True to form, I’ve never really been into sports. I played one year of Varsity volleyball in high school, then hung up my knee pads and took the stage. I was that loud, proud, overly dramatic theater kid; yet, I am making it a point to keep up with 24th Winter Olympic Games. It gives me a sense of international community that transcends my lack of sports knowledge.
And as I read more about the Sochi 2014 Olympics and Russia’s anti-gay laws and propaganda, I can’t help feeling a sense of overwhelming pride, not only for my country, but for my local queer community, which is as diverse and full of opportunity as ever.
No matter where you fit on the queer spectrum, there is a place for you in Washington, D.C. Very few LGBTQ communities have the scope and variety of events that our community offers, not to mention the frequency. We are home to the longest running and operating lesbian bar in the country, Phase 1. We are home to the longest running monthly drag king show in the world, the DC Kings. We are headquarters to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Whitman-Walker Health, and the third largest Pride celebration in the nation. Yet, how many of us are cuddled up in the comfort of our couch, while community events and fundraisers are often minimally populated? How many of us stop to take the time to appreciate and support our incredible community for all that it is?
I have visited gay bars all over the country and the world, and there are very few communities that are as strong and connected as ours. During my trip to Istanbul, Turkey, I decided to venture to a gay bar to experience the LGBTQ life abroad. I relied on friends to find this place, seeing as how it’s illegal to promote gay events publicly due to persecution. It really makes you appreciate those annoying facebook invites and ads now, doesn’t it?
As I entered this club, I was asked to remove all items from my purse, including any device that could record, tape, or take pictures. I was given a slip with a number that corresponded to a cubby hole and from there, I was ushered through a set of iron double doors, where I met gay women and men from all over the world; many of whom had absolutely no gay life whatsoever. This experience was just one of many that have led me to lead, give, support, and participate in my community.
The importance of community cannot be overstated.
With so much national coverage of anti-lgbt laws and international discrimination, it burdens my heart and boggles my mind that there are those of us here, in our own community, who would discriminate and work against one another. I’ve seen members of our community bash, rant, and rage against the very people working to make our community a stronger, more diverse place. I’ve seen the hard work that many have poured into creating a safe, accepting place for LGBTQ women and genderqueer individuals. While I understand that some heat will naturally radiate off the public spotlight, I will never understand how we, as a discriminated population, would then turn around and discriminate against one another. I suppose in the same way hate breeds hate, discrimination breeds discrimination. But I believe we are better than that.
There are so many nights that I too would rather opt to stay home on my couch, cuddled up with my girlfriend in the lesbian love cave of comfort, but I push myself to go out and support events that in turn, support local organizations and initiatives. This Friday and Saturday, Phase 1 and the Ladies of LURe will be hosting fundraising events for women’s health. This Sunday, Town is hosting HER HRC, and that’s all in just one weekend. In March, there’s The Mautner Gala, and in April, we will host our first TaggFest. These are just the events and opportunities that are on my personal radar.
This is not to suggest that the only way we can appreciate and support our community is through monetary giving or attendance at events. There are so many opportunities to volunteer and contribute through programs like Whitman-Walker Health’s PALS and SMYAL’s youth events. In the wake of worldwide LBGTQ reform, we can all play a contributing role toward ending inequality and bridging gaps in the system.
I will always believe that the best way to protect our personal liberty is to go out and exercise it. Like Olympic athletes who commit to a sport and train tirelessly to execute it, we too should take the initiative to find out what matters most to us, and then do what we can to contribute to our community.