Photo courtesy of John Jack Photography)

John Jack Gallagher has been taking photos since his first boyfriend gave him a 35-millimeter camera for his birthday more than 30 years ago. In 2012, he started shooting professionally after members of the Stonewall Kickball team he’d been photographing insisted he shoot their wedding. A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. John Jack Gallagher was also the 2016 and 2017 winner. 

johnjackphotography.pixieset.com

Runner-up: Lisa Marie Thalhammer

Best Businessperson

David Winer

EatWell D.C.

Runner-up: Lisa Wise (Nest DC & Roost DC)

Being ‘woke’ is more than something trendy for local restaurateur David Winer — it’s something he feels in his heart. 

“Everyday I try to reach out to people and help them grow,” he says with a humility that seems rare for businesspeople these days, even those who become president. “And if I reach a couple of them, then that’s good. That’s the theme of our management company, to help others grow.”

For Winer, EatWell D.C. is about growing healthy communities, not just his bottom line.

“We are trying to do a better job of bringing local producers into the market,” he says of the work still ahead. “We’re trying to be environmentally neutral not only with our food, but with our beverages as well. We’re looking forward to educating a new crop of chefs to be sustainable and natural. That’s where we’re going.” 

Winer is humbled by the award and felt being environmentally and socially conscious weren’t just good business practices, but about “trying to live a good life” as well. (PVS)

Best Clergy

Bishop Allyson Abrams

Bishop Allyson Abrams (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Abrams regains the title after Rayceen won last year. They’re perpetual flip-floppers in this category. Abrams won in 2015 and 2017. Pendarvis won in 2016 and 2018 and was the 2017 runner-up. Abrams was the 2016 runner-up. 

Empowerment Liberation Cathedral

Sundays at 1 p.m.

4900 10th St., N.E. (Faith UCC Chapel)

empowermentliberationcathedral.org

Runner-up: Rayceen Pendarvis

Most Committed Activist

Charlotte Clymer

Charlotte Clymer (Photo courtesy Clymer)

The trans activist reached a settlement earlier this year with the Cuba Libre Restaurant after a manager forced her to leave after she used the women’s restroom in 2018. 

Runner-up: June Crenshaw

Best D.C. Public Official

Mayor Muriel Bowser

District of Pride, gay news, Washington Blade
Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win for the mayor! 

Runner-up: David Grosso

Best Hill Staffer/LGBT Bureaucrat

Alec Buckley

@AlecBuckley6 

U.S. Senate legislative staffer

Runner-up: Jacob Trauberman

Even though Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, (D-N.D.) lost her 2018 re-election bid, her former legislative aide is still hard at work campaigning for causes on the Hill. 

“Our household believes we can do more to #EndGunViolence,” best Hill staffer Alec Buckley tweeted on June 7 above images of himself and his partner in matching Wear Orange T-shirts. “That’s why we #WearingOrange @Everytown @MomsDemand.”

With 47 Tweets, 45 followers and 643 likes, Buckley may not be in Trump territory on numbers, but he still uses his social media presence to inform the public on social issues.  (PVS)

Best Local Pro Athlete

Elena Delle Donne, Washington Mystics

Elena Delle Donne (Photo courtesy of the Washington Mystics)

Delle Donne’s second consecutive win!

Runner-Up: Sean Doolittle, Washington Nationals

Elena Delle Donne keeps extending her accomplishments. This year, she joined the elite 50-40-90 club (NBA and WNBA players who have shooting percentages at or above 50 percent for field goals, 40 percent for three-pointers and 90 percent for free throws during an entire regular season), becoming the first-ever WNBA player to do so.

That puts Delle Donne alongside Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers including Steve Nash, Reggie Miller and Larry Bird. She was also named 2019 Associated Press WNBA player of the year and topped the league’s most popular jersey list for the third consecutive season.

In addition to her success on the basketball court (as the “small forward” for the Chicago Sky and the Washington Mystics she was named the WNBA Rookie of the Year in 2013 and the WNBA MVP in 2015 and is a five-time WNBA All-Star), Delle Donne (who’s out as a lesbian) is an award-winning author.

Her memoir “My Shot: Balancing It All and Standing Tall” recently won a Parents’ Choice Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation. Aimed at middle school readers, the book is an amazingly frank but age-appropriate discussion of both her career highlights and her personal challenges, including her decision to come out.

Last year, she also launched the “Hoops” series of novels for young readers (ages 8-12). “Elle of the Ball” introduces Elle Deluca, who closely resembles Delle Donne herself. Elle’s height is an asset on the basketball court but a liability in her ballroom dancing class where she towers over her male dance partners. The series continues with “Full Court Press” and “Out of Bounds.”

Like her fictional counterpart, Delle Donne is very tall and had an early growth spurt. She’s 6’5” and wears a size 12 shoe. She gets her height from her parents. Her dad, a real estate developer, is 6’6” and her mom is 6’2.”

She also gets her feisty spirit and determination from them. When Delle Donne was in elementary school, her doctor wanted to start her on injections to stunt her growth. Her mother refused, and, according to an interview with ESPN, she told her daughter, “Why try to be like the rest of the pack? Be your own person.”

The young athlete also had to come to terms with the fact that she could do things that her beloved older sister Lizzie would never be able to do. Lizzie, with whom Delle Donne remains close, was born deaf and blind, with both cerebral palsy and autism, and is unable to speak.

Born in Wilmington, Del., in 1989, Delle Donne rose to national prominence as a high school basketball star at Ursuline Academy. She led her team to three straight Delaware State Championships and was ranked as the number one recruit by Scout.com.

Delle Donne was recruited by the University of Connecticut but ended up playing for the Blue Hens at the University of Delaware. In 2010, she was named both “Player of the Year” and “Rookie of the Year” by the Colonial Athletic Association. Although she was diagnosed with Lyme disease during her sophomore year, she continued to excel as a college athlete and was selected second overall in the 2014 WBNA Draft by the Chicago Sky. She joined the Washington Mystics in 2017.

In 2016, Delle Donne won a gold medal as a member of the Unites States women’s basketball team at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Delle Donne officially came out in an interview with Vogue magazine in August 2016 where she announced her engagement to girlfriend Amanda Clifton. The couple was married in 2017.

