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Most Eligible Singles 2020

Meet LGBTQ locals with interesting stories

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LGBT Singles, gay news, Washington Blade

This is the sixth annual Washington Blade Most Eligible LGBT Singles issue. It began with reader nominations. From that list of about 200, our staff chose the 20 most eligible with an eye for locals with interesting stories, those doing compelling work and yes, those who are easy on the eye! Meet them in person Friday night at Duplex Diner (2004 18th St., N.W.) at 6 p.m. Details can be found HERE.

VOTE FOR WHICH SINGLE SHOULD WIN A FREE DATE NIGHT HERE!

NAME: Fotios Stravoravdis

Fotios Stravoravdis (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 26

OCCUPATION: consultant

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Compassion, kindness, weird sense of humor and ambition. Having a purpose in life, driven by a goal that is bigger than his ego and respect for other people.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: arrogance and bad hygiene

BIGGEST TURN ON: A smile that can reflects someone’s soul. Also taking care of their body. Our body is the temple of our spirit.

HOBBIES: Is napping a hobby? When not napping, I spend my free time working out, reading, traveling or going to the theater. Musicals for the win!

IDEAL FIRST DATE: A date that goes so wrong it is actually so great.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I am kid myself. What a responsibility this could be! Eventually, I’d like to have a daughter and a son. Imagine all these make up tutorials we could watch or all those sports we could play together. Make up with my son, sports with my daughter!

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? I’m Greek; we invented the essence of politics, democracy and debating. This means I am open to understanding other people’s political views. However, if someone adopts views that are harmful to the well-being of our society, views that pose threats to the future of younger generations and immigrants and views that deny climate change, then it’s a hard no from me.

CELEB CRUSH: Henry Cavill

OBSCURE FACT: If I name an obscure fact about myself, it won’t be obscure anymore. Yet I’ll say that some people think I am unapproachable, while in fact, I am shy.

NAME: Elise Glynn

Elise Glynn (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 28

OCCUPATION: IT and digital media

IDENTIFY AS: queer

LOOKING FOR: What I’m looking for in a partner is someone who knows what they want in life and understands the importance of self love. Someone who is free spirited, confident and shows kindness to all people.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: The biggest turnoff for me is someone who doesn’t have any goals or dreams. Someone who doesn’t strive to better themselves.

BIGGEST TURN ON: openness and maturity

HOBBIES: I’m really into rock climbing, longboarding, teas, spirituality, skateboarding, swimming, script writing and photography. I just moved back to D.C. from L.A. and didn’t get as much surf time as I like over there, so I’m looking forward to getting back into it.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: My ideal first date would be to go to the Maryland bay area and go kayaking. Then we can eat some good food on the water and watch the sunset. If the night is still looking good, I can teach you how to ride my pintail longboard.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have two mini dogs. One I had since age 14 and my new addition I had for about a year and a half. I love kids but I’m not planning on having any of my own for now.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Yes as long if they are loving and kind to themselves, myself and others. That’s all that matters.

CELEB CRUSH: Cate Blanchett, Lucy Liu and Gugu Mbatha-Raw

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a military veteran. These days, most people would never have thought that I was in the military.

NAME: Gerard Burley

Gerard Burley (Photo by Scott Henrichsen)

AGE: 36

OCCUPATION: Fitness coach and studio owner

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone fun, understanding, caring, responsible, who can take charge, put up with me and put me in my place.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Mean girls. I hate uppity people who act better than others.

BIGGEST TURN ON: backwards hats

HOBBIES: Love comedy shows and sports, basketball and football are my favs, playing with my dog, eating crab cakes and writing.

IDEAL FIRST DATE:Anywhere I can wear sweatpants. Maybe something basic like a SoulCycle class followed by tacos.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have a dog I love I’m open to more. Kids I’m not sure, let’s see who gets pregnant first.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Yeah, but depends how much.

CELEB CRUSH: Channing Tatum

OBSCURE FACT: I used to speak Italian pretty well. Now it’s broken Italian.

NAME: Alex Calambokidis

Alex Calambokidis (Photo courtesy of Calambokidis)

AGE: 26

OCCUPATION: Program officer, non-profit, supporting democracy and inclusive governance in East Africa.

IDENTIFY AS: queer

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is kind, empathetic, open minded and direct. Also flexibility. Still working out the whole work/life balance thing myself. Opposite of asshole.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Bad tipper, self-identifies as “gym rat.”

BIGGEST TURN ON: Witty banter, wholesome memes

HOBBIES: Plants, karaoke, playing with other people’s dogs, junglepussy

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Long walks & mimosas to-go (or “to-gosas”). Let’s see where the day takes us.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Being a plant mom and dog auntie is enough responsibility for me right now.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Small differences? Sure. Challenging one another to think differently can be productive. Big differences? No.

CELEB CRUSH: Zoë Kravitz

OBSCURE FACT: The most obscure thing about myself is probably just the sum of weird situations I have found myself in. This probably falls somewhere on that spectrum.

NAME: Jake Abbott

Jake Abbott (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 27

OCCUPATION: Press Secretary on Capitol Hill

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: I’m always drawn to confidence, kindness, a good sense of humor, and I’ll admit it — a handsome smile. I want a partner in crime who wants to host dinner parties and go on adventures, who is driven and passionate but also doesn’t see the world in black and white. He should want me to be his best friend but not his only friend.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: insecurity, arrogance, intolerance, negativity

BIGGEST TURN ON: wit, drive, curiosity, compassion, self-awareness, great smiles, big arms, beards

HOBBIES: Going to the gym or on a run, grabbing drinks with friends, playing with my roommate’s dog, traveling to new places, checking co-star each day, anything outdoors.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Grabbing drinks or coffee at a place you like, taking a walk on a nice day or doing something that we both care about.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I think I’d like dogs and kids (probably in that order) but it would be a conversation in a few years.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Only if I can ask who they voted for in 2016.

