Seasonal Change

Reflecting on 17 years of Metro Weekly highlights how much our LGBT community has changed and what remains to be done

While next week may be the official 17th anniversary of Metro Weekly, this week actually marks the 17th year of working on the magazine. It did, after all, take a few days to turn the idea into a printed reality.

I’ve always felt our springtime anniversary was fitting, in a Hallmark kind of way, given that the season is one of renewal and growth. And the magazine has certainly renewed itself and grown over the years. Looking back at our earliest issues for me is a bit like looking back at my high school yearbook pictures — recognizable, but very different.

We all, I hope, change with our times. I know that it isn’t just Metro Weekly that’s grown and changed since 1994 – I’ve grown and changed right along with it, just as our entire LGBT community has. I’m old enough now to be able to discern how much things can change over a larger span of time, and how far we’ve all come in the past three decades simply amazes me.

Because I was a freelancer for Metro Weekly back in 1994, I also had a day job as an HIV prevention educator at Whitman-Walker Clinic. Like everyone at the clinic in those days, I wore multiple hats — my favorite to recall is that I had a business card identifying me as the ”Male Sex Industry Project Coordinator,” a wonderfully provocative job title for a rather staid city like D.C. Regardless of which title or hat I wore, though, I considered myself lucky to be able to spend my days (and plenty of nights) working to help my community.

While it’s been almost 16 years since I left the clinic, I still have a bit of a soft spot for it. And I’ll admit that when I first heard Whitman-Walker was changing its name — dropping the ”Clinic” to become ”Whitman-Walker Health” — I had a moment of oddly proprietary shock. How can you change something that’s been a part of the community for so long?

The shock didn’t last long, because I could answer the question myself. Times, people, organizations – they all grow and change. The changes at Whitman-Walker have been ongoing. I still heave a little sigh of nostalgia when I walk past the 14th and S Streets location where the clinic was once headquartered. But given that it started life as the Gay Men’s VD Clinic, grew into one of the nation’s largest HIV treatment and prevention centers, and took on broader roles in promoting LGBT health, change isn’t unfamiliar for Whitman-Walker. So, despite that initial reaction, I’m happy to see Whitman-Walker — which has gone through its share of struggles — moving forward with our community.

Despite the changes and achievements we’ve seen on LGBT equality, we do have to remember that things aren’t always peachy. Lawmakers still use us as political bait, HIV/AIDS still claims too many of our own, violence lurks for too many of our most vulnerable. While 17 years may give some historical perspective on where we are, what we’ve done in the past is less important than what we plan to do in the future. I’m looking forward to many more years of telling our community’s stories and, I hope, helping make our community stronger, safer and equal.

I can’t wait to see where we are in another 17 years.

Email Sean Bugg at and follow him on Twitter at @seanbugg.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.

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