The award-winning out athlete, who has signed endorsement deals with Nike, DuPont and Octagon, is also a noted philanthropist. She founded the Elena Delle Donne Foundation, which raises funds and awareness for Lyme Disease research and special needs programs and is also a Global Ambassador for the Special Olympics. (BTC) 

Best Local Pro Sports Team

Washington Capitals

Braden Holyby, center, of the Washington Capitals marches in the 2019 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s Choice: Washington Nationals

Same outcome as last year. 

Best Fitness Instructor

Mark Raimondo

Mark Raimond (Photo courtesy of Barry’s Bootcamp)

Barry’s Bootcamp

1345 19th St., N.W.

barrysbootcamp.com

Runner-up: James Crawford (Solidcore)

When best fitness instructor winner, Mark Raimondo of Barry’s Bootcamp, first heard Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down,” he knew he had to use it in his class. 

“I was like this is awesome,” he says. “It will make people feel safe, warm and invited to my classes.”

Raimondo teaches large classes of 50 or more, two to three sessions a day, but he’s still made personal connections and a few good friends in two short years. 

While students’ achievements inspire him, dance music motivates him. 

“At the end of the day, it’s fitness and it’s supposed to be fun,” Raimondo says. “So, I might throw some old Britney (Spears) in there to get people jazzed up.” (PVS)

Best Real Estate Agent

Michael Moore, Compass

Michael Moore (Photo courtesy Moore)

michaelmoorehomesdc.com

Runner-Up: Stacey Williams-Zeiger, Zeiger Realty Inc.

Michael Moore was a little frustrated working in retail clothing when a friend suggested he’d be terrific in real estate. Initially hesitant, Moore met with a savvy Realtor who encouraged him to give it a shot. With not a lot to lose, he took the classes, passed the test, and went to work for a boutique company broker in 1988. He’s been at it ever since. 

Today as a successful Realtor and senior vice president at Compass Real Estate, Moore credits his success to consistent customer service. “My career began with first-time homebuyers. In time, first-time buyers become sellers and they buy another house and they tell their friends. Now my business is almost entirely referrals and repeats.” 

Moore’s specialty is marketing and getting homes ready for sale. “I’m a huge proponent of staging and doing what it takes to project the property in its best light,” he says. “I try to create a situation that when a prospective buyer walks in the door, they love it, and think to themselves ‘won’t my friends be jealous when they see me living here.’”

While he does have a fair amount of LGBT clients, Moore never directed business toward or away from any one group. “Essentially I’ve always thrown the net out and taken what I get,” he says. “I’ve weathered good markets and bad markets and everything in between. … Real estate is crazy, maddening, exciting. It’s been a love affair.” (PF) 

Real Estate Group

Marin Hagen & Sylvia Bergstrom, Coldwell Banker

1617 14th St., N.W.

coldwellbankerhomes.com

Runner-Up: The Evan+Mark Team, Compass (last year’s winner) 

Best Rehoboth Real Estate Agent

Lee Ann Wilkinson, Berkshire Hathaway

Lee Ann Wilkinson (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Second consecutive win!

16698 Kings Hwy A.

Lewes, Del.

leeanngroup.com

Runner-Up: Henry McKay, Jack Lingo Realtor

Best Straight Ally

Kathy Dalby

Kathy Dalby (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

runpacers.com

Runner-Up: Mari Rodela

In 2006, Kathy Dalby took a leap of faith. She left a dream D.C. job as a health care policy analyst for a high-profile law firm and took a full-time job at Pacers Running. She’s now CEO of the company, as well as the managing partner for Pacer Events, LLC, and publisher of RunWashington. The six stores serve as hubs for local runners and offer a full range of running gear along with training advice and a robust schedule of regular fun-runs and special race events. 

Based on her belief in “authentic and community-focused relationship building,” Dalby has been a staunch LGBT ally. Pacers Running has been a supporter of Capital Pride and the D.C. Front Runners. In turn, the Front Runners made one of Dalby’s childhood dreams come true when they asked her to be a member of their Pride Parade dance troupe.

Dalby says, “I try to create a culture at Pacers where we celebrate others. I am proud to be an award winner, but it’ll be a real win when we don’t feel like we need to single out straight folks for being supportive of our LGBTQ friends because frankly that should be the norm.”

She has some excellent advice: “Acknowledge your privilege and acknowledge the beauty in differences,” she says. “It’ll make you a better person, I promise.” (BTC)

Best Transgender Advocate

Ruby Corado

From left, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado and Lt. Brett Parson of the Metropolitan Police Department speak at a community forum on anti-LGBT violence on July 9, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A new title for Ruby after three wins as “Most Committed Activist” and the Local Heroine award in 2014. 

Casa Ruby

2822 Georgia Ave., N.W.

casaruby.org

Runner-Up: Sarah McBride  

Best Stylist 

Michael Ian Hodges 

Michael Hodges (Photo courtesy of Logan Aveda 14 Salon and Spa)

Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa

1314 B 14th St., N.W. 

logan14salonspa.com

Runner Up: Roel Ruiz (last year’s winner)

For top stylist and Logan 14 Aveda Salon Spa owner Michael Ian Hodges, the recipe for success is simple: skills, consistency and friendliness. Also, location doesn’t hurt. There are more gays per inch in Logan Circle than anywhere else in the country, he notes. 

While adept at all types of styling, he’s best known for his men’s barber cuts. 

“I can do 44 cuts a day on a busy day. I have an assistant, and I double book: two guys every hour on a 12-hour day.”

Hodges first caught the hair bug sitting on the counter of his mom’s salon in England watching her do hair. When the family moved to the U.S., he brought his passion with him. After apprenticing with to an accomplished London-trained stylist in Maclean, Va.,, he began his professional career. Thirty years later, he’s still at it. 

At Logan 14, he maintains a large book of clients and helms a crew of 24 stylists. He’s grateful for his clients’ patronage. “They’re like family. I know their lives backwards and forwards. There’s a mutual support and caring. Relationships are important.”

Looking forward, Hodges, who lives with his husband on the D.C. line in Mount Rainier, Md., is expanding the size of Logan 14, and he’s considering opening a barbershop in the future. “I’m not getting any younger, (he turns 50 next year) but I see myself working and staying in the industry for a long time.” (PF)

COMMUNITY

Best Art Gallery

Renwick Gallery

Renwick Gallery (Photo public domain)

A repeat of last year’s outcome for both winner and editor’s choice.