CELEB CRUSH: Chris Mazdzer, James McCann, Ryan Reynolds, Tom Hardy, Oprah

OBSCURE FACT: I was an all-conference college football player.

NAME: Peyton Smith

Peyton Smith (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 27

OCCUPATION: Full-time non-profit work, part-time graduate student at American University.

IDENTIFY AS: queer

LOOKING FOR: must love dancing

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Bad tippers. Always tip 20 percent.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Commits to a costume 100 percent when the occasion arises. And there is always an occasion for a costume.

HOBBIES: I’m on a competitive karaoke team. Also Saints football, WHO DAT!

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Let’s drink a few combos at Red Derby and see where the night takes us.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have a cat named Goose and I’m a slave to her paws.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Nope

CELEB CRUSH: St. Vincent. Anyone else watch her 2019 Grammy performance with Dua Lipa over and over again? Just me?

OBSCURE FACT: During Mardi Gras in 2012, Mariska Hargitay told me I was her number one fan, and I’ve been chasing that high ever since.

NAME: Jayme Birgy

Jayme Birgy (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 38. Like actually 38, not 38 for the past seven years in a row.

OCCUPATION: I build stuff people use on the internet and run the D.C. office for Lounge Lizard Worldwide.

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Emotional maturity and communication skills are a must. Good looks and nice things can only carry someone so far.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Lack of integrity.

BIGGEST TURN ON: A smile and just the right amount of confidence.

HOBBIES: Learning how things work, reading, road trips, boating/kayaking, and strategy games.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Location and activity don’t really matter as long as the conversation is natural and he doesn’t run away when my nerd shows.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Preferably a pack of Golden Retrievers

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Yes, as long as they don’t have a shrine of Hillary Clinton in their basement.

CELEB CRUSH: Colin Jost (is that weird?) and Michael Strahan

OBSCURE FACT: I can’t read The Onion because I’ll accidentally cite it as fact later on. This is also the reason I don’t lie — it becomes reality.

NAME: Rajiv Desai

Rajiv Desai (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 39

OCCUPATION: vice president – diversity, inclusion and corporate social responsibility.

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Independence. Humor. Mindfulness. Respect for people and our planet.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Plastic, smoking and disingenuous behavior.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Creativity, curiosity about the world and empathy.

HOBBIES: Baking from scratch with lots of fruit, volunteering in the community, winning with my Dragon Boat Racing team, art, travel and cooking dishes inspired by my travels.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Flowing conversation, banter and laughter over a coffee/drink (at a non-pretentious, independent establishment).

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Not a dad (or a pet dad) yet, but open to both.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Differing political views are fine. Racist, bigoted, non-inclusive views etc. are not.

CELEB CRUSH: Benedict Cumberbatch and Gael García Bernal

OBSCURE FACT: I’ve met Mother Teresa (while growing up in Calcutta).

NAME: Daniel Muñoz

Daniel Muñoz (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 30

OCCUPATION: Advertising professional during the day, computer science student at night, community advocate and member of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Lambda Chapter and D.C. State Board whenever I can serve.

IDENTIFY AS: Gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is a natural optimist and wants to keep growing and bettering themselves and each other. A person who is compassionate and cares about the world around them, having emotional and cultural intelligence. A friend who can laugh at the absurdity in modern living. A partner who is supportive and loving. The ability to be sophisticated and a goofball when appropriate is a big plus.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Rudeness, bigotry, ignorance and bad tipping.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Kindness, humor, intellectual curiosity and good hygiene.

HOBBIES: Hanging out with friends and family, ’90s video games, gardening, hiking, sailing, tinkering with DIY electronics, conversations on nuanced topics, laughing and cracking stupid jokes, improving foreign language skills and fitness, volunteering, etc.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: The extrovert in me is always down for adventure and trying something new, but it’s completely fine to be low-key and chill on the first date. Visiting a Smithsonian or two and chilling at Kramerbooks is always a good start. From there, it’s up in the air.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Kids would be great someday at the right time, but I’d be equally happy mentoring the community’s kids with him/her/them if that doesn’t happen.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? We could be a good match if your political (translation: personal) values are progressive and rooted in social equity and justice.

CELEB CRUSH: Diane Guerrero and Maluma

OBSCURE FACT: I used to work in television and was part of the larger production team that broadcast golf in the Olympics for the first time in history in 2016.

NAME: Candace Sibley

Candace Sibley (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 35

OCCUPATION: health scientist

IDENTIFY AS: lesbian

LOOKING FOR: Compassion, honesty, kindness, authenticity, ambition, support, emotionally intelligent, diligent, passionate, confident, to be challenged and consistent.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: cruelty, dishonesty, manipulation and lack of grace

BIGGEST TURN ON: Kindness, loyalty, understanding, conscientiousness, emotional stability and someone who with growth beliefs who thinks that relationships take hard work and that a strong relationship is something that you develop over time.

HOBBIES: reading, dancing, studying fashion, shopping and traveling

IDEAL FIRST DATE: A concert followed by dinner and drinks. This way we have fun dancing with each other and get to know each other over dinner and drinks.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? No to kids, I do not have pets, but I am interested in getting a dog in the future.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? No. I need someone who is progressive. My politics are at the core of who I am, so someone with opposite political views wouldn’t work.

CELEB CRUSH: Ava Duvernay and Meg the Stallion

OBSCURE FACT: I’m extremely outgoing when it comes to friendship and fashion, but I’m incredibly shy when it comes to romance. I am a true ambivert, I enjoy being the life of the party at times but I also enjoy a quiet book at home sometimes.

NAME:Russell Roberts

Russell Roberts (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 53

OCCUPATION: executive assistant

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: I’m looking for passion, purpose and principles.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: dishonesty

BIGGEST TURN ON: humor, honesty and humility

HOBBIES: art, culture and exercise

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Anything creative and outside the box or something ridiculously simple and satisfying.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? yes

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? no

CELEB CRUSH: Jason Mamoa/Idris Elba/Daniel Craig

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a closet karaoke junkie.

