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The Gaying of Washington, D. C.
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/18/13
Last updated on: 11/18/13
 
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A fascinating story in the Fashion & Style section of the November 17, 2013 New York Times reports on how Washington, D.C. transitioned from a deeply closeted city to the "gayest place in America."

In his first-person story, supplemented by interviews with numerous other D.C. residents and citing demographic information from the Census Bureau, Jeremy W. Peters recounts how the nation's capital has undergone a profound change over the last decade. When he first arrived in Washington as a summer intern ten years ago, he noticed that there were a lot of gay people in the city, including in high government positions, but "instead of being widely accepted, they were usually whispered about derisively, suspect characters to be mocked and maligned."

Now, however, Peters says, "I . . . live in the gayest place in America."

Robert Raben, an assistant attorney general during the Clinton administration, tells Peters, "There's an openly gay presence that makes you think you're in the Castro or West Hollywood," but adds, "it wasn't always the case. The federal government was a nightmare for homosexuals for decades, and then it wasn't."

A crucial factor in the change that took place is that under President Clinton the federal government ended the practice of denying security clearance to people known to be gay or lesbian. Finally, government employees were freed from the necessity of inventing a web of lies about their personal lives. They could come out.

Political lobbyists such as Hilary Rosen, Fred Saenz, and Richard Socarides recall their experiences having to worry about how honest they could be. But the necessity to hide extended beyond government officials. Sean Bugg, executive director of the Next Generation Leadership Foundation and editor emeritus of Metro Weekly, recounts how reporters were equally frightened of exposure, particular at a time when "the military was still doing surveillance in gay bars."

Peters considers the question of whether gay men and lesbians are drawn to Washington because they are attracted to politics in disproportionately high numbers.

This video accompanies the story:

 
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