1661 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.

americanart.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Best Adult Store

Bite the Fruit

Fourth consecutive win in this category! 

1723 Connecticut Ave., N.W. 

bitethefruit.com

Runner-up: Lotus Blooms

Best Car Dealership

BMW of Fairfax

BMW of Fairfax (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Last year’s editor’s choice. 

8427 Lee Highway, Fairfax, Va.

bmwoffairfax.com

Editor’s Choice: Maserati of Arlington

Best Apartment/Condo Building

Atlantic Plumbing

(Photo courtesy of Atlantic Plumbing)

Last year’s editor’s choice and the 2016-2017 winner.

2112 8th St., N.W.

atlanticplumbingdc.com

Editor’s Choice: City Market at O

Best Doctor/Medical Provider

Whitman-Walker Health

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. 

whitman-walker.org

Runner-Up: Dr. Robyn Zeiger

Best Fitness or Workout Spot

VIDA Fitness

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome.

Locations at U Street, Logan Circle and Gallery Place

vidafitness.com

Editor’s Choice: Barry’s Bootcamp

Best Gayborhood

Dupont Circle

Dupont Circle Fountain, Russian news agency, gay news, Washington Blade
Dupont Circle (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Shaw is dethroned after three consecutive wins! Logan was also the 2016 runner up. 

Editor’s Choice: Logan Circle

Best Hardware Store

Logan Ace Hardware 

Logan Ace Hardware (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A perennial favorite in this category. Third consecutive win! 

1734 14th St., N.W.

acehardwaredc.com

Editor’s Choice: True Value on 17th

Best Home Furnishings

Mitchell Gold+Bob Williams 

Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams in their 14th Street NW store. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Second consecutive win on the occasion of their 30th anniversary! 

1526 14th St., N.W.

mgbwhome.com

Runner-up: Room & Board

Best Home Improvement Service

Case Design

(Photo courtesy of Case Design)

“Full-service home remodelers building your dreams.” Third consecutive win! 

Locations in Washington and Bethesda.

casedesign.com

Editor’s Choice: Magnolia Plumbing, Heating & Cooling

Best Hotel

The Line

1770 Euclid St., N.W.

thelinehotel.com

Editor’s Choice: W Hotel

Best House of Worship

Foundry United Methodist Church

Foundry United Methodist Church (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Foundry fights back! Dethrones Empowerment Liberation Cathedral, which had four consecutive wins (2015-2018). Foundry (church home to 17 U.S. presidents) held the title 2011-2014 was last year’s editor’s choice. 

1500 16th St., N.W.

foundryumc.org

Editor’s Choice: St Thomas’ Parish Episcopal Church

Best Lawyer

Amy Nelson

Amy Nelson (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Whitman-Walker Health

whitman-walker.org

Runner-Up: Michele Zavos (last year’s winner)

Since 2008, Amy Nelson has been director of legal services at Whitman-Walker Health. One of her milestone accomplishments was organizing the name and gender change legal clinic in 2012, which continues to serve hundreds of clients in updating their gender markers on identity documents annually.

Nelson is understandably proud about her work at the historic D.C. institution, saying, “Working at Whitman-Walker Health means being a part of history, part of a big messy family full of inspiration and passion, and is like no other job I could imagine. I am extremely excited about our expansion in Southeast and expanded services for youth.”

Nelson also underscores the importance of reaching out to D.C.’s diverse communities. “D.C.’s many (LGBT) and immigrant communities are fabulous and bold but need a little more love to stay healthy and safe as this country moves to erase them,” she says. 

The fierce advocate acknowledges the role her family plays in sustaining her work. “I am so grateful to be sharing my life chaos with the one and only amazing June Crenshaw whose commitment to D.C.’s queer youth experiencing homelessness is limitless,” she says. “Her heart inspires me to do better, be kinder and be OK with being me.”

She also unwinds by hanging out with her nieces and nephew in Arlington. “They are adorable rays of sunshine and happiness who ground me every weekend,” she says. But be careful if you ask to see pictures of them. Nelson warns, “I only have a few thousand photos of them on my phone.” (BTC)

Best LGBT Social Group

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Their show “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda” is Saturday night (5 and 8 p.m.) at City Winery. The chorus knocks off Stonewall Sports after two consecutive wins. 

gmcw.org

Editor’s Choice: Stonewall Sports  

Best LGBT Sports League

Stonewall Kickball

Third consecutive win; 2016 runner-up. 

skdc.info

Editor’s Choice: DC Frontrunners

Best LGBT-Owned Business

District Title

A full-service provider of real estate settlements and title insurance. 

1150 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

districttitle.com

Editor’s Choice: Social Driver

Most LGBT-Friendly Workplace

Whitman-Walker Health

(Washington Blade photo by Wyatt Reid Westlund)

Third consecutive win.

1525 14th St., N.W.

whitman-walker.org

Editor’s Choice: National LGBTQ Task Force

Best LGBT Event

Capital Pride Celebration

The main stage at the 2019 Capital Pride Festival (Washington Blade photo by Drew Brown)

Third consecutive win! 

Editor’s Choice: Cherry Fund Weekend

Best Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian America Art Museum (Photo by Zach Frank via Wikimedia Commons)

F & 8th St., N.W.

americanart.si.edu

Editor’s Choice: National Museum of African American History and Culture

Best Non-Profit

SMYAL

SMYAL Fall Brunch fundraiser (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders. Second consecutive win! 

410 7th St., S.E.

smyal.org

Editor’s Choice: Latino GLBT History Project

Best Private School

Barrie

13500 Layhill Rd.

Silver Spring, Md.

barrie.org

Editor’s Choice: Edmund Burke (also last year’s editor’s choice) 

Best Pet Business

City Dogs Daycare

1832 18th St., N.W.

301 H St., N.E.

city-dogs.com

Editor’s Choice: District Dogs

Best Place to Buy Second-Hand Stuff

Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot

Miss Pixie’s (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A perennial favorite in this category! Same outcome for third consecutive year. 