NAME: Brittany Rheault

Brittany Rheault (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 35

OCCUPATION: Senior Director of Sports at DC Fray

IDENTIFY AS: Lesbian

LOOKING FOR: I mean who just doesn’t want the perfect mate? Someone who listens but can also dance. I need someone not afraid of the jam but can also get down about their feels on “Love Island UK.” I think it’s important to have a transparent partner that values communication, dogs and family.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Smell of detergent. Keep it simple, keep it clean.

BIGGEST TURN ON: BDE, also blue eyes and a girl who can dance. I’m ready for the DMs: @theofficialb.ro.

HOBBIES: Oh girl, what don’t I like? Boston sports for life so come through if you love the Pats and the Sox. My pups, because how could you not love my doodles? I’m mad for my friends and celebrating all the good things.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: You like the Nats? Well it’s that. Picture this — us in left field behind Soto cheering as he catches an attempted homerun. Nick gives us a brew. Truly if you need bc I make friends with the best and we watch Zimmmmm just nail it! And then we caught on the simba cam. lol

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? PETS!!! My babes are Wally and Kennedy. 

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? I’m open-minded as long as you’re a good person. 

CELEB CRUSH: Demi Lovato or Betty Who, but also we appreciate Katy Perry.

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a fiercely loyal friend who will do anything for the ones I love. 

NAME: Rachel Pike

Rachel Pike (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 34

OCCUPATION: life coach/bartender/security guru/trainer

IDENTIFY AS: queer, she/her/Daddy

LOOKING FOR: I think the list of what I’m not looking for is shorter. I want partnership, friendship, passion, laughter, respect and unconditional love. I want to see and be seen. Basically if it’s not magic, I’m OK on my own.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: I’ve been an athlete my whole life, but haven’t ever really subscribed to a competitive nature, per se. While I love to play and even enjoy the trash talking, a super competitive human doesn’t really do it for me. I love a challenge but don’t get into someone who frequently feels the need to one up people.

BIGGEST TURN ON: This isn’t difficult for me, and it’s highly situational. When someone truly knows and loves herself, I think it shines through. I’m turned on by confidence that doesn’t turn to disrespect, honesty that doesn’t become cruel. Kindness and the ability to be awed, find beauty in the small things. Also, it’s incredibly sexy when someone can flirt with only her eyes.

HOBBIES: I love motion, as often as possible. Any sports (basketball in particular), or sports-related activity is great for me. A true contradiction, I’m also really in to stillness. A good book, journaling opportunity, movie or divey space with a great beer.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Again, situational. I think it’s unfortunate that as a masculine-presenting person, I’m often expected to plan dates. This isn’t to say I don’t love this. I’m actually great at it! However, I think someone taking me to something/someplace they are really excited about is an excellent way to get to know them.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I’ve got both. Two perfect mutts and an even more perfect 15-year-old. I’d love to think that more of both are in my future.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? That depends on how they differ. I’m entirely aware of the responsibility that comes along with my privilege and I live that in every aspect of my life. We cannot disagree on fighting oppression.

CELEB CRUSH: I think real crushes happen when you know someone as a person, and I don’t have celebrities who I know that well. That said, I will watch anything starring Viola Davis or made by Shonda Rhimes. I adore the fire on the court of Arielle Powers and how playful/political Natasha Cloud is.

OBSCURE FACT: I’m an open book, so I don’t know that I have obscure facts. I juggle well. There’s rarely a tree I won’t climb. I am incredibly attached to a T-shirt from my childhood team and wore it under all my jerseys; I still wear it when the Mystics play.

NAME: JB Bridgeman

JB Bridgeman (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 30

OCCUPATION: non-profit administrator

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is confident in who they are as their own person and knows that a relationship isn’t about “completing” each other, but complementing one another.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: When someone is impatient, especially with folks in the service industry. Also bad breath.

BIGGEST TURN ON: When someone can make me laugh and isn’t afraid to look silly. Also a strong beard game.

HOBBIES: Playing rugby with the Washington Scandals, traveling, going to Caps games, running a Drag Race fantasy league and going to the movies.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Grabbing a couple of boots at Dacha and getting to know each other while we split a giant pretzel.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? I have a cat named Marnie. She’s an adorable handful.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? If we’re talking minor differences, yes. Major ideological differences are another conversation.

CELEB CRUSH: Oscar Isaac

OBSCURE FACT: I was my high school’s mascot.

NAME: Olga Martinsone

Olga Martinsone (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 34

OCCUPATION: tennis pro

IDENTIFY AS: gay female

LOOKING FOR: honesty, empathy, sense of humor, team player

BIGGEST TURN OFF: dishonesty

BIGGEST TURN ON: ability to cook

HOBBIES: playing tennis, walking in the city and trading stocks

IDEAL FIRST DATE: dinner then a comedy club

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? have none but wants kids

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? yes

CELEB CRUSH: Blake Lively

OBSCURE FACT: I eat orange peels

NAME:Chris Kuchnicki

Chris Kuchnicki (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 40

OCCUPATION: real estate agent

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Someone who is compassionate, caring, but also has ambition and drive.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Someone who is rude to wait/service staff.

BIGGEST TURN ON: confidence and ambition.

HOBBIES: fitness, travel, an occasional fun night out and design. I’m also member of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: A few drinks and then maybe a show/movie/dinner. Hiking in warmer weather!

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Neither, but I love dogs and am open to kids.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? It depends on where our moral compass lies within those views.

CELEB CRUSH: Channing Tatum

OBSCURE FACT: I’m related to Neal Armstrong.

NAME: Rebecca Kling

Rebecca Kling (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 35

OCCUPATION: educator, community organizer, storyteller, advocate for change

IDENTIFY AS: Queer, a woman, trans, storyteller, culturally Jewish, progressive, troublemaker and much more.

