One might imagine that for a queer community, even one that resides in a gentrified corner of Washington DC, the night before the Trump inauguration should feel momentous, or at the very least, somber. But the gay nightlife stretch of Georgia Avenue over near Howard University was relatively empty on Wednesday night. Town, the gay mega club, closed on the early side. Its “Love Trumps Hate” party was poorly attended compared to almost every other night, ever, an employee told me. Besides the Australian guy dressed in Trump gear, no one seemed particularly upset. “I put this on as a joke,” he said, “but everywhere I go, people are glaring at me.”
DC on the weekend of the presidential inauguration isn’t so much a ghost town as an alternate reality. I wanted to ask people who actually live in DC, particularly those of the LGBTQ persuasion, how they were expecting to cope in Trump’s America. But perhaps because this is DC, where so many of the country’s government lobbyists and lawyers and employees work and play, the reactions I got were muted to the point of being flip. Or maybe, living here in the seat of our government, they were just tired of talking about it.
Dustin, a 34-year-old who works in the Department of Defense’s education department, said he married his Rubio-adoring husband before the election in part because he didn’t want their politics to get in the way of their relationship. And though neither of them voted for Trump, he’s willing to wait and see what happens—“there’s a difference between campaigning and governing,” he said. “Most legislation is written by 25-year-olds anyway.” His friend Nick, a portly guy in a backwards hat, is a little more concerned, if only because the funding for his job might be in jeopardy. As an employee of a fetal health center, he said the expensive research they do on partially subsidized issues like Zika could potentially be influenced by a change of regime. “I’ve always felt like DC was a safe space for me,” he told me. “It’s hard to imagine that changing, immediately.”
“People in DC always appear super conservative, like in the way they dress,” I’m told by a woman named Liz at Nellie’s sports bar, a queer burger-and-football joint down the block that was having a small dance party upstairs. But, she said, a lot of professionals here draw a hard line between their personal and professional lives. Her landlord, for instance, runs a feminist book group but doesn’t want to go out and protest on Saturday because of her government job. And Liz herself seemed vaguely concerned, if not for her community, then for her country. She admitted she has absolutely no idea what’ll happen beyond tomorrow. “If I still lived in Tennessee, maybe I would feel differently,” she said.
Across the street at Trade, where CNN was projected on the wall but drowned out completely by pop music, I talked to Chris, a tiny hairdresser with immaculate eyebrows. His plan, he said, is to hide under a blanket for the next four years—he mimes the motion with his hands. As a queer Latino, he’s used to people giving him a hard time, and he doesn’t expect it to stop now. “I’ve always been like this,” he says, gesturing to, one might imagine, his long hair and dress. Outside, every once in awhile, someone would yells “Fuck Trump” as they walked past the bar—and they’d get a little cheer from whoever was gathered outside.