1626 14th St., N.W.

misspixies.com

Editor’s choice: Buffalo Exchange (2016 runner-up)

Best Movie Theater

Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema

Landmark’s Atlantic Plumbing Cinema (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

New releases plus indie fare, foreign and avant garde. Third consecutive win. 

807 V St., N.W.

landmarktheatres.com

Editor’s Choice: AMC Loews Georgetown

Best Rehoboth Business

Purple Parrot

Purple Parrot (Washington Blade photo by Daniel Truitt)

Second consecutive win! 

134 Rehoboth Ave.

Rehoboth Beach, Del.

ppgrill.com

Editor’s Choice: Blue Moon

Best Salon/Spa

Logan 14 Aveda

Logan 14 Aveda (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Fourth consecutive win! 

1314 14th St., N.W.

logan14salonspa.com

Editor’s Choice: Bang Salon

Best Alternative Transportation

Capital Bike Share

Capital Bikeshare (Photo by Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz via Wikimedia Commons)

capitalbikeshare.com

Editor’s Choice: Lyft

A flip-flop of last year’s outcome. 

Best Day Trip

Easton, Md.

Easton, Md. (Photo by Mellowcream via Wikimedia Commons)

Editor’s Choice: Harper’s Ferry

Best Regional Pride

Annapolis Pride

Annapolis Pride (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Editor’s Choice: Baltimore Pride

Best Tattoo Parlor

Fatty’s Tattoos & Piercings

1333 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

516 H St., N.E.

8638 Colesville Rd. (Silver Spring) 

fattystattoos.com

Runner-up: Tattoo Paradise (winner last two years)

“It feels good, but we’re kind of used to it,” says Fatty (the only name he gives), owner of Fatty’s Tattoo on receiving this year’s Best Tattoo Parlor award. “We’ve been voted D.C.’s best tattoo shop 10 times now. Since 2009.”

It’s also their 25th year in D.C., and Fatty says success comes from welcoming everyone equally. When the Dupont Circle shop first opened, not all businesses embraced tattoo lovers.

“Back in the ’90s, tattooing was underground and being gay was still kind of underground, so we matched up pretty nicely.”

Fatty saw many shops close after the 2008 recession, but this match helped keep his parlor open. 

“That’s our mission of excellence,” he says. “The customer doesn’t need to see it posted, they need to feel it.” (PVS)

Best Theater

Kennedy Center

Kennedy Center (Photo by Make Male via Wikimedia Commons)

The Kennedy Center returns after an upset flip-flop last year; it held the title 2015-2017!

2700 F St., N.W.

kennedy-center.org

Editor’s Choice: Studio Theatre

Best Theater Production

“Bright Colors and Bold Patterns” (Studio Theatre, July)

Editor’s Choice: John Cameron Mitchell’s “Origin of Love” (National Theatre)

Best Veterinarian 

Friendship Hospital for Animals

An upset flip-flop of last year’s outcome — CityPaws held the title 2015-2018. 

friendshipanimaldc.com

4105 Brandywine St., N.W.

Editor’s Choice: City Paws Animal Hospital 

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a&e features

Juliet Hawkins’s music defies conventional categorization

‘Keep an open mind, an open heart, and a willingness to evolve’

Published

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Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Emerging from the dynamic music scene of Los Angeles, Juliet Hawkins seamlessly integrates deeply soulful vocals with contemporary production techniques, crafting a distinctive sound that defies conventional categorization.

Drawing inspiration from the emotive depth of Amy Winehouse and weaving together elements of country, blues, and pop, Hawkins’ music can best be described as a fusion–perhaps best termed as soulful electronica. Yet, even this characterization falls short, as Hawkins defines herself as “a blend of a million different inspirations.”

Hawkins’s musical palette mirrors her personae: versatile and eclectic. Any conversation with Hawkins makes this point abundantly clear. She exhibits the archetype of a wild, musical genius while remaining true to her nature-loving, creative spirit. Whether recording in the studio for an album release, performing live in a studio setting, or playing in front of a live audience, Hawkins delivers her music with natural grace. 

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

However, Hawkins’s musical journey is far from effortless. Amid personal challenges and adversity, she weaves her personal odyssey of pain and pleasure, transforming these experiences into empowering anthems.

In a candid interview with the Blade, Hawkins spoke with profound openness and vulnerability about her past struggles with opiate and heroin addiction: “That was 10 years ago that I struggled with opiates,” she shared. Yet, instead of letting her previous addiction define her, Hawkins expressed to the Blade that she harbors no shame about her past. “My newer music is much more about empowerment than recovery,” she explained, emphasizing that “writing was the best way to process trauma.”

Despite her struggles with addiction, Hawkins managed to recover. However, she emphasizes that this recovery is deeply intertwined with her spiritual connection to nature. An illustrative instance of Hawkins’ engagement with nature occurred during the COVID pandemic.

Following an impulse that many of us have entertained, she bought a van and chose to live amidst the trees. It was during this period that Hawkins composed the music for her second EP, titled “Lead with Love.”

In many ways, Hawkins deep spiritual connection to nature has been profoundly shaped by her extensive travels. Born in San Diego, spending her formative years in Massachusetts, and later moving to Tennessee before returning to Southern California, she has broadened her interests and exposed herself to the diverse musical landscapes across America.

“Music is the only thing I have left,” Hawkins confides to the Blade, highlighting the integral role that music has in her life. This intimate relationship with music is evident in her sultry and dynamic compositions. Rather than imitating or copying other artists, Hawkins effortlessly integrates sounds from some of her favorite musical influences to create something new. Some of these influences include LP, Lucinda Williams, Lana Del Rey, and, of course, Amy Winehouse, among others.

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

Hawkins has always been passionate about music—-she began with piano at a young age, progressed to guitar, and then to bass, eagerly exploring any instrument she could get her hands on. However, instead of following a traditional path of formalized lessons and structured music theory, Hawkins told the Blade that she “has a hard time following directions and being told what to do.”

This independent approach has led her to experiment with various genres and even join unexpected groups, such as a tribute band for Eric Clapton and Cream. While she acknowledges that her eclectic musical interests might be attributed to ADHD, she holds a different belief: “Creative minds like to move around.”