LOOKING FOR: Someone who will laugh at my stupid jokes, make me laugh and call me on my bullshit. Someone who is passionate about SOMETHING — could be immigration policy, or marine biology, or 15th century literature, but my mate needs to be excited and passionate about something in the world that moves them.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Inability to admit they’re wrong.

BIGGEST TURN ON: confidence

HOBBIES: Playing piano (mostly show tunes and folk music), reading sci fi, biking, Instagramming pictures of my cats.

IDEAL FIRST DATE:My ideal first date is going to a museum or gallery and coming up with arbitrary rules or a silly game for how we go through. Maybe we need to make up a rhyme for our favorite exhibit. Maybe we analyze each painting as if it we secretly hate it, but it was drawn by our best friend’s kid and they’re super proud. Maybe we’re on a scavenger hunt for whatever has the most red. Anything, as long as it’s fun.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Definitely yes to pets, pretty sure yes to kids, too.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? Depends on how much they differ. I’d be open to dating someone who, y’know, doesn’t think we should put tax money toward space exploration. (They’d be wrong, but we’d make it work somehow.) On the other hand, I could never date someone who wants to defund public schools or supports ICE breaking up families at the border.

CELEB CRUSH: Samira Wiley

OBSCURE FACT: I once worked at a circus camp and still know how to juggle.

NAME: Charlotte Clymer

Charlotte Clymer (Photo courtesy of Clymer)

AGE: 33

OCCUPATION: press secretary, Human Rights Campaign

IDENTIFY AS: Proud trans woman and lesbian.

LOOKING FOR: I’m looking for someone who can make me laugh a lot and knows how to mix a French 75.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Ironic detachment. Not feeling it. Put a stake in the ground and be vulnerable enough to care about things.

BIGGEST TURN ON: Oxford commas

HOBBIES: Road trips. Karaoke. Late stage capitalism.

IDEAL FIRST DATE: I’m a simple girl. Ice cream followed by a great show and then drinks and conversation.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Any and all welcome.

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? If you’re conservative, we’re not gonna be right for each other. If you’re some flavor of progressive, let’s talk!

CELEB CRUSH: Kermit the Frog

OBSCURE FACT: I’m a world-renowned expert in underwater basket weaving.

NAME:Faith Mitchell

Faith Mitchell (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: 24

OCCUPATION: HIV/STI Prevention Program Coordinator

IDENTIFY AS: gay

LOOKING FOR: Essentially someone who is fun/funny, shows love through actions and is honest and supportive. I love to go out and am very active in community, so I would need someone willing to do things with me. My top love languages are quality time and acts of service so I appreciate when someone can show me love in those ways and am willing to give the same energy I ask for in return.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Constant rudeness or negativity and inconsistency

BIGGEST TURN ON: Pretty eyes and ambition

HOBBIES: Cooking new recipes, trying different restaurants and listening to new music

IDEAL FIRST DATE: After work going to a low-key bar with a relaxed ambiance, delicious food and good music (neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop) playing to get to know each other and see their taste in music.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Neither, but open to both

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? It depends. As long as their views weren’t aligned with racism, oppression, sexism, inequality, etc., we could talk about it.

CELEB CRUSH: Ari Lennox and Iman Shumpert

OBSCURE FACT: I love acting and dancing and was in plays and musicals when I was younger. Eventually I want to get back into it.

NAME: Blessitt Shawn

Blessitt Shawn (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

AGE: Excuse me?

OCCUPATION:Digital & Cultural Strategist

IDENTIFY AS: 79 percent queer, 85 percent high femme, 100 percent Gemini

LOOKING FOR: I’m looking for a seasonal bae who wouldn’t mind being my official taste tester, flex-time cuddle slut and full-time furniture assembler; someone confident enough to hold my purse as I’m getting out of the car and make it look just as good as I do.

BIGGEST TURN OFF: Anyone who uses, or embodies, the term “dude” or “bro.” Speed walkers. I have a physical disability that impacts my balance and mobility. Allow me to set the pace and I’ll let you take the lead. Also, people who don’t vet their sources before posting an article online really bother me. Why are we posting a 2013 conspiracy piece from diduknothis.net/freecheetos, beloved? Deal breaker: people who measure butter or garlic. What’s wrong with you?

BIGGEST TURN ON: Nothing beats full brows, strong hands and chivalry. I am drawn to non-toxic masculinity. “What should we order for dessert?,” will almost certainly secure a second date.

HOBBIES: I enjoy hosting the perfect weekend brunch, becoming a mistress of interior design, perfecting my late-night grilled cheese and pretending to be an astrology expert when random drunk people ask me for dating advice at happy hour. “He’s a Pisces?! Girl …”

IDEAL FIRST DATE: Anything that involves tacos or dessert is a pretty great start. Did you know 7/11 donuts are made by Krispy Kreme? You’re welcome. My best dates also included the following: a cuisine neither of us have ever tried, laughing until our cheeks hurt and a “did you make it home?” text.

PET/KIDS/NEITHER? Pets are lovely, but I’m not waking up early to walk your fluff-muffin. Kids are cute in small doses but terribly expensive. How about we support our friends with kids by being engaged in their lives and out-gifting the couples that annoy us? (True confession: I love doing this.)

WOULD YOU DATE SOMEONE WHOSE POLITICAL VIEWS DIFFER? No thanks. If you think our current political climate has made America great, we’re not a match.

CELEB CRUSH: Ricky Martin would be my +1 to the Victory Fund Gala, while Jeff Goldbum would accompany me to the White House Easter Egg Roll. Deontay Wilder would be my insta-bae Friday-Sunday afternoon. (Sunday nights are for skincare.) I’d let Leo take me out for lunch and shopping when I’m bored.

OBSCURE FACT: I am from the first city of Kansas, Leavenworth, a trained opera singer and a preacher’s kid. Also, the last Grandma to try my pound cake gave it a 8.5/10 rating. Not too bad for a millennial, huh?

