DC at Night

DC at Night

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Out Is In: Have Pride 365

Conflicts are part of human life. Some are relatively common, affecting most of us. But what if a conflict is more specific to exactly who you are? For example, you are a young gay man who loves bowling, but is not  exactly sure how well you fit into the masculine, beer-swilling aspects of that sport. Or a lesbian woman who wants to travel  to China, where such a lifestyle is illegal? Or a person born as a female who is absolutely certain she should become a he and live life as a man?

Well, for these and hundreds of other such issues, solutions could be found today at the booths that lined the Pennsylvania Avenue Street Festival, one of the largest events in this year's Capital Pride week-long celebration..

While many of the thousands of visitors at the festival were here for a good time and to celebrate with fellow members of the DC-area's large and growing gay community, others used the opportunity to find help for  questions and issues.

Adam Boenning at his bowling booth
Our want-to-be bowler could head to the booth of the Capital Area Rainbowling Association, where Adam Boenning was offering small, colorful Grab-An-Ass donkeys for a buck as a fundraiser, as well as information for anyone who wanted to bowl in a same-sex league.

"We have 10 leagues that bowl 7 nights a week in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area," Boenning explained. He said there are about 1,400 bowlers currently in the association leagues. And, in the area of athletics at the Street Festival, Boenning wasn't the only one talking same-sex sports. You could visit the booths of DC Strokes (rowers; coxswains needed), the Washington Renegades (rugby) and several others.

Our would-be China traveler could seek out Linda Kemp, the DC regional sales consultant for Olivia, a San Francisco-based travel company for lesbian women. Kemp said Olivia has provided travel for more than 200,000 women all over the world.

"There's a common denominator for our travelers - they feel free to be themselves," Kemp said.

Kemp said that while travel was the main concern of the firm, there was another goal - spreading the idea that lesbianism is not something to be feared.  "We're always out. People are afraid of what they don't know and they get to know us," she said. Kemp laughed as she related a story of one of the travels to Turkey. The group encountered a community  that had been particularly hit hard by economic devastation. There, poor local women lined up with home-made rugs, imploring the visitors to buy them. Which they did.  The next day the local headlines in Turkish read: Lesbians Help the Economy of Turkey.

At the DCATS (the DC Area Transmasculine Soicety) booth, Eli Strong was one of a trio of volunteers available to answer queries and provide information.

"We work with people who are born or assigned to be female at birth and feel that it is an incomplete or inaccurate description of who they are," Strong said. "We get together for social stuff, but we deal with problems, too."

One of the biggest problems facing transmasculines is health care. Providers don't always recognize their condition and refuse to pay for operations, testosterone, and other needed medical help.

Strong, who was born a woman and now is a male and legally married to a woman, said he knows all too well the problems people like himself face on a daily basis. When his wife suggested that they relocate to another area, Strong convinced her to change her mind. "DC is one of the leaders in the country when it comes to human rights," he said. "I told her we're not leaving DC for somewhere where I'll lose my rights."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
My new lesbian lunch crew: Caring and confident
I know you can't (and indeed never should) stereotype. But I am going to break my own rule here. As a group, the dozens of gays, lesbians, and transgenders I met and talked to at the Street Festival were among the most friendly, sensitive, and socially conscious people I have ever encountered. And I know the small rainbow bracelet one of the festival goers gave me to wear on my wrist wasn't the reason for their warmth. Take the group of 6 lunching lesbians from Virginia who took me under their wing. I sat down on a low wall with them as they ate. One of the younger members (whom I'll call Angel for reasons that shall soon be obvious) immediately began asking me how I was enjoying myself. In a voice filled with genuine concern for my well-being, she asked "Are you here with anybody," her tone and body language indicating that I was welcome to hang with her group if I weren't.
My wife: A DC Roller girl?
I told her I was waiting for my wife, whom I later found was  engaged in a just-as-friendly conversation with a member of the DC Roller Girls, the district's popular roller derby queens. "Hey," Angel told the others. "He and his wife are here for our support." We then launched into a conversation about the day (a lot of fun), the life of a southern lesbian (she said she had it much easier than her gay brother) and some of the issues in an America that still simply isn't as tolerant as it should be about same-sex relationships. One of the older women, wearing a "Girls Will Do Girls" T-shirt joined in. Suddenly, the whole group burst into laughter as they discovered one of their members eating a corn dog on a stick in a particularly sexy, but decidedly not lesbian, fashion.  "Hey we're lesbians. Do you know what that looks like? You're giving us a bad name. People are going to think we like men."  I joined in their laughter. In fact, laughter seemed to be one of the biggest parts of this pride day. Homosexuals of all ages and types smiled when the food vendors would shout "give me a big one" or "give me a long one" as cooks pulled another sausage from the smoking grills. They smiled even brighter and longer as they roamed the Festival, greeting and hugging old and new friends. It seemed fitting that this most accepting version of America was happening between the National Archives, where the most sacred documents of our founding are kept, and the Capitol, where the laws that should govern and protect us all are made. As I left my 6 new friends, the younger man's T-shirt of a couple holding hands as they strolled by summed up the entire day. "Out Is In," it read. That may not yet be true everywhere in America 365 days a year. But it was definitely true on this sunny Sunday June afternoon on a packed Pennsylvania Avenue.  Out really was in.
These Synetic Theater troupe members prove we can all get along.

How many times have you needed this?

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