When discussing her latest musical release — “Stay True (the live album)” which was recorded in a live studio setting — Hawkins describes the experience as a form of improvisation with both herself and the band:

“[The experience] was this divine honey that was flowing through all of us.” She explains that this live album was uncertain in the music’s direction. “For a couple of songs,” Hawkins recalls, “we intuitively closed them out.” By embracing creative spontaneity and refusing to be constrained by fear of mistakes, the live album authentically captures raw sound, complete with background chatter, extended outros, and an extremely somber cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” coupled with a slow piano and accompanied strings.

While “Stay True” was a rewarding experience for Hawkins, her favorite live performance took place in an unexpected location—an unattended piano in the middle of an airport. As she began playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”, Hawkins shared with the Blade a universal connection we all share with music: “This little girl was dancing as I was playing.”

After the performance, tears welled in Hawkins’ eyes as she was touched by the young girl’s appreciation of her musicianship. Hawkins tells the Blade, “It’s not about playing to an audience—it’s about finding your people.”

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

What sets Hawkins apart as an artist is her ability to connect with her audience in diverse settings. She highlights EDC, an electronic dance music festival, as a place where she unabashedly lets her “freak flag” fly and a place to connect with her people. Her affinity for electronic music not only fuels her original pop music creations, but also inspires her to reinterpret songs with an electronic twist. A prime example of this is with her electronic-style cover of Tal Bachman’s 90’s hit, “She’s So High.”

As an openly queer woman in the music industry, Hawkins is on a mission to safeguard artistic integrity. In songs like “My Father’s Men,” she bares her vulnerability and highlights the industry’s misogyny, which often marginalizes gender minorities in their pursuit of artistic expression.

She confides to the Blade, “The industry can be so sexist, misogynist, and oppressive,” and points out that “there are predators in the industry.” Yet, rather than succumbing to apathy, Hawkins is committed to advocating for gender minorities within the music industry.

“Luckily, people are rising up against misogyny, but it’s still there. ‘My Father’s Men’ is a message: It’s time for more people who aren’t just white straight men to have a say.”

Hawkins is also an activist for other causes, with a fervent belief in the preservation of bodily autonomy. Her self-directed music video “I’ll play Daddy,” showcases the joy of embracing one’s body with Hawkins being sensually touched by a plethora of hands. While the song, according to Hawkins, “fell upon deaf ears in the south,” it hasn’t stopped Hawkins from continuing to fight for the causes she believes in. In her interview, Hawkins encapsulated her political stance by quoting an artist she admires:

“To quote Pink, ‘I don’t care about your politics, I care about your kids.’”

When Hawkins isn’t writing music or being a champion for various causes, you might catch her doing the following: camping, rollerblading, painting, teaching music lessons, relaxing with Bernie (her beloved dog), stripping down for artsy photoshoots, or embarking on a quest to find the world’s best hollandaise sauce.

But at the end of the day, Hawkins sums up her main purpose: “To come together with like-minded people and create.”

Juliet Hawkins (Photo by David Khella)

Part of this ever-evolving, coming-of-age-like journey includes an important element: plant-based medicine. Hawkins tells the Blade that she acknowledges her previous experience with addiction and finds certain plants to be useful in her recovery:

“The recovery thing is tricky,” Hawkins explains, “I don’t use opiates—-no powders and no pills—but I am a fan of weed, and I think psilocybin can be helpful when used at the right time.” She emphasizes the role of psychedelics in guiding her towards her purpose. “Thanks for psychedelics, I have a reignited sense of purpose … Music came naturally to me as an outlet to heal.” 

While she views the occasional dabbling of psychedelics as a spiritual practice, Hawkins also embraces other rituals, particularly those she performs before and during live shows. “I always carry two rocks with me: a labradorite and a tiger’s eye marble,” she explains.

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Lavender Mass and the art of serious parody in protest

Part 3 of our series on the history of LGBTQ religion in D.C.

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The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have been parodying religion for decades. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(Editor’s note: Although there has been considerable scholarship focused on LGBTQ community and advocacy in D.C., there is a deficit of scholarship focused on LGBTQ religion in the area. Religion plays an important role in LGBTQ advocacy movements, through queer-affirming ministers and communities, along with queer-phobic churches in the city. This is the final installment of a three-part series exploring the history of religion and LGBTQ advocacy in Washington, D.C. Visit our website for the previous installments.) 

Six sisters gathered not so quietly in Marion Park, Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 8, 2022. As the first sounds of the Women’s March rang out two blocks away at 11 am, the Sisters passed out candles to say Mass on the grass. It was their fifth annual Lavender Mass, but this year’s event in particular told an interesting story of religious reclamation, reimagining a meaningful ritual from an institution that seeks to devalue and oppress queer people.

The D.C. Sisters are a chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an organization of “drag nuns” ministering to LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. What first began as satire on Easter Sunday 1979 when queer men borrowed and wore habits from a production of The Sound of Music became a national organization; the D.C. chapter came about relatively late, receiving approval from the United Nuns Privy Council in April 2016. The D.C. Sisters raise money and contribute to organizations focused on underserved communities in their area, such as Moveable Feast and Trans Lifeline, much like Anglican and Catholic women religious orders.

As Sister Ray Dee O’Active explained, “we tend to say we raise funds, fun, and hell. I love all three. Thousands of dollars for local LGBTQ groups. Pure joy at Pride parades when we greet the next generation of activists. And blatant response to homophobia and transphobia by protest after protest.” The Lavender Mass held on October 8th embodied their response to transphobia both inside and outside pro-choice groups, specifically how the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 intimately affects members of the LGBTQ+ community.

 As a little history about the Mass, Sister Mary Full O’Rage, shown wearing a short red dress and crimson coronet and veil in the photo above developed the Lavender Mass as a “counterpart” or “counter narrative” to the Red Mass, a Catholic Mass held the first Sunday of October in honor Catholics in positions of civil authority, like the Supreme Court Justices. The plan was to celebrate this year’s Lavender Mas on October 1st at the Nuns of the Battlefield Memorial, located right across the street from the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, where many Supreme Court Justices attend the Red Mass every year.

 As Sister Mary explained, this year “it was intended to be a direct protest of the actions of the Supreme Court, in significant measure their overturning of reproductive rights.”