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‘Queering Rehoboth Beach’ features love, loss, murder, and more

An interview with gay writer and historian James T. Sears

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'Queering Rehoboth Beach' book cover. (Image courtesy of Temple University Press)

James T. Sears book talk
Saturday, June 29, 5 p.m.
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave., N.W.

When it comes to LGBTQ summer destinations in the Eastern time zone, almost everyone knows about Provincetown, Mass., Fire Island, N.Y., and Key West, Fla. There are also slightly lesser known, but no less wonderful places, such as Ogunquit, Maine, Saugatuck, Mich., and New Hope, Pa. Sandwiched in between is Rehoboth Beach, Del., a location that is popular with queer folks from D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The dramatic and inspiring story of how Rehoboth Beach came to be what it is today can be found in gay historian James T. Sears’s revealing new book “Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk” (Temple University Press, 2024). As educational as it is dishy, “Queering Rehoboth Beach” provides readers with everything they need to know (and possibly didn’t realize they needed to know) about this fabulous locality. Sears was kind enough to make time to answer a few questions about the book.

WASHINGTON BLADE: James, it’s been a few years since I’ve interviewed you. The last time was in 1997 about your book “From Lonely Hunters to Lonely Hearts: An Oral History of Lesbian and Gay Southern Life.” At the time, you were living in Columbia, S.C. Where are you currently based, and how long have you been there?

JAMES T. SEARS: It has been great reconnecting with you. After that book, we moved to Charleston, S.C. There I wrote several more books. One was about the Mattachine group, focusing on one largely misunderstood leader, Hal Call. Another book shared reminisces of a 90-year-old gentleman, the late John Zeigler, interweaving his diaries, letters, and poetry to chronicle growing up gay in the South at the turn of the last century. From there I moved to Central America where I chronicled everyday queer life and learned Spanish. We returned several years ago and then washed up on Rehoboth Beach.

BLADE: In the introduction to your new book “Queering Rehoboth Beach: Beyond the Boardwalk” (Temple University Press, 2024), you write about how a “restaurant incident” in Rehoboth, which you describe in detail in the prologue, became a kind of inspiration for the book project. Please say something about how as a historian, the personal can also be political and motivational.

SEARS: I want to capture reader’s interest by personalizing this book more than I have others. The restaurant anecdote is the book’s backstory. It explains, in part, my motivation for writing it, and more crucially, introduces one meaning of “queering Rehoboth.” That is, in order to judge this “incident”—and the book itself—we need to engage in multiple readings of history, or at least be comfortable with this approach. I underscore that what is accepted as “history”—about an individual, a community, or a society—is simply a reflection of that era’s accepted view. Queering history challenges that consensus.

BLADE: Who do you see as the target audience for “Queering Rehoboth Beach?”

SEARS: Well, certainly if you have been to Rehoboth or reside there, this book provides a history of the town—and its queering—giving details that I doubt even locals know! Also, for those interested in the evolution of other East Coast queer resorts (Ptown, Fire Island, Key West) this book adds to that set of histories. My book will also be of interest to students of social change and community organizing. Most importantly, though, it is just a good summer read.

BLADE: “Queering Rehoboth Beach” features numerous interviews. What was involved in the selection process of interview subjects?

SEARS: I interviewed dozens of people. They are listed in the book as the “Cast of Narrators.” Before these interviews, I engaged in a systematic review of local and state newspapers, going back to Rehoboth’s founding as a Methodist Church Camp in 1873. I also read anecdotal stories penned by lesbians and gay men. These appeared in local or regional queer publications, such as Letters from CAMP Rehoboth and the Washington Blade. Within a year, I had compiled a list of key individuals to interview. However, I also interviewed lesbians, gay men, transgender individuals, and heterosexuals who lived or worked in Rehoboth sometime during the book’s main timeframe (1970s-2000s). I sought diversity in background and perspective. To facilitate their memories, I provided a set of questions before we met. I often had photos, letters, or other memorabilia to prime their memories during our conversation. 

BLADE: Under the heading of the more things change, the more they stay the same, the act of making homosexuality an issue in politics continues to this day. What do you think it will take for that to change?

SEARS: You pose a key question. Those who effectuated change in Rehoboth — queers and progressive straights — sought common ground. Their goal was to integrate into the town. As such, rather than primarily focus on sexual and gender differences, they stressed values held in common. Rather than proselytize or agitate, they opened up businesses, restored houses, joined houses of worship, and engaged in the town’s civic life. 

To foster and sustain change, however, those in power and those who supported them also had to have a willingness to listen, to bracket their presuppositions, and to engage in genuine dialogue. Violent incidents, especially one on the boardwalk, and the multi-year imbroglio of The Strand nightclub, gradually caused people to seek common ground.

That did not, however, come without its costs. For some — long separated from straight society — and for others — unchallenged in their heteronormativity — it was too great of a cost to bear. Further, minorities within the queer “community,” such as people of color, those with limited income, and transgender individuals, never entered or were never invited into this enlarging public square.

The troubles chronicled in my book occurred during the era of the “Moral Majority” and “Gay Cancer.” Nevertheless, it didn’t approach the degree of polarization, acrimony, fake news, and demagoguery of today. So, whether this approach would even be viable as a strategy for social change is debatable.

BLADE: In recent years, there has been a proliferation of books about LGBTQ bars, a subject that is prominent in “Queering Rehoboth Beach.” Was this something of which you were aware while writing the book, and how do you see your book’s place on the shelf alongside these other books?

SEARS: Queering heterosexual space has been a survival strategy for generations of queer folks. These spaces — under-used softball fields, desolate beaches, darkened parks, and out-of-the-way bars — are detailed in many LGBTQ+ books, from the classic, “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold,” to the recently published “A Place of Our Own” and “The Bars Are Ours.” Of course, these spaces did not encompass the kaleidoscope of queer life, but they provide us a historical gateway into various segments of a queer community and culture.

