By Katie Seitz, Host Committee Member
The Host Committee welcomes you to DC! The District has long been a haven for LGBTQ+ people and culture, through generations of activism and shifting tides of popular acceptance. DC is the home of the first independent church formed for LGBTQ+ people of color (Faith Temple), the first openly LGBTQ+ student organization at an HBCU (the Lambda Student Alliance at Howard University), and other important gay historical and political milestones. DC is generally a welcoming and safe place for LGBTQ+ people, and HRC’s State Equality Index gives it the top ranking of “Working Toward Innovative Equality,” along with twelve states, for its robust non-discrimination laws and protections.
As the capital of the United States, DC is also home to the headquarters of many a national LGBTQ+ organization. Our reputation for combining entertainment with political activism is well-deserved. In fact, a popular way for DC’s queer glitterati to socialize is through weekly – or even more frequent – happy hour and bar-related fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. A quick search through Facebook and Eventbrite for happy hours related to an organization or fundraising campaign of your choice will most likely yield an event every night of your stay.
DC is also home to its own LGBTQ+ organizations and groups for nearly every identity. Keeping them on your radar will allow you to check their social media for events in the weeks leading up to the conference. Many organizations of note are, helpfully, listed on the DC government’s website.
Located near the U Street/African American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo metro station (green/yellow lines), The DC LGBT Center “educates, empowers, celebrates, and connects the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities.” Specifically, DC Center hosts support groups, potlucks, discussions, and more. Their event calendar is packed year-round, and helpful if you’re looking for something less bar or club-focused to do while you’re here. If you are looking specifically for Asian American, African American, or Latinx events and groups, check both the event calendar and their home page’s People of Color tab. DC’s free gay weekly paper, the Metro Weekly, also has an event calendar, though it is largely focused on health.
Nightlife and Events
While Dupont Circle is DC’s best-known gayborhood, LGBTQ+ nightlife has always been found across the city. DC LGBTQ+ magazines Metro Weekly, Tagg Magazine, and the Washington Blade all have online nightlife listings or best-of lists that are great places to start hunting for your perfect night out. 18th Street bars like Larry’s Lounge, and the Duplex Diner are gay strongholds that also happen to be close to the Wardman Park Marriott. The 17th Street Corridor, Logan Circle, and U Street neighborhoods in the NW quadrant of DC are all LGBTQ+ social hubs and within walking distance of the hotel and conference site.
If you’re looking for queer events centering gender-nonconforming bodies of color, don’t-miss Pretty Boi Drag, a queer black drag happening with weekly events. For the most up-to-the-moment event calendar of spaces and parties centering queer women, check out PhatGirlChic a few days before you arrive. Long-running tea dance Over Easy, hosted by Where the Girls Go, QrewDC events, and Bodywork D.C. parties come recommended.
If you’re more interested in cinema, the Joint Annual Meeting happens to overlap with the DC Black Film Festival – check out the link for tickets and film listings. But the chillest of chill parties won’t be listed on any LGBTQ+ event website! Consider stopping by the Sunday afternoon drum circle at Malcolm X Park (just north of U Street, and also walking distance from the conference). This 40-year-old community gathering is an all-ages, all-musical-abilities way to connect with DC locals – and maybe your own sense of rhythm.
For the history-minded, DC has so much to offer. From the AIDS Memorial Quilt to the Furies Collective, DC’s LGBTQ+ history is interwoven with the fabric of the country. The Rainbow History Project has created self-guided LGBTQ+ history walking tours covering African American history, the Capitol Hill neighborhood, drag history, Dupont Circle, East Dupont, South Capitol Street, Walt Whitman in DC, and women’s history. CurbedDC has an LGBT landmarks map covering such diverse terrain as Frank Kameny’s house/base of operations and the Enik Alley Coffeehouse, while including the Pentagon – site of one of the best-known early lesbian/gay rights demonstrations – and the White House. Don’t forget to check out the online archival repositories created by the Rainbow History Project and the Latino GLBT History Project, which are the work of dedicated local historians and archivists preserving DC’s LGBTQ+ history.
DC’s LGBTQ+ residents have a proud tradition of creating faith communities that affirm us, even when most do not. Faith Temple, created in 1982 by Howard University journalism professor James Tinney, was the first independent church formed for LGBTQ+ people of color, and it still exists today. Tagg Magazine’s list of LGBTQ-positive churches and religious groups (including Muslims for Progressive Values DC) is one place to start. Queer Jews can check out Bet Mishpachah, an inclusive, egalitarian congregation for LGBTQ+ Jews formed in 1975.
If you have health needs while you are in DC, Whitman-Walker Health provides LGBTQ+-focused health care. Their multiple clinics offer emergency testing, free safer sex supplies, and more.
If you are in recovery and want to attend LGBTQ+ AA or NA meetings while you are here, there are many to choose from. The Triangle Club and the Dupont Circle Club host regular AA meetings within walking distance of the conference. More meetings can also be found through WAIA, Gay and Sober DC, and GAL-AA. For a list of local NA meetings, visit CPR-NA.
DC’s vibrant mix of cultures, and communities means that at least one of these events and places should sound exciting to you! We welcome you to the District and hope that your conference experience includes exploring a bit of what LGBTQ+ DC has to offer.