When the Washington Blade first published I was living in New York and had just begun teaching. I was deep in the closet and intended to stay that way, which I did for the next 12 years. Never in a million years could I have dreamt one day I would be writing for the Blade.
In 1978 work took me to Washington, D.C. when I took a position in the Carter administration. It was then, being away from family and friends that the idea of coming out first began to take hold. After teaching I had gone to work for Bella Abzug (D-N.Y.) who sponsored the first gay rights bill in Congress. That was in 1974. While working for Bella I met many members of the LGBTQ community and even had a few close gay friends who I was not out to. Later they would tell me they all knew and were waiting for me to accept myself but at the time I wasn’t ready. I did make one foray into the gay community when I came to D.C. answering an ad in the back of a magazine about six weeks before moving to the District. In those days it took weeks to get a response but I did and had a date the first weekend I arrived. It was a one-off date and it was the last one I would have with a man for a number of years.
Finding out more about the gay community in D.C. was important to me so I found the Washington Blade. I would read it regularly both for the news and for the ads. Finding out where the bars were and finding out about the places on Half Street in Southeast. They were within walking distance of where I lived in Southwest. I read an ad for the Follies movie theater and eventually got up the nerve to go there. I met my first boyfriend there. He was in town visiting a girl he knew from college and told her he was going to see another friend on Friday night, instead he went to the Follies. We got together and I asked him how he found out about the place and he told me it was from the Blade.
Remember, in those days we didn’t learn everything by going online and reading social media. You actually picked up a hard copy of the Blade and read it (some of us still do). I would head to Dupont Circle and go to Lambda Rising, first looking both ways to see if anybody I knew was on the street who could see me entering the store to browse the books and pick up my copy of the Blade. As I said I would read it cover to cover and it’s from the Blade I found out about the Pride parade and festival then held in Dupont on a field that depending on the year was either dusty or muddy. In later years I found out about the 1987 and 1993 Marches on Washington, read about what the government was doing and what our community’s response was. Today, the Blade still serves such a crucial function for our community. Its reporters report the news as it impacts the community and they do it with a deeper understanding as they are part of the community.
A few years ago I was one of the founders of the Blade Foundation. We raise money to help LGBTQ journalism students who will one day report on the news bringing their perspective on life to the stories they report around the world for all media. We also raise funds to cover LGBTQ news around the world and are looking forward to having 50 years of the Blade digitized so it is available to scholars and researchers who want an honest perspective on how our community has grown and fought for equality. Both our successes and the setbacks. Today we are still fighting for our rights and trying to protect the ones we have around the world and the Blade is the only paper reporting it all through the eyes of LGBTQ reporters. We must never forget how important that is. Just think, today the Washington Blade has a credentialed reporter covering the White House.
The Blade has been called the paper of record for the gay community and that is an accurate statement. It is crucial the Blade continue to be that. Along with so many others I wish the Blade a happy 50th and hope to be a part of it making history for many years to come.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.