This was certainly true for my book. Unsurprisingly, until The Strand controversy, which began in 1988, all of Rehoboth’s queer bars were beyond the town limits. There were, however, homosexual watering holes in the liminal sexual space. For instance, you had the Pink Pony on the boardwalk during the 1950s and the Back Porch Café during the 1970s. So, in this sense, I think “Queering Rehoboth Beach” fits well in this ever-enlarging canon of queer history.

BLADE: As one of the most pro-LGBTQ presidents in U.S. history, how much, if it all, did the Biden Delaware connection have to do with your desire to write “Queering Rehoboth Beach?”

SEARS: It is just a coincidence. Interestingly, as I was researching this book, I came across a 1973 news story about Sen. Joe Biden speaking at a civic association meeting. One of the 30 or so residents attending was James Robert Vane. The paper reported the senator being “startled” when Vane questioned him about the ban on homosexuals serving in the U.S. civil service and military. Uttering the familiar trope about being “security risks,” he then added, “I admit I haven’t given it much thought.” In Bidenesque manner, he paused and then exclaimed, “I’ll be darned!”

Biden was a frequent diner at the Back Porch Café, often using the restaurant’s kitchen phone for political calls. Like the progressives I spoke about earlier, he had lived in a heteronormative bubble—a Catholic one at that! Yet, like many in Rehoboth, he eventually changed his view, strongly advocating for queer rights as Vice President during the Obama administration.

BLADE: How do you think Rehoboth residents will respond to your depiction of their town?

SEARS: Well, if recent events are predictive of future ones, then I think it will be generally positive. My first book signing at the locally owned bookstore resulted in it selling out. The manager did tell me that a gentleman stepped to the counter asking, “Why is this queer book here?”— pointing to the front table of “Beach Reads.” That singular objection notwithstanding, his plan is to keep multiple boxes in stock throughout the summer.

BLADE: Over the years, many non-fiction and fiction books have been written about places such as Provincetown, Fire Island, and Key West. Is it your hope that more books will be written about Rehoboth Beach?

SEARS: My hope is that writers and researchers continue to queer our stories. Focusing on persons, events, and communities, particularly micro-histories, provides a richer narrative of queer lives. It also allows us to queer the first generation of macro-histories which too often glossed over everyday activists. So, as the saying goes, let a thousand flowers bloom.

BLADE: Do you think that “Queering Rehoboth Beach” would make for a good documentary film subject?

SEARS: Absolutely, although probably not on the Hallmark Channel [laughs]! It would make an incredible film — a documentary or a drama — even a mini-series. Because it focuses on people: their lives and dreams, their long-running feuds and abbreviated love affairs, their darker secrets, and lighter moments within a larger context of the country’s social transformation. “Queering Rehoboth Beach” details the town’s first gay murder, the transformation of a once homophobic mayor, burned-out bars, and vigilante assaults on queers, the octogenarian lesbian couple, living for decades in Rehoboth never speaking the “L word,” who die within months of one another. It, too, is a story of how the sinewy arms of Jim Crow affected white Rehoboth — gay and straight. In short, “Queering Rehoboth Beach” is about a small beach town, transformed generation over generation like shifting sands yet retaining undercurrents of what are the best and worst in American life and culture.

BLADE: Have you started thinking about or working on your next book?

SEARS: The manuscript for this book was submitted to the publisher more than a year ago. During that time, I’ve been working on my first book of fiction. It is a queer novel set in early nineteenth century Wales against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars and industrialization. I want to transport the reader into an era before the construction of homosexuality and at the inception of the women’s movement. How does one make meaning of sexual feelings toward the same gender or about being in the wrong gender? In the process of this murder mystery, I integrate Celtic culture and mythology and interrogate how today’s choices and those we made in the past (and in past lives) affect our future and those of others.

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D.C. Latinx Pride seeks to help heal the community

Much history lost to generations of colonialism

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(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Latinx History Project will host its 18th annual Latinx Pride with a series of 11 events this year.

Latinx History Project, or LHP, was founded in 2000 to collect, preserve and share Latinx LGBTQ+ History. Six years later, they began hosting DC Latinx Pride.  

Board member Dee Tum-Monge said organizers saw a need for the event that centered Latinx community members. 

“LHP knows our queer history as Latinx folks has most often been lost to generations of colonialism and imperialism,” they said. “Which is why we focus on documenting and highlighting the impact our community has in D.C. and beyond.”

According to UCLA School of Law, there are more than two million Latinx LGBTQ adults that live in the U.S.

“Events specifically for the Latinx community are important not only to make our experience visible but also to create spaces where we can grow closer with other groups and each other,” said Tum-Monge.

This year they kicked off DC Latinx Pride with a crowning ceremony for their royal court on May 31. 

Their three-part series, “La Sanación”, is underway with part two planned for June 16. 

“Sanación in Spanish means ‘healing’ which is a big part of what we want to bring to Pride,” said Tum-Monge. “Our communities go through a lot of trauma and hate, but we know there’s more to us. Our goal is to foster connection with ourselves, nature, community, and spirituality.”

In conjunction with the series there is a slate of other events; tickets can be purchased at latinxhistoryproject.org/pride.

In addition, Latinx Pride will march in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday and participate in the festival on Sunday. To stay involved with Latinx History Project after Pride and hear more about future events visit latinxhistoryproject.org.

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D.C.’s queer nightlife scene thriving, bucking national trends

Deep Cvnt, Crush, other bars and events keep city venues bustling

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Deep Cvnt is a ‘mini ball deluxe-inspired party.’ (Washington Blade photo by Joe Reberkenny)

John Etienne is familiar with the drifting sounds from vodka-fueled conversations and the tapping of feet against the floorboards of Trade, a gay bar in D.C.’s Logan Circle. On any other Thursday night, Etienne — a party host, judge, and queer nightlife socialite — would be up on the dance floor, sipping a gin and ginger ale, dancing to the new Beyonce song with friends.

