Can We Be Gay Here: Washington, DC

Hunter and I moved to Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2016. We both wore rose-colored glasses back then, hoping to experience a greater sense of diversity and attend an inauguration for the first female president that upcoming winter. The diversity we sought still eludes us for the most part, and instead of an inauguration, we attended the women’s march the following day. While we have found hidden gems within the city and met new friends, our lives in the D-M-V did not exactly live up to our expectations.


We moved from Austin, Texas, where the city slogan “Keep Austin Weird” accurately reflects the city’s culture and attitude. When we departed from that blue island in a predominately red state, we hoped Washington, D.C. would be even more diverse and progressive. However, we rarely find ourselves in a room that is not 70% (or more) full of white straight people. Early on, we attempted to go out on U Street and were met with quite a few instances of name-calling and even physical aggression because we held hands trying to make our way across a crowded bar. There are certainly gay-friendly spots throughout the city (i.e. Nelly’s Sports Bar, Town, Duffy’s Irish Bar, etc.), but we have found that existing in this city as a female queer couple is not as easy as expected. Washington, D.C. regularly tops the charts for LGBTQ friendly cities in the U.S. with its diverse populations, political leanings, and annual Pride parade. Yet, it is odd to feel less secure here than I did in most major cities in Texas, where one might not expect to receive a warm welcome as a queer couple. 


Our safe-havens in the D.C. include the 14th Street, Columbia Heights, certain parts of H Street Corridor and Shaw. Unlike our experiences in New York or Austin, the freedom to explore the city or bar hop without planning ahead is limited. As we approach our second year living in the DMV, it certainly has been easier to be gay here. Even still, last week in an Uber, our driver lamented on the amount of gays in the city and his experience exiting a restaurant with queer patrons out of fear that his sexuality would be linked by association. 1 Star rating for you, sir. Just like the gentrification scattered throughout this city, so are the pockets of progressives. If you are planning an upcoming trip or moving to D.C., don’t let this post discourage you (if you are a white gay male, disregard this post altogether). There is a growing art scene and political activism, most likely stemming from the contagious cynicism from living in such close proximity to the current White House residents. With the cultural wave, including the burgeoning food scene, there will likely be more spaces for queer couples to live and relax. In the meantime, we do our best to support queer, female, or minority owned establishments, actively engage in the political resistance movement, and work to build more inclusive communities. There’s no place for passivity.

Out of the Closet, and Into the Streets!

-Kathryn & Hunter

“All my life I have lived and behaved very much like the sandpiper – just running down the edges of different countries and continents, ‘looking for something'” – Elizabeth Bishop, traveler & poet


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