 Unfortunately, the October 1st event was canceled due to heavy rain and postponed to October 8th at the recommendation of Sister Ruth Lisque-Hunt and Sister Joy! Totheworld. The focus of the Women’s March this year aligned with the focus of the Lavender Mass—reproductive rights—and this cause, Sister Mary explained, “drove us to plan our Lavender Mass as a true counter-ritual and protest of the Supreme Court of who we expected to attend the Red Mass,” and who were protested in large at the Women’s March. 

The “Lavender Mass was something that we could adopt for ourselves,” Sister Mary spoke about past events. The first two Masses took place at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, right around the corner from the Supreme Court. The second Mass, as Sister Mary explained, celebrated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; “we canonized her.” Canonization of saints in the Catholic Church also takes place during a Mass, a Papal Mass in particular.

 During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sisters moved the Mass outside for safety, and the third and fourth Masses were celebrated at the Nuns of the Battlefield Memorial. “It celebrates nuns, and we are nuns, psycho-clown nuns,” Sister Mary chuckled, “but we are nuns.” After the Mass, the Sisters would gather at a LGBTQ+ safe space or protest at the Catholic Church or Supreme Court. Although they often serve as “sister security” at local events, working to keep queer community members safe according to Sister Amore Fagellare, the Lavender Mass is not widely publicly advertised, out of concern for their own.

 On October 8th, nine people gathered on the grass in a circle—six sisters, myself, and two people who were close with professed members—as Sister Mary called us to assemble before leading us all in chanting the chorus to Sister Sledge’s 1979 classic song “We Are Family.” 

Next, novice Sister Sybil Liberties set a sacred space, whereby Sister Ruth and Sister Tearyn Upinjustice walked in a circle behind us, unspooling pink and blue ribbons to tie us together as a group. As Sister Sybil explained, “we surround this sacred space in protection and sanctify it with color,” pink for the choice to become a parent and blue for the freedom to choose not to be a parent but also as Sybil elaboration, in recognition of “the broad gender spectrum of people with the ability to become pregnant.” This intentional act was sought to fight transphobia within the fight for reproductive rights.

After singing Lesley Gore’s 1963 song “You Don’t Own Me,” six speakers began the ritual for reproductive rights. Holding out our wax plastic candles, Sister Sybil explained that each speaker would describe a story or reality connected to reproductive rights, and “as I light a series of candles for the different paths we have taken, if you recognize yourself in one of these prayers, I invite you to put your hand over your heart, wherever you are, and know that you are not alone – there is someone else in this gathered community holding their hand over their heart too.”

The Sisters went around the circle lighting a candle for those whose stories include the choice to end a pregnancy; those whose include the unwanted loss of a pregnancy or struggles with fertility; those whose include the choice to give birth, raise or adopt a child; those whose include the choice not to conceive a child, to undergo forced choice, or with no choice at all; those who have encountered violence where there “should have been tenderness and care;” and those whose reproductive stories are still being written today.

After each reading, the group spoke together, “may the beginnings and endings in our stories be held in unconditional love and acceptance,” recalling the Prayer of the Faithful or General Intercessions at Catholic Masswhere congregations respond “Lord, hear our prayer” to each petition. Sister Sybil closed out the ritual as Sister Mary cut the blue and pink ribbons between each person, creating small segments they could take away with them and tie to their garments before walking to the Women’s March. The Sisters gathered their signs, drums, and horns before walking to Folger Park together into the crowd of protestors.

 At first glance, the Lavender Mass may appear like religious appropriation, just as the Sisters themselves sometimes look to outsiders. They model themselves after Angelican and Catholic women religious, in dress—they actively refer to their clothing as “habits,” their organization—members must also go through aspirant, postulant, and novice stages to be fully professed and they maintain a hierarchical authority, and in action. Like white and black habits, the Sisters all wear white faces to create a unified image and colorful coronets, varying veil color based on professed stage. Sister Allie Lewya explained at their September 2022 meeting, “something about the veils gives us a lot of authority that is undue,” but as the Sisters reinforced at the Women’s March, they are not cosplayers nor customers, rather committed clergy.  

As such, the Sisters see their existence within the liminal spaces between satire, appropriation, and reimagination, instead reclaiming the basis of religious rituals to counter the power holders of this tradition, namely, to counter the Catholic Church and how it celebrates those in positions of authority who restrict reproductive rights. Similarly, the Lavender Mass is modeled after a Catholic or Anglican Mass. It has an intention, namely reproductive rights, a call to assemble, setting of a sacred space, song, chant, and prayer requests. It even uses religious terminology; each section of the Mass is ended with a “may it be/Amen/Awen/Ashay/aho.”

 While this ritual—the Lavender Mass—appropriates a religious ritual of the Catholic Church and Anglican Church, this religious appropriation is necessitated by exclusion and queerphobia. As David Ford explains in Queer Psychology, many queer individuals retain a strong connection to their faith communities even though they have experienced trauma from these same communities. Jodi O’Brien builds on this, characterizing Christian religious institutions as spaces of personal meaning making and oppression. This essay further argues that the fact this ritual is adopted and reimagined by a community that the dominant ritual holder—the Catholic Church—oppressed and marginalized, means that it is not religious appropriation at all.

Religious appropriation, as highlighted in Liz Bucar’s recent book, Stealing My Religion (2022), is the acquisition or use of religious traditions, rituals, or objects without a full understanding of the community for which they hold meaning. The Sisters, however, fully understand the implications of calling themselves sisters and the connotations of performing a ritual they call a “Mass” as women religious, a group that do not have this authority in the Catholic Church. It is the reclamation of a tradition that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence understand because some were or are part of the Catholic Church.

 Some sisters still seek out spiritual meaning, but all also recognize that the Catholic Church itself is an institution that hinders their sisters’ access and actively spreads homophobia and transphobia to this day. As such, through the Lavender Mass, the sisters have reclaimed the Mass as a tool of rebellion in support of queer identity.

 Just as the Sisters recognize the meaning and power of the ritual of a Mass, along with the connotations of being a sister, the Lavender Mass fulfilled its purpose as a ritual of intention just as the Sisters fulfill public servants. “As a sister,” Sister Ruth dissected, “as someone who identifies as a drag nun, it perplexes people, but when you get the nitty gritty, we serve a similar purpose, to heal a community, to provide support to a community, to love a community that has not been loved historically in the ways that it should be loved.