But this is not just any Thursday.

Tonight he is sitting directly beneath the dance floor in a salon chair, adjusting his sparkly green dress and white go-go boots, flipping between checking his phone and looking at the clock, waiting for the other judges to arrive. It is just after 9 p.m. and Deep Cvnt is about to begin. 

Deep Cvnt is a “mini ball deluxe-inspired party.” Etienne hosts the event once a month at Trade where queer people from across the city come to walk down a runway in categories, show off their best outfits to an established theme, and ‘vogue the house down’ making the “dive bar with a dance floor” feel like the set of a 2024 Paris is Burning. The party’s name is based on a slur, reclaimed into a symbol of feminine and queer empowerment.  

During the day, the 25-year-old works as a Digital Fundraising Director for the House Majority PAC. To him, gay bars that host events are instrumental in fostering a feeling of welcome and belonging for those who identify as LGBTQ.

“[For me] It’s the sense of community,” Etienne said. “ I think that being able to go to a spot where there are people who are like me, in some shape or form being that they’re queer or from a marginalized community, and can find refuge in these spots is something that’s incredibly important. And then, too, I think that these [queer] spaces are just a lot more fun.” 

Historically gay bars have acted as places for the LGBTQ community to gather, celebrate, and mobilize for political causes when the general attitude was more hostile to the community. D.C.’s unique queer nightlife scene sets it apart from other major gay hubs, like New York or San Francisco, due to the city’s number of welcoming spaces, its business appeal, and the strong presence of the federal government in its culture, allowing for the country’s capital city to be a statistical anomaly. 

Nationwide, gay bars have been on the decline since the 1980s. Damron’s Travel Guide, a database that has been recording the locations and ratings of queer/gay bars since the 1960s, found that in the year 1980 there were approximately 1,432 gay bars across the United States. A recent study published in the National Library of Medicine found that the number of gay bars in the U.S. has nearly been cut in half, with only 803 queer-identified bars in existence despite increasing numbers of public support for the LGBTQ community.

This trend is occurring at the same time as a record number of anti-LGBTQ legislation is popping up in state legislatures across the U.S. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced so far in 2024. These laws restrict the ability of transgender Americans to get gender-affirming care, force teachers to out their students to parents, and ban First Amendment-protected actions like performing in drag, among other issues. 

Meanwhile the number of bars that cater to the LGBTQ community in the nation’s capital has increased from six in 1980 to at least 22 in 2024. 

The LGBTQ population is still large in D.C., with some estimates putting the number at just over 66,000. Historically the “gayborhood,” or primary LGBTQ neighborhood was on 17th Street and in the Dupont Circle area. That has changed as numbers have increased over the years, making the whole city feel like the gayborhood.

“Being one of the gayest cities in the world — with one of the gayest per capita populations — that is kind of baked into the fabric of the nightlife economy,” said Salah Czapary, director of the D.C. Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture, when asked about how the LGBTQ community has changed the landscape of the city. “If you look at these certain neighborhoods [17th Street and Dupont], their character has really been defined by the ‘gayborhood’ in the area. That has kind of changed and now you can’t really point to one area as being the sole gayborhood.”

Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened, causing the government to pause all non-essential businesses, including bars. After the pandemic, the growth in the number of gay bars accelerated.  “I think that’s kind of just generally after COVID, people are willing to take a risk on something new,” Czapary explained when discussing the impact of the pandemic on the gay bar community. 

Ed Bailey, a well-known DJ and co-owner of gay bars Trade and Number Nine, located around the corner from each other in Logan Circle, agrees about the economic opportunities COVID was able to provide but says that gay bar success boils down to the economics of real estate. 

“I have a very boring and not very sexy answer to why I think these things happen,” Bailey said when explaining the history of the prominent locations of gay bars in D.C. “At the end of the day, it’s all about real estate. Over time the gay community’s bars, restaurants, and nightclubs that catered specifically to, or were owned by, gay people were in underdeveloped neighborhoods… It wasn’t available to us to be in the high-priced areas. All the clubs and the bars were kind of on the ‘other side of town,’ whatever that meant.”

Bailey said the COVID-19 pandemic helped create a path for the current sprouting of gay bars all over D.C., especially in what are the mainstream, popular areas. “I think luckily the pandemic, at least in D.C., did open up an opportunity for a number of entrepreneurs to say ‘Hey! I have an option here.’ Some of these businesses are looking for people to buy them out or to move in, and so a bunch of people took advantage of that.”

The LGBTQ community has always had a presence in the city. It has been recorded that as early as the 1950s, Washington had become a space recognized for its ability to bring LGBTQ people together. 

“I feel like every time I take two steps, I run into another gay person,” Etienne said about living in Logan Circle and the queerness of the city. “I love it. I also think about the nature of what goes on in D.C. Historically, the government has always had a significant number of gay people working for it. Looking back to the Lavender Scare and even before then it’s always been a spot where gay men have either come professionally or personally.”

Mark Meinke, a 76-year-old self-described gay historian founded The Rainbow History Project, an organization that works to “collect, preserve and promote the history and culture of the diverse LGBTQ communities in metropolitan Washington, D.C.” His research supports exactly what Etienne described. 

“Between the [19]20s through the [19]60s, most of the gay spaces were owned by straight people,” Meinke said. A consequence of this, he explains, is that there was less of an outward recognition of these spaces as being LGBTQ friendly, keeping the community a secret. “Tolerance comes and tolerance goes,” he said as he explained why the number of accepting spaces increased and decreased during that time. 

This fluctuation of accepting bar owners began to change in the 1960s, as places that offered a safe space for LGBTQ people to meet, dance, drink, celebrate, and politically organize became more frequent and owned by more LGBTQ people. Meinke was able to track the increase of acceptance for the LGBTQ community by collecting advertisements from past issues of the Washington Blade (originally called the Gay Blade) from the ‘60s on as more gay-owned or more publicly gay-friendly establishments began to distribute the newspaper. Meinke also tracked additional gay literature in these gay bars, like that of Franklin Kameny’s Mattachine Society literature and their “Gay Is Good” buttons. The literature Kameny distributed was some of the first documented forms of LGBTQ activism in the U.S. and encouraged LGBTQ people to mobilize. 

