The Thing About D.C.’s Gay Drag Queen Race Is

Up in New York City, the gay bars are called things like “The Cock,” and the go-go boys start going full-nude at about 4 PM. In Los Angeles, all of West Hollywood is gay — especially your favorite action movie heroes. But in DC, “go-go” is a junkyard music I’m still trying to like, and the most popular gay bar is a fratty (but fun!) sports club full of straight people.

As we all know, literally every family values politician is gay with either his pastor/masseuse or whichever guy’s foot he kicks in the john, proving there are lots of gay people hiding in Washington. The question is: where? (Teabaggers say the gays are in Dupont Circle, but I am writing this from a Starbucks in Dupont right now and all I see are women in FAKE pearls ordering burned-to-piss coffee.)

On Tuesday, dear friends, I found the gays.

Did you know that DC loves drag queens? I did not know that, but then a friend from the college where I drank invited me to watch the “Drag Queen Race” from her Dupont Circle mansion. “What is a Drag Queen Race?” I asked, to which she responded, “Google it, dicknose!” because I forgot that it is lame not to rely on computers for everything. When I did Google it, I discovered that it is an annual District tradition to drink alcohol in the middle of 17th street on a Tuesday and scream at men in dresses, just like a drunken bigot. Yippee!

The race didn’t begin until 9, but everyone got there early to give their brains a vodka enema at Fox & Hounds, where a “drink” means a “juice glass full of booze.” To look cool, I opted to start the night with a mid-level bottle of French red, but I sipped it all trashily out of a plastic cup on my friend’s stoop. It made me feel like The Situation. Just when I began to regret coming, the drag queens were everywhere!

Does anyone else have feelings about drag shows being kind of low-level minstrely? I did, briefly, but then this guy came out in a fucking Barbie-in-the-box costume and I gave up thinking about anything seriously and did exactly what you probably should do at drag shows: smile at the shiny colors. The second-best outfit was a creepy Apocalypto meets Alice In Wonderland playing card witch, who would later appear in my dreams as a stabbing murderer — and then she was my mom. Ha ha … ha?

My host started giving everyone red cups of “jungle juice” (is that racist?) and while I was secretly pouring my cup into the toilet, the race started and I missed most of it. Luckily I made it out in time to see the stragglers, who were prancing and preening and looked not to have wanted to race at all.

To get a better vantage point, a bunch of people had decided to jump up on a vacant cop car. It was awesome — a dozen people cold sipping craft beers on top of a DC police vehicle, screaming at drag queens and giggling like children. It is good and healthy to beat back the bullshit constraints of everyday life, even for only a few moments, and this is what everyone was doing.

Perhaps the only way to make the Drag Queen Race more fun is to instead make it the Running of the Drag Queens. All the ladies would line up and, when the whistle blew, they’d chase a crowd of people and try to trample them to death before they all reached Dupont Circle. Once there, everyone would get spears and try to stab each other in the backs. I think Fenty would have gone for that, because he likes to see white people having fun, but I don’t know about this Gray character.

Also, I should mention that it was very nice to see so many people being totally gay in the DC streets. Urban gay people make city neighborhoods look better, are smarter than straights, and their positioning as outcasts has made them more willing to accept the differences of others. Too bad so many gays working in the Capitol have to hide it, so the district voters back home don’t find out there’s a gay man running Congressman America’s office. All in all, it was nice to see the freak flag fly on a fine Fall night.

This post originally appeared on Wonkette and is republished here with permission.

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  • seanboy

    I lived in DC for 2 years. Don’t be fooled by this one gay event. The city is dead when it comes to gay nightlife. All these gays show up for the high heel race and for pride in June but they are missing throughout the rest of the year.

    As for the Sport Bar that is described as “fun” it is a stand and model bar where nobody ever talks to anyone.

  • hephaestion

    @seanboy: Truth be told, all bars suck. DC is a highly educated town and the gay community reflects this. People here are far more serious and have LIVES so they don’t hang out in bars all the time. DC’s gay community is huge, but is far less visible and fun than, say, Atlanta’s gay community, because DC’s gay community is older and more settled. It’s expensive as hell to live in DC, too.

  • J.

    @ Sean. You must be fat and ugly if nobody ever talks to you.

  • Glitch?

    Umm Qweerty, why can’t we vote thumbs up/down on comments anymore?

  • Benjamin

    Born and raised and out in DC for life. It’s the most affluent, educated metro in the US and as said above, the gay community, one of the largest demographically speaking in the nation, is a bit above a common gay ghetto bar scene found elsewhere. Nellie’s, as referenced above, is in a newly gentrified neighborhood which attracts new local straight folk for college games on Saturdays simply because it’s the best and only ‘sports’ bar in that area. Once evening sets in, it is gay, gay, gay. That said, private parties are the true social key in DC. Seanboy must not rate to be a part of the real gay DC scene…

  • Caleb

    I’m not sure what you all are talking about. First of all, the High Heel Race (not the Drag Queen race) includes non-drag queens and many straight people in heels too. It isn’t a “drag queen race.”

    I have been in DC over 10 years and anyone who thinks there is no bar scene is crazy. Maybe you just don’t go out enough. Have you been to the Diner on a Thursday night? Or JRs, which has a solid (though not always the most attractive) crowd on any given night? DC has a very healthy bar scene compared to some other cities (ie: Boston).

    And I’m not sure what night this author is at Nellie’s, but on a Saturday night it’s ass-to-ass gays. And I don’t think any of them are standing in the corner not talking to anyone.

    Personally I think the gay ghetto bars are slowly dying because younger gays don’t feel as compelled to only go to gay bars anymore. Bars in most cities are becoming more open and mixed crowds.

  • seanboy


    Benjamin, you must not be one of the “educated” DC gays of which you speak. There is no need to personally attack me. For the record, I have lived in NYC, Chicago and LA and my job has allowed me to travel the world to some great cities so I know what a “scene” is. From my exerience in DC there wasn’t much of one. I went to Town, Nellie’s, JR’s, Halo, etc. I met some nice guys ranging from their 20s to 40s that had lived in DC for awhile and they bemoaned that DC was a sucky city to be gay in. People having friends over for drinks and dinners does not a scene make.

  • Tyler

    Sad to say but I have to agree with Seanboy. I’m 27 and have been in DC since I moved here for college. Yes, it is an edcuated city in the sense that many people are book smart. They aren’t socially smart though. Many DC-ers get caught up in their education and careers and don’t know how to interact on a personal level. DC is a one industry town and the focus is all about careers that personal lives suffer.

    I’m considered “cute” by gay standards but I find this town to be a real challenge too.

    Seanboy, sorry DCers weren’t so welcoming. They aren’t all assholes like Benjamin.

  • Benjamin

    @seanboy: “Sucky” – I rest me case…

  • gurrlz


    Doesn’t sound you look did. As a lesbian who has visited DC a lot for business I agree with Seanboy.

  • DC Guy

    The High Heel Drag Race attracts more straight girls than an Irish Pub full of guys in brown flip flops. Half of the participants are straight guys who (somewhat mockingly) dress up in women’s clothing in order to solicit a laugh from their (onlooking) lady-friends.

    As far as the gay bar scene being ‘sucky’ here: it doesn’t suck any more than any other city. If you really hate it, then don’t go out and continue to bemoan it each and every week. Gay bars aren’t for everyone (and might not be the best place to make friends). I’m sure we won’t miss you if you find a place that suits you better.

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