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Celebrating D.C.’s drag history

New Dupont Underground exhibit offers photos, videos, and live performances

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A drag performer entertains the crowd at the 1994 Black Gay Pride Day celebration on May 28. (Washington Blade photo by Kristi Gasaway)

As the city continues to reopen, the Washington Blade and Dupont Underground announced this week plans for a new exhibit highlighting the history and power of drag in D.C. and around the country.

The exhibition showcases a mix of photographs and video footage that authentically honor the roots of drag in America, while celebrating the power, pride, and leadership that define the community. D.C.’s drag scene inspired a generation to embrace its power and raise its voice.

The Exhibition showcases photographs gathered from the archives of the Washington Blade and video footage from interviews with Drag Queen Shi-Queeta-Lee and Drag King Pretty RikE. The photographs and interviews offer a glimpse into the past and explore the future of what drag is becoming as a culture and as an art form.

The innovative exhibit runs from Friday, June 4 to June 27 at Dupont Underground (19 Dupont Circle, N.W.).

Exhibition times:
Fridays, 3-7 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Drag shows 8-10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays
Drag brunch 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Sundays (starting June 13).

Tickets can be purchased at washingtonblade.com/royals with tickets starting at $5.

Drag show performers include Bombalicious Eklaver, Brooklyn Heights, Cake, Farrah Synclaire, Gigi Paris Couture, Pretty Boi Drag, Shi-Queeta Lee, and Sasha Adams. More performers to be announced soon.

Presenting sponsors are the Washington Blade, Dupont Underground, and the Leonard-Litz Foundation. Additional sponsors include Absolut, Ariadne Getty Foundation, Pepco, Washington Regional Transplant Community, and Devil’s Backbone.

The exhibit is part of the Focus on the Story International Photo Festival 2021, #FOTS21. focusonthestory.org.

Exhibit Preview

A scene from Gay Pride Day in 1983. (Washington Blade archive photo by Leigh Mosley)
Activists listen to Carol Lee at a rally in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Oct. 10, 1988. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)
The competitors at the starting line of the High Heel Race in 1988 are about to take off. (Washington Blade archive photo by Doug Hinckle)
A performer entertains at the 1996 Black Pride Festival. (Washington Blade archive photo by Clint Steib)
A scene from the 2001 Capital Pride Parade. (Washington Blade archive photo by Clint Steib)
The drag troupe ‘DC Kings’ pose for a photo on July 11, 2010. (Washington Blade archive photo by Michael Key)
Ba’Naka is voted ‘Best Drag Queen’ in the Blade’s ‘Best of Gay D.C.’ readers’ poll in 2012. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
A scene from the 2012 High Heel Race. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Shi-Queeta Lee performs at Town in April of 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
One team poses for a picture at ‘DragBall’ at Stead Park on June 2, 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
Blair Williams is crowned Miss Gay D.C. America 2013 at the annual competition held at Town Danceboutique on Sept. 16. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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Out & About

DC Center to host estate planning seminar series

Three sessions presented by Murray Scheel

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The DC Center hosts a series of talks on end-of-life planning next week.

The DC Center for the LGBT Community and the DC Department on Aging and Community Living will host “Estate Planning Tools with Murray Scheel” via Zoom. 

Scheel will walk guests through the process of taking care of the end-of-life planning business that needs to be addressed during the golden years. Scheel is Senior Staff Attorney at Whitman-Walker Health’s Legal Services.

This event series will consist of three 1.5-hour sessions:

Jan. 19, 3 p.m. – “Tools for while you’re living” (overview, general power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, disposition of remains, etc.)

Jan. 26, 3 p.m. – “Tools for after you’re gone” (living wills, last wills, assets, etc.)

Feb. 2, 3 p.m. – “Healthcare insurance & long term care” (Medicare, Medicaid, correcting misinformation, skilled nursing, hospice care, etc.)

To register for this event, visit the DC Center website.

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Out & About

DC Center to host legal seminar for trans people

Attorney Richard Tappan and paralegal Miranda Shipman to give legal advice

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The DC Center for the LGBT Community will host a “Gender and Name Change Legal Seminar” on Wednesday, Jan. 19 at 5:30 p.m. online. 

Attorney Richard Tappan and paralegal Miranda Shipman will give legal advice and speak on the importance of the legal community within the LGBTQ community, the difficulties of the LGBTQ community in the legal field and name and gender changes. 

Guests can find the link at the DC Center website.

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Books

Seeking love and community in Nicaragua

‘High-Risk Homosexual’ explores author’s youth, coming out

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(Book cover image courtesy of Soft Skill Press)

High-Risk Homosexual: A Memoir
By Edgar Gomez
c.2022, Soft Skull Press
$16.95/304 pages

Here. Try this.

It fits you, but the color isn’t flattering. It’s too long, too short, too tight, too loose. That’s not your style, so try something else until you find the thing that looks like you. The perfect thing is out there. As in the new book “High-Risk Homosexual” by Edgar Gomez, when something’s right, it’s right.

He was 13 when he figured out that he was a problem to be solved.

Edgar Gomez’ mother had left him in her native Nicaragua with his tíos, just for a while because she had to return to Florida to work. He wasn’t there without her for long, but it took years for him to understand that his time with his uncles was meant to make him more masculine.

In retrospect, he says, nobody wanted him to be a man more than he did. He wanted to be liked by other kids and so he told lies in school to make himself stand out. He wanted his mother to see his love of pretty things and say that it was OK. He wanted his brother to acknowledge that Gomez was gay, and to tell him that he loved him.

Instead, after his brother left for college, Gomez got his first boyfriend, a boy he came out to but who couldn’t come out to himself. He was called names in school. He came out to his mother, who freaked out about it. He befriended a drag queen, but “Princess” used him.

Things he wanted: a real boyfriend. Love. A ban on the stereotype of a macho Latinx man.

Things he still had, while in college: his mother and older brother. A tormentor-turned-mentor. A part-time job. His weirdness. His virginity.

Things he wanted to lose, while in college: his room at his mother’s house. His virginity, but that wouldn’t happen until later, during a painful one-afternoon-stand with a hot man who said he had a girlfriend. That hurt, both physically and emotionally but like so many things at so many times, Gomez tried not to think about it.

If he never considered what he didn’t have, he says, “I wouldn’t miss it.”

In a way, you could say that “High-Risk Homosexual” is a book in search of a point. It’s really quite random and told (mostly) linearly, but not quite. It has its peaks, but also low valleys. And you won’t care about any of this, because you’ll be enjoying every bit of it.

Yeah, this memoir is good: author Edgar Gomez’s literary wandering makes it feel much like an honest conversation with readers. There are wince-worthy moments that allow empathy here, and experiences that are unique but oddly ubiquitous, that leave space for a sense of sympatico. There are passages that are so wistfully uncomfortable that you might squirm, or start “snort-laughing,” or want to stop a moment and just think.

And there’s room for that, too, so take your time. “High-Risk Homosexual” is an affable book with just enough seriousness to make it worth a try.

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