By the time this gets to print, it will be all over. That was a long four years. But, at the same time, it went by incredibly fast. At the beginning of the Trump presidency, I used this column to write an open letter to the president pleading with him to try to understand the LGBTQ community. Not that he saw it, or us, and not that he even tried.
That’s all over now. But the bruise is still there. For those of us who had to live relatively close to Trump, who couldn’t avoid glimpsing down to the White House as we walked down P Street, crossing over 16th Street on our way to Logan Circle or Trade or 9, the hurt was a bit different. This was our beautiful city and distinctly ugly and graceless people were suddenly all over it.
This city was never a fit for them. Washington, D.C., has three titles that basically assured that from the get go — we are America’s gayest city, America’s fittest city, and America’s most educated city. All of that rolled into just over 68 square miles made the Trump world that infiltrated us those four years ago a particular anathema. What our titles usually draw to the city suddenly had the exact opposite in the White House.
So, now that he’s gone, how do we start to hit the reset button here in the District?
The Obama years made Washington cool. The District was a dynamic place to live. Our restaurants got hipper, and a chance visit by Barack or Michelle put far-flung cafes and eateries, locally owned bookstores and gift shops on the map. During those years, people seemed to move to D.C. just to be a part of it all, to bring their energy and talents and tap into the bustling and optimistic energy of the city. By contrast, the last four years saw a tacky takeover of some of our beloved spaces. Trump and his lackeys bullied their way into our favorite spaces without regard to what they mean or who built them. We openly delighted when folks mocked and scoffed at them; when some fought back. We all remember the time Stephen Miller was screamed out of a downtown sushi restaurant. The fur-coated, Chardonnay-sipping woman in Kalorama became a smug symbol for the resistance.
We found ways to make it perfectly clear that while they lived here, they were never particularly welcome . I mean, we were basically instructed to do so. Democratic representative and punching bag for the right, Maxine Waters told us that, “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them!”
It was fun for some of us for sure. But was it really us? Joe Biden is now president. Howard University alumna Kamala Harris is now his veep. And they bring with them to Washington the most diverse Cabinet ever — openly gay Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation, women and people of color in other top positions like no other time in history. Now that seems more like Washington. So now we can finally exhale. And begin the work of reclaiming this town as our own.
But how to do so? I’m reminded of my first high school reunion some 20 years ago. And how folks reminded me that success and happy living are the best ways to show those who wanted less for you that they no longer matter. So, for now, Washington will thrive as it has done. But success is for us a bigger-than-ever Pride celebration, celebrating our queer spaces, reclaiming and supporting our favorite watering holes and eateries. It might take a while, like airing out a stale room where the windows hadn’t been opened in some time. But we can wash the stain out of our city.
Winners write history, the losers will be left out. And success is the best revenge.
Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based freelance writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.