Meinke noticed that during this time, one gay bar called JoAnna’s on Eighth Street in Southeast D.C. became a popular designation for gay people after the owner installed a dance floor. 

“In 1968, in Capitol Hill with JoAnna’s, a new social option had emerged for women, one with a dance floor,” Meinke said. In his presentation for the 2002 Washington Historical Conference titled “The Social Geography of Washington, D.C.’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community,” Meinke said that the gay community wanted more gay dance floors.

This inspired others in the gayborhood to create more dance spaces. “Johnnie’s (across the street [from JoAnna’s]) saw the future and installed a postage stamp-sized dance floor, and began getting lots of customers…Same-sex dancing in the clubs was perhaps one of the greatest innovations on the social scene in the 1960s,” Meinke wrote.

Not only did the expanding gay bar scene impact who was visiting the city, but the presence of the federal government and the number of universities located in the area also helped attract the gay community, Meinke explained. 

As more LGBTQ people moved to D.C. to pursue careers related to the federal government, a backlash was brewing and created a time we now call the McCarthy era. This era, which extended from the early 1950s into the 60s, brought in political repression of left-leaning individuals in D.C.

This repression and eventual prosecution of people based on the fear of communism was led by Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy and became a major part of the Republican Party’s platform. This fear also heightened political tensions, eventually leading to Republicans accusing homosexuals of espionage. This period was known as the “Lavender Scare.”  

Robert Connelly, an adjunct senior professorial lecturer for American University’s Critical Race Gender and Culture Studies Department, explained that this scare was real for many LGBTQ people working in the government. “In [McCarthy’s] mind, homosexuals’ perceived duplicity and emotional instability made them susceptible to foreign espionage and blackmail, you know, which meant that the gays were giving away our secrets,” Connelly said. 

This fear prompted the 34th president to take more legal action against the LGBTQ people working in government. “When Eisenhower took office in 1953, one of his first executive orders that he signed was Executive Order 10450,” Connelly explained. “This codified the exclusion of perverts from government employment and thousands of lives were ruined because of this in the early 1950s.” This homophobia eventually led to the firing of thousands of LGBTQ people within the federal government during the ‘50s and ‘60s. 

This systematic injustice triggered many LGBTQ people to adapt techniques other marginalized communities were using, mostly inspired by the increasingly successful Civil Rights movement, to politically mobilize and reclaim their power. The homophile movement, one of the earliest precursors to the modern gay rights movement, had major players located in Washington to help push for gay rights. The activism ignited by LGBTQ people during this time endured for decades, addressing a multitude of issues, including anti-war protests and the fight for expanded civil rights.

Some, like Chadd Dowding, 35, a regular patron of gay bars across Washington said that Washington’s gay bar scene has been successful due to the high number of LGBTQ residents and their desire to feel connected to their community. 

“I think D.C. has the largest gay population per capita of any city in the country, so that draws a larger audience of queer folks here,” he said. According to the Williams Institute, D.C. still holds the highest percentage in the U.S.  “I think there’s also a need for spaces for community, mostly because a lot of people in D.C. are transplants from other parts of the country.” 

Others, Like Bombshell Monroe, a drag queen from the House of Mulan (a chosen family, that works to support and mentor queens in Balls and beyond) said that contrarian attitudes are baked into the nature of the city. 

As Bombshell slipped on her flower-adorned flared jeans and orange tank top, getting ready to make her first appearance on the dance floor of Trade for Deep Cvnt, matching the spring bling theme of the night, she explained why she felt D.C.’s gay nightlife has been able to grow.

“I feel like D.C. has always been a place of independence and where people, even if we’re not accepted, will fight to be accepted,” Bombshell said while pulling on a fuzzy white and orange bucket hat. “I’m D.C. born and raised and can attest personally. I think that it’s so crazy because it’s political, but it’s not political. I feel like once we get the pushback from other states, we’re the ones that take it and say, ‘Well, bitch! We got something for y’all. You don’t want the gay bars here, we’re gonna put another one here!’” 

And put another one they did. Within the past three years, at least six new gay bars have opened up with very different styles and goals. Some bars cater to particular groups within the LGBTQ community, like that of Thurst Lounge on 14th Street N.W., which is a predominantly Black gay space. As You Are Bar, at 500 8th St., S.E., seeks to make an accessible and comfortable space for all in the LGBTQ community, focusing on often overlooked female and non-binary members of the community. Others focus on creating unique nightlife experiences, like that of the craft cocktails in Logan Circle’s Little Gay Pub with its Instagram (and Grindr) famous selfie mirror, or like that of the freshly opened Crush bar, focusing on creating a dance bar for LGBTQ people. 

Regardless of the specific reason people visit gay bars, It is clear that they offer platforms to authentically express queer identity in a world that does not always deem this acceptable. 

“If we get to a point where we have to start sacrificing more physical spaces for online ones, these spaces could be easily invaded by people who may not have the best intentions,” Etienne said, preparing to head up the scuffed stairs to Beyonce’s Jolene.  “There is something very valuable about having a physical space with a physical location because, at the end of the day, that’s what we have fought for.”

As the lights dimmed the Trade dance floor began to hush. A path opened up in front of the stage as the crowd of floral wearing ballroom fans stepped back, accommodating Etienne’s entrance. With the glittery green dress, knee-high go-go boots, and oversized sunglasses it is clear he is in charge of the night. 

“Since this is Deep Cvnt I need everyone to raise their hand up,” Etienne said with a smile. “And now put it below your waist. Check how deep your motherfucking cunt is.” The crowd roared with laughter and cheers. “Alright let’s get into it!” Deep Cvnt has begun.

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