Pride month opens with celebration and new anxiety in DC

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The mood was festive at the Busboys and Poets restaurant in northeastern Washington on Monday as one of the first events of Capital Pride Month kicked off, but Stephanie Macleod said the usual celebration was tinged with new anxiety.

Over the past year, the retired Loudoun County teacher has seen a backlash against the transgender restroom policy in her former school district. Florida lawmakers recently passed a bill to limit the teaching of LGBTQ topics in schools, and Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) has ordered investigations into parents who provide certain medical treatments to children transgender.

Suddenly, a decade of quick wins for the gay community seemed threatened across the country. Macleod was surprised but also said she was all the more determined to mark the annual gay life affirmation. She was not alone.

“I was so excited when Obama came along, and we got marriage equality,” the 61-year-old said of the former president. “I think we got to a point in this country where we were really rising above our history. It saddens me that we are going back. I thought it was very important to be here tonight.

Macleod and hundreds of others gathered in Busboys and Poets for an evening of poetry and spoken word focusing on women and gay men, dubbed “Outspoken”. Any gloom over the political moment was quickly dispelled as the host led the crowd in a raspy call and response of “Capital!” and “Pride!”

An artist who goes by the name of Beyond Your Definition captured a similar energy with a fiery poem about asserting queer identity in a hostile world. It featured the line, “Though they try to pluck every rainbow from the sky, you still shine.”

One attendee came to the mic to read a quieter “boy inside a girl” verse about battling gender identity. The drive crumbled at one point, and the crowd responded with a supportive shower of applause and clapping, the classic cafe nod of approval.

Some speakers touched on other controversies engulfing the country, from the abortion rights debate to the murder of George Floyd by a police officer.

Then a drag king named Cafecito lightened the mood by parodying a striptease.

Jordan Fason, 24, from Georgia, received a standing ovation for her cutting poem about the strength of black women and how they are often wronged for their work.

“This is a public service announcement on behalf of all black girls / The bridge called my back is closed indefinitely,” she opened to cheers. She later added, “You try to tame us like we try to tame our hair.”

Naysheen Collins and Simone Kolysh, an interracial lesbian couple with four children, said the climate for LGBTQ people led them to consider moving from their home outside of Frederick, Maryland, to DC for a more welcoming environment. welcoming. They fear displaying a Pride flag or a “Black Lives Matter” sign in their homes.

But for now, Collins said, it felt good to get together with other members of the LGBTQ community. The crowd sat under rainbow balloons and banners, and some came dressed in costumes.

“We walked out,” Collins said. “We just live our most authentic lives…for the people who don’t want us to do that.”

Holly Keaton, 23, said she hopes this year’s edition of Pride can serve as a rallying point against ongoing efforts to roll back LGBTQ rights. She also hoped the threat to those rights could renew the radical spirit of the celebration, which she says has become too co-opted by the corporate culture.

“I think it was easy to forget what the point of those was at first,” Keaton said. “It’s become very depoliticized in a way. It is very important to remember these roots that enter this month, especially with the current political context. »

Capital Pride continues this week with a host of events sponsored by the Capital Pride Alliance, including a pool party and opening night at Echostage in DC. The events conclude with a parade on Saturday and a festival and concert on Sunday.

Hannah Michaelson, a 24-year-old DC architect, said Pride took on a special resonance for her this year. The fact that the LGBTQ community is coming together at a time when their rights are under attack was significant in itself.

“It doesn’t seem more important to us to celebrate, but it seems to us more important that the space be celebrated,” Michaelson said. “It’s a reminder that we are still fighting these battles. The moments of peace and celebration are the most important.

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