D.C.:The Gay Capital of America?

11.18.2013

By Neal Broverman

The nation's capital may be San Francisco on the Potomac.

Can the city of suits, museums, and lobbyists be the gayest place in America? The New York Times asserts as much this weekend, saying Washington, D.C. is absolutely swarming with LGBT people.

Census numbers show that 10 percent of D.C. residents identify as LGBT — which would make for over 60,000 queer folk — the highest percentage, when compared to the 50 states. But it’s not just number-crunching statisticians finding gay and trans people; it’s evident in the numerous gay bars, clubs, LGBT newspapers, and openly gay professionals operate in Washington. The open nature springs not just from the city being Democratically-leaning, but a tolerance among politicians toward out staffers.

This open-mindedness didn’t materialize until President Clinton assumed office in 1993, began hiring out people, and stopped the practice of denying openly gay employees security clearances. Many current D.C. power players, like HRC communications exec Fred Sainz and lobbyist and frequent TV news commenter Hilary Rosen describe how dangerous and scary it was to be out in D.C. before then (a contrast at the time to working in, say, media in New York, or film or T.V. in L.A.). Along with a increasingly-tolerant Beltway, the overturning of “don’t ask, don’t tell” opened up things even more for gay Washingtonians.

But it may just be that all these gays were always in D.C. Lobbyist Steve Elmendorf posits that gay people are inherently attracted to politics and since many are childless, are more comfortable with the limited pay that comes with working in the public sector.

Bars like JR’s, Nelly's, and Number 9 are constantly thronged with local gay Washingtonians, but it’s not clear if out-of-towners are migrating there just yet, as residents or visitors. Is D.C.’s growing reputation as a gay capital enough to encourage you to visit there? Will D.C. ever top New York, San Francisco, L.A., or Miami as a must-see destination for LGBT travelers? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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