 The Sisters’ intentionality in recognizing and upholding the role of a woman religious in their work has been well documented as a serious parody for the intention of queer activism by Melissa Wilcox. The Lavender Mass is a form of serious parody, as Wilcox posits in the book: Queer Nuns: Religion, Activism, and Serious Parody(2018). The Mass both challenges the queerphobia of the Catholic Church while also reinforcing the legitimacy of this ritual as a Mass. The Sisters argue that although they would traditionally be excluded from religious leadership in the Catholic Church, they can perform a Mass. In doing so, they challenge the role that women religious play in the Catholic Church as a whole and the power dynamics that exclude queer communities from living authentically within the Church.

By reclaiming a tradition from a religious institution that actively excludes and traumatizes the LGBTQ+ community, the Lavender Mass is a form of religious reclamation in which an oppressed community cultivates queer religious meaning, reclaims a tradition from which they are excluded, and uses it to fuel queer activism (the fight for reproductive rights). This essay argues that the Lavender Mass goes one step further than serious parody. While the Sisters employ serious parody in their religious and activist roles, the Lavender Mass is the active reclamation of a religious tradition for both spiritual and activist ends.

 Using the celebration of the Mass as it was intended, just within a different lens for a different purpose, this essay argues, is religious reclamation. As a collection of Austrian and Aotearoan scholars explored most recently in a chapter on acculturation and decolonization, reclamation is associated with the reassertion and ownership of tangibles: of rituals, traditions, objects, and land. The meaning of the Lavender Mass comes not only from the Sisters’ understanding of women religious as a social and religious role but rather from the reclamation of a physical ritual—a Mass—that has specific religious or spiritual meaning for the Sisters.

 When asked why it was important to call this ritual a “Mass,” Sister Mary explained: “I think we wanted to have something that denoted a ritual, that was for those who know, that the name signifies that it was a counter-protest. And you know, many of the sisters grew up with faith, not all of them Catholics but some, so I think ‘Mass’ was a name that resonated for many of us.”  

 As Sister Ray said, “my faith as a queer person tends to ostracize me but the Sisters bring the imagery and language of faith right into the middle of the LGBTQ world.” This Lavender Mass, although only attended and experienced by a few of the Women’s March protests, lived up to its goal as “a form of protest that is hopefully very loud,” as Sister Millie Taint advertised in the Sisters’ September 2022 chapter meeting. It brought religious imagery and language of faith to a march for reproductive rights, using a recognized model of ritual to empower protestors.

The Lavender Mass this year, as always, was an act of rebellion, but by situating itself before the Women’s March and focusing its intention for reproductive rights, the Sisters’ reclaimed a religious ritual from a system of authority which actively oppressed LGBTQ+ peoples and those with the ability to become pregnant, namely the Catholic Church, and for harnessing it for personal, political, and spiritual power. In essence, it modelled a system of religious reclamation, by which a marginalized community takes up a religious ritual to make its own meaning and oppose the religious institution that seeks to exclude the community from ritual participation.  

Emma Cieslik will be presenting on LGBTQ+ Religion in the Capital at the DC History Conference on Friday, April 6th. She is working with a DC History Fellow to establish a roundtable committed to recording and preserving this vital history. If you have any information about these histories, please reach out to Emma Cieslik at [email protected] or the Rainbow History Project at [email protected].

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Conflict and profound loss: the AIDS epidemic and religious protest

Part 2 of our series on the history of LGBTQ religion in D.C.

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The Washington National Cathedral has been home to numerous affirming services over the years. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

(Editor’s note: Although there has been considerable scholarship focused on LGBTQ community and advocacy in D.C., there is a deficit of scholarship focused on LGBTQ religion in the area. Religion plays an important role in LGBTQ advocacy movements, through queer-affirming ministers and communities, along with queer-phobic churches in the city. This is part two of a three-part series exploring the history of religion and LGBTQ advocacy in Washington, D.C.) 

The Gay Liberation Front of DC previously organized a Gay Pride Week in 1972, by the efforts of Chuck Hall, Bruce Pennington, and Cade Ware. Deacon Maccubbin was still perplexed how Washington, D.C., which had a diverse gay scene, albeit a segregated one, did not have a large festival to gather together like that in New York. Together with former Gay Activists Alliance president Bob Carpenter, Maccubbin set out to plan a Pride event specific to the city, and on June 22, 1975, “Gay Pride Day” was the first officially recognized Pride celebration in D.C. The first Gay Pride Day was scheduled one week in advance of the Christopher Street Liberation Day parade in New York City so that LGBTQ D.C. residents could participate in that parade alongside others along the East Coast. 

One year later, the timing sparked controversy because Gay Pride Day fell on June 20, also Father’s Day. John Wilson’s opponent in the Democratic primary election spoke out against Wilson’s support of holding Pride Day on the 20th. His opponent argued that Wilson was “an embarrassment to the city for introducing a Council resolution allowing Gay Pride Day to fall on Father’s Day.” Similarly William Stahr of Baltimore shared in a column in The Washington Star that the Council decision “is outrageously anti-social because the encouragement of homosexuality weakens society by undermining the family.”

LGBTQ community representative David L. Aiken wrote a letter back to the editor of The Washington Star on June 18, 1976 explaining the community’s decision. 

“Gays do not threaten fatherhood, motherhood, or any other traditional values. Many people who are fathers or mothers have a realization that there is another side to their personality that can be expressed through gay love. The two are not mutually exclusive. What gay pride does challenge, however, is the bigoted assumption that heterosexual relations are the only kind about which it is polite to speak.”

Many Catholic priests in the area were upset that it fell on Father’s Day as well, which is celebrated in American Catholic churches with a special Mass that day, but the organizer of the second annual Gay Pride Day, Frank Akers, then a staff member at the Washington Blade, reported that the 1976 Gay Pride Day “was a success spiritually, if not financially.”

