Washington, D.C. may not wave its Pride flag as vigorously as, say, San Francisco, but the capital’s LGBT roots run just as deep. After all, this is where famed poet Walt Whitman met the love of his life, Peter Doyle, while riding a streetcar one night in 1865. Though born and raised in New York, Franklin Kameny, a gay rights pioneer and co-founder of the D.C. branch of advocacy group Mattachine Society, also called Washington home. The Human Rights Campaign is headquartered here, and this is where the highest tribunal in the land legalized gay marriage in the landmark case, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Those roots have given life to a vibrant and flourishing gay community, rivaling not only San Francisco’s own, but those of major cities around the world. A 2013 New York Times article even wonders aloud if D.C. is “the gayest place in America.” According to Census Bureau statistics, it just may be.
Luckily for visitors, that means there are plenty of ways to soak up the local color. Start at LGBT hub Dupont Circle for a dose of history (try a guided walking tour with Rainbow History Project), and then make your way through the hip bars, shops and restaurants of Logan Circle and Adams Morgan, two other hotspots for alternative lifestyles.
Visitors in June find the city draped in rainbow bunting for Capital Pride, while those who pass through in late October find bon vivants in drag competing to win the popular 17th Street High Heel Race. But no matter the time of year, visitors find a capital city with a jumping nightlife scene, beloved watering holes and a rich history.