GLBT history is all over the Washington area, easier to spot in some areas than in others.
Take the new Nationals Park, for example. It paved the way for a vibrant entertainment district by paving over a specifically gay entertainment district — the survivors of which have only recently come back to life after being bulldozed into dust in 2006. As crowds of fans root for the action on the field, how many of them realize that what they’re looking at was once the exact spot of a small, social neighborhood of thriving adult venues for the gay community? When the mainstream crowds arrive on “gay nights,” do they realize that gay people laid claim to that turf decades ago?
Then there’s gay pioneer Frank Kameny’s unremarkable house in a Northwest corner of the District. And while the house may be unremarkable, Kameny is anything but. Accordingly, the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board voted in February to add his residence to the District’s Inventory of Historic Sites.
So that GLBT people know where they come from, work is being done to explore and preserve their collective past. That might mean a long-forgotten interview with one of America’s most renowned journalists, an exploration of a national organization’s effort to identify and promote gay landmarks, chatting with a gay historic preservationist, or trying to keep up with the local Rainbow History Project’s celebration of October as GLBT History Month.
However you look at history, it’s clear that it doesn’t preserve itself. That takes work from all of us.