But the success of the 1976 Gay Pride Day was followed shortly after by the start of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In the late 1970s, the HIV strain arrived in the United States and men who had sex with men were disproportionately affected. While LGBTQ individuals still faced intense persecution in secular and some religious spaces, the visibility of religiously motivated homophobia only grew and grew as conservative religious leaders like Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell argued that HIV/AIDS was God’s punishment for the “promiscuity” of LGBTQ individuals. He made this especially clear in a discussion with MCC founder Troy Perry on July 6, 1983. Like many major cities, Washington, D.C. was hit hard but affirming organizations worked to provide care for LGBTQ people. 

In 1982, D.C.’s MCC partnered with the Whitman-Walker Clinic, the NIH, MCC Baltimore, and Georgetown University Hospital to host one of the first AIDS forums in the nation (the event was held at the church). At a time when people were still weary of contact with HIV-positive individuals, water baptism was held by Faith Temple at Calvary Baptist Church in D.C. in 1986. This occurred at a time when many churches were not baptizing persons known or thought to be HIV positive or had AIDS. On Oct. 12, 1991, the NAMES Project Chapter and the Clergy Commission on AIDS coordinated the display of pieces of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at DMV churches, from St. Augustine Catholic Church to New Bethel Baptist Church to the National Cathedral. 

The National Cathedral first began its ministry around HIV/AIDS in 1986, hosting a conference that same year to address how religion and religious communities can serve as allies and caregivers. The National Cathedral also displayed the quilt and organized services around the memorial in 1988, the year of the national tour of the Quilt, as well as in 1990, 1993, 1994, and 1996. Most recently, The Washington Cathedral also hosted the AIDS Memorial Quilt in July 2012, on the quilt’s 25th anniversary. From July 17-26, the Cathedral honored all those who died from AIDS and individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS. Dr. James Curran spoke during the interfaith memorial service at the Cathedral on Saturday, July 21. 

However, at the same time, the Dignity chapter meeting at Georgetown University was forced to move to St. Margaret Episcopal Church after the Vatican released a letter by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger claiming that LGBTQ individuals are “objectively disordered” in October 1986. Social and violent homophobia continued into the early 1990s, especially as focus on family rights were conflated with anti-LGBTQ legislation in the late 1980s. Another resurgence of family rights would occur in the late 2010s and early 2020s with the election of Donald Trump as president in 2016. 

By the late 1990s and early 2000s, many more congregations were moving to become open and affirming. On Dec. 11, 2001, Bruce Pennington moderated a panel discussion “Creating Communities of Faith” featuring Faisal Alam, Jerry Goldberg, Andrew Hudson, Bob Miailovich, Dan Schellhorn, and Michael Vanzan. Ten years later, the DC Metropolitan Community Church celebrated 40 years of service to LGBTQ Washingtonians. As one of the first Metropolitan Community Churches in the DMV area, DC’s MCC was instrumental in founding the New Life MCC of Hampton Rocks, Norfolk, Va., in 1977, MCC of Northern Virginia, Oakton, Va., in 1981, Open Door MCC in Boyds, Md., in 1982, and Holy Redeemer MCC College Park, Md., in 1998.

That same year in 2011, Dignity/Washington hosted the National Convention of Dignity USA in D.C., during which four long-term Dignity couples from across the country were married by Dignity/Washington members under the new DC marriage equality laws. A number of other congregations also became actively involved in Capital Pride events, including the Cleveland Park UCC, First Congregational UCC, and Westmoreland UCC. The three groups hosted a UCC welcome book with other churches every year at the Capital Pride Festival up until the COVID-19 pandemic. 

At the same time, new religious communities developed. Wiccan, neo-pagan, and pagan communities have long been spiritual refugees for LGBTQ communities, and pagan faith communities were first established in the DMV in the early 2010s. Also in 2011, Circle Sanctuary Ministers Jeanet and David Ewing founded the Potomac Circle Ministries in Northern Virginia to minister to pagans in the DMV area. In March 2013, Circle Sanctuary founder Rev. Selena Fox and other Circle Ministers attended the Marriage Equality rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, and she participated in the interfaith service at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC. In November 2013, Jeanet and David Ewing performed a same-sex wedding in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

What followed was a year of interfaith LGBTQ ministry in the DC area, which is celebrated every June with a Pride Interfaith Service held at a different DC worship space. The service is coordinated by DC Center Faith, the successor to the Celebration of the Spirit Coalition and the Washington Area Gay/Lesbian Interfaith Alliance which have been hosting interfaith services since 1983. In fact, much of the history of DC’s LGBTQ+ religious communities was recorded in November 2014 at an event organized by Center Faith called “Stepping Out” hosted at the Westminster Presbyterian Church, SW, D.C.

Center Faith partnered and still partners with Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddist, Unitarian universalist, Centers for Spiritual Living, Pagan, Wiccan, and Earth Religions faith communities who are supportive and inclusive of LGBTQ individuals. Through Center Faith, local faith leaders made strong connections through which they would gather and protest for LGBTQ rights. For example, faith leaders gathered together in front of the Supreme Court on Oct. 8, 2019 for the MoveOn Rally right as the Supreme Court heard a case that would overturn LGBTQ individuals’ right to work and allow employers to fire someone because they were LGBTQ. 

Later into the 2010s, LGBTQ organizations exploring religion and humor came to be part of the D.C. area. The DC House of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, “The Abbey of Magnificent Intentions” was approved by the United Nuns Privy Council in April 2016. Just as Deacon Maccubbin and David L. Aiken had done 30 years earlier, fighting back against conservative religious pushback to holding the Gay Pride Day on Father’s Day in 1976, the DC Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence came together on Oct. 8, 2022 to hold their fifth annual Lavender Mass — a counter event to the Red Mass. The Red Mass is a Catholic Mass held on the first Sunday of October to honor Catholics in positions of civil authority, like the Supreme Court Justices. 

That Lavender Mass took place right before the March for Reproductive Rights following the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. This important moment in DC’s LGBTQ+ religious history will be explored next, reviewing the impact of this event right as the original founder of the Lavender Mass is stepping out of this role before moving out of the Capitol. 

Emma Cieslik is presenting on LGBTQ+ Religion in the Capital at the DC History Conference on April 5. She is working with a DC History Fellow to establish a roundtable committed to recording and preserving this vital history. If you have any information about these histories, please reach out to Emma Cieslik at [email protected] or the Rainbow History Project at [email protected].

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