Think ”gay escape” and Richmond, Va., might not be the first city that comes to mind.
”You’ve seen everybody going out to Rehoboth,” says Jay White, director of Word Marketing in Richmond, but that’s not the last word.
”Give Richmond a shot,” says White, who is gay, adding that he understands why some might perceive Virginia’s capital, a little more than 100 miles south of D.C., as conservative.
”Richmond has got its name out there as the capital of the Confederacy,” he says. ”It takes a long time to create a more realistic image. Richmond is such a large community, so it takes a while to show that you do have events and attractions that are LGBT and LGBT-friendly.”
To create that realistic image, a group of LGBT organizations have come together to produce 30 events during a 60-day period for ”Rainbow Over Richmond.”
The festivities kicked off earlier this month with a film screening of Gen Silent. Events continue through October, including a kickoff party for Richmond’s new online directory of LGBT-friendly businesses on Sept. 9 at The Empress; ”Pride Fridays” at local bars; an exhibit, ”Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals,” at the Gay Community Center of Richmond beginning Sept. 19; the annual Pride Festival on Sept. 25; a film series, beginning Sept. 26; and much more.
”We all kind of pulled together and decided we wanted to market events and attractions throughout September and October in the Richmond area, because September is when Gay Pride is in Richmond, and a lot of other events that are LGBT or LGBT-friendly,” says White. ”We felt like it was a good opportunity to focus on a niche market that Richmond really hasn’t focused on in the past as far as advertising and bringing in new tourism dollars.”
It also provides a calming getaway for bustling LGBT Washingtonians, he adds.
”It’s just a nice time to be able to come out and enjoy the James River. You’re not stifled by heat. You can walk around. You can shop. You can dine out. It’s just a more enjoyable time of the year.”
Pastor Robin Gorsline of the Metropolitan Community Church of Richmond says the city is much different than the entire state of Virginia on the political spectrum.
”Richmond is not to be confused with the political climate of the larger state, where a good chunk of the state still has some negativity toward LGBT folks,” she says.
”Richmond is pretty open. We’ve got a gay community center here. We have not only an MCC church, but a number of other churches who are very gay-friendly, a couple of synagogues as well, and there’s some bars for people to gather.”
Though Richmond may be ”smaller” and ”quieter” than its capital neighbor to the north, Gorsline says Richmond has its own ”lively and active community” that’s making progress, even incrementally: ”I don’t suspect we could get marriage through our City Council the way you did in D.C., but there still would be support for it on the City Council.”
For more information about Rainbow Over Richmond, visit visitrichmondva.com.