For the first time last Friday night, the City of Falls Church’s downtown was graced with an institutional LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer/questioning) presence. A local business owner retained the use of the State Theatre to host an LGBTQ-themed public party, called “Love Is Love,” and an estimated 300 attended a rousing celebration of pride and affirmation in a safe environment. More events are currently being planned.
It was coincidental but still relevant that the event came as special recognitions have begun nationwide of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the three days of protests of police abuse of the gay community in the Greenwich Village of New York that took place in June 1969. The riots were credited with kicking off the modern, visible struggle for LGBTQ affirmation and rights.
It also coincided with two push-back trends against the movement for full equality, including the recent-years’ economically-driven precipitous decline in clubs and bars catering
to the LGBTQ public, and the high-profile decision by the United Methodist Church to ban open LGBTQ clergy and marriage celebrations.
Falls Church’s two Methodist churches, the Dulin and Crossman churches, have both gone on record opposing that move, and Dulin’s pastor, the Rev. David Kirkland, has written a guest commentary on the subject appearing on page 7 in this edition.
It is perhaps long overdue that the first-ever organized LGBTQ event was held in the City last weekend.
It cannot go unnoticed that among the more significant demographic trends in the City has been the growth in the number of single persons commensurate with a 33 percent growth in the number of studio and one-bedroom apartments built here since 2011, now making up a total of 30.4 percent of all residences in the City. With a third of the residents in the City living single, and two-thirds of them under age 65, there is no suggestion as to the identity of any of these persons with respect to LGBTQ factors, yet it is fair to suggest that there are bound to be some among them. With a total of almost 15,000 persons now living in the City, a third constitutes no small number, and plans are being approved for hundreds of new studio and “micro unit” apartments to be built in the coming period here.
Last Friday’s event also correlates with the City’s official posture solidly in favor of diversity and the rights of LGBTQ persons, often expressed in proclamations and resolutions by the City Council and the police chief as well. It adds to the fact that its general interest newspaper of record, the Falls Church News-Press, was founded 29 years ago and continues to be owned and edited by an openly-gay activist, and a current member of its school board, Lawrence Webb, was elected to the City Council as an openly gay person.
Also, while the State Theatre’s “Love Is Love” party marked a first for downtown Falls Church, Eden Center, just inside the City limits at Seven Corners, continues to be the site of a rousing weekly LGBTQ-themed event, called “Crazy Tuesdays” at the Diva Lounge there.
That weekly event caters largely to the region’s swelling Hispanic population, but not entirely, with a predominantly young clientele who love to dance.
David Tax, co-owner of Falls Church’s popular Clare and Don’s Beach Shack (located right next to the State Theatre) and the Lazy Mike’s delicatessen at the west end, was the primary organizer of last weekend’s “Love Is Love” event, which he declared a major success. “It was awesome,” he said.
Tax told the News-Press that there are already plans in the works for a follow-up event, with the hopes that it will become a regular occurance here. He said he is hoping he can work with the organizers of Diva Lounge’s weekly event to build both events going forward, and he is also open to plans to pull off some form of regional celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots and the founding of the modern LGBTQ movement.
It also comes in the context of an alarming decline in the number of safe LGBTQ-dedicated spaces nationally and in the region here. It was announced last week that one of D.C.’s most popular clubs, Cobalt, suddenly shuttered, following by only a few months the closing of Town, the City’s other major LGBTQ-themed dance club. Clubs have been closing down all over the town, including in the P Street NW corridor adjacent Rock Creek Park where not long ago there were five clubs, and now only one survives.
Economic factors are responsible, including the ballooning value of real estate that is compelling property owners to sell their properties for redevelopment as pricey condos and apartments, as well as a decline in revenues for the LGBTQ businesses due to the lagging impact of the Great Recession and the resultant decline in personal disposable incomes.
One of the clubs that continues to thrive, Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City, is the only openly LGBTQ-oriented site in Northern Virginia, and Tax says he hopes to work with it, as well as with the Diva Lounge, to build future events in and around Falls Church. Over a year ago, Freddie Lutz, the owner of Freddie’s, expressed an interest in opening his own new site somewhere in Falls Church.
Last Friday’s event provided literature tables for three LGBTQ regional advocacy groups, including NoVa Pride (host of an annual festival in the fall), the local chapter of Parents of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and Equality Virginia.
Tax said he hopes from now on a portion of ticket sales for such events will go to contribute financially to the work of these organizations.
Tax said that while the “Love Is Love” event featured a “mixed crowd” of LGBTQ persons and others, he hopes that it will evolve into a more predominantly LGBTQ event so that it can perform the function of being recognized as a safe gathering place component of the community.