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Tara Suter

Tara Suter – Sammamish, Washington

One of the more interesting things I found when doing research on this community was the discourse around what makes a “gay” neighborhood “gay?” There were tons of questions about just the overall queer population and the recent dispersal of queer people in the District. As someone who is interested in the intersection of wealth inequality and queerness and the historical factors behind them, it really got me thinking about the idea of the radicalness of what a gay neighborhood should be. Should it be a place where every queer person, despite their material possessions should find refuge and build a community? Or should it be a place where low income queer people struggle to get by and high income queer people reap the benefits in order to stay in the good graces of the cisgender, heterosexual and wealthy people who set up disadvantaging systems in the first place?

As a queer woman who lives in D.C. for about nine months out of the year, it may be shocking to some that I’ve never been to a lot of queer spaces in the District, let alone the Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan area. So, it was really interesting to dive into these spaces for the first time and try and fully understand them. I think I definitely found a place that was mostly open to anyone who wanted to come experience it, but I did think there were some definite barriers and exclusion within it. Number one, I definitely noticed the dominance of cisgender white gay men in many of the spaces we visited. Number two, there aren’t many spaces for people under 21, so I imagine it must be a bit harder for younger queer adults to find community here.

I’ve heard and seen stories from fellow queer women and some trans individuals about how they can feel alienated in places like gay bars. I don’t think these stories get reported enough, and I really wanted to see what the D.C. gay scene’s track record was on this topic.

I did face an uphill battle in reporting this story originally. Challenge one: It’s a sensitive topic. Challenge two: I faced some original struggles in getting in touch with community leaders. Challenge three: It was so hot during reporting days. But I tackled all three of those challenges by finding people who may not be front-facing community leaders but ordinary people who just wanted to tell their stories to a sweaty, exhausted 20-year-old reporter dealing with her own self-confidence issues. And I made a great story out of that.

I wish I had more time to have the chance to talk to more community leaders. Especially trans women, who are so often the pioneers behind queer movements. And historical experts, I want to get more of an in-depth understanding of how D.C.’s trans community shaped the queer rights movement in the District.