Imagine the sights and sounds of the annual Capital Pride Parade. Beads fly through the air to all those eager hands stretched along the route. There are cheers as the go-go boys and girls shake their moneymakers on assorted floats. The swimmers of the District of Columbia Aquatics Club (DCAC) are met with gleeful squeals as they spray onlookers with their super-powered water guns. Or maybe it's the Radical Faeries drumming out some primal beats. And there's no mistaking the roar that follows the beloved contingent of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of the Washington Metropolitan D.C. Area, aka Metro D.C. PFLAG.
Add to that wondrous array the Capital Pride Festival, filling Pennsylvania Avenue in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol – some years friend, some years foe, but always a stunning backdrop. The prior day's contingents move into their booths to meet and greet festivalgoers. Music flows over the crowd from the mainstage and the arts corner. Sights and sounds are enhanced with the scents wafting from a variety of food stalls.
For two days, Capital Pride pulls the community together for a powerful and celebratory affirmation of the Washington area's LGBT community.
But that's just two days of feeding your senses. Just one hue of the Capital Pride rainbow, really. For a truly colorful Capital Pride experience, you've got to start earlier, go longer, and throw the entirety of yourself into the celebration.
Consider starting with your soul.
''It's something else to see a group as diverse as this,'' says Rev. Sunny Simmons, remarking on Capital Pride's annual Interfaith Service, which she is helping organize, at the Universalist National Memorial Church on Monday, June 6. That diversity touches participants representing the Muslim and Jewish faiths, a glorious array of Christian denominations, Wiccans and more. Simmons herself is from the Earth-based Spiral Ground church. ''Other interfaith services are more 'show and tell.' This feels more like the groups are coming together.''
Or sate your soul Friday, June 10, at a Pride Shabbat Service offered by Congregation Bet Mishpachah, a Capital Pride partner. Like Capital Pride itself, Bet Mishpachah is also celebrating its 36th anniversary – ''Double Chai.'' Feed your soul and your stomach at the preceding Congregational Pride Dinner. Open to all, both events are at the D.C. Jewish Community Center (DCJCC), also a Community Partner.
Foundry United Methodist Church – another Capital Pride Community Partner – will move out of the church at 15th and P Streets and into Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams on 14th Street. At least, its Open Doors Fund will for the inaugural event of the fund, a fundraiser and reception, launched to ensure full LGBT inclusion in the UMC.
''Foundry's overwhelming vote for marriage equality last September is a significant step forward, but our work is not finished,'' says Foundry's senior minister, Dean Snyder. ''Through prophetic leadership, we are answering God's call for equality and justice for all God's children.''
In less traditional trappings, you might also allow Capital Pride to touch your soul through song. How you do that is up to you. Maybe it means joining the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, also a Community Partner, on Saturday, June 4, for And I Am Telling You, featuring Tony-winning Dreamgirl Jennifer Holiday. Or, let your own soul sing by competing in the ongoing Pride Idol competition at Cobalt.
The mind and soul meet with this year's Capital Pride Town Hall: Spirituality in the Queer Community on Tuesday, June 2. One might consider it a mix of soul, culture and cocktails as five groups join for the Jewish LGBT Happy Hour, a new addition to the Pride mix.
''I think it's important that the five D.C. Jewish LGBT organizations are working together more,'' says Halley Cohen, director of Kurlander Program for GLBT Outreach and Engagement (GLOE) at the DCJCC. Along with GLOE, those groups are Bet Mishpachah, Gayyim, Nice Jewish Boys and Nice Jewish Girls. ''We wanted people to have a low-key way of getting to know us,'' Cohen says, promising a convivial klatch.
Capital Trans Pride is an event that asks participants to consider issues of mind, body and soul. Dr. Marci Bowers, a surgeon renown for her expertise in gender-reassignment surgeries, will be on hand to speak to the crowd and answer questions related to her work.
''The transgender community is separate from the entertainment – the drag queens and drag kings,'' says SaVanna Wanzer, founder of Trans Pride, pointing out that people sometimes confuse drag for being transgender. ''We wanted to educate other people and stand proudly.''
While Capital Trans Pride will surely spark questions about the very core of one's identity – hence mind, body and soul – Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, marking its first year as a Community Partner, will also challenge locals to consider issues of body with a good portion of their brains. The exploration happens at several events built around gay playwright Robert O'Hara's Bootycandy, a world premiere show at Woolly Mammoth.
''It's a play about growing up gay and African American that explores the use of language, sexuality and the labels we place upon ourselves and others,'' explains Alli Houseworth, Woolly's director of marketing and communications. Join Woolly on Monday, May 30, for a pay-what-you-can performance; Wednesdays, June 1 and 8, and Thursday, June 16, for the show and post-show discussion; and Sunday afternoon, June 12, for a special post-show discussion focusing on hate crimes.
Woolly also joins with SpeakeasyDC Monday, June 6, for another Bootycandy-inspired discussion including local storytellers, poets and spoken-word artists: ''Don't Ask Do Tell: Stories of Coming Out, Coming Clean, and Just Plain Coming.''
''Connecting with Washington's LGBT community has always been important to us, and we're always looking for ways to engage our communities in an explosive engagement around our work,'' Houseworth adds.
Proud locals can keep their cerebral juices flowing with several other Capital Pride events. Dive into ''Out on Assignment,'' a panel discussion with LGBT journalists at the National Press Club on Wednesday, June 1. Keep those sexy synapses firing Saturday, June 4, with a full day of educational, skills-building workshops at Pink & Purple Power: A Training, presented by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, onboard as a Community Partner.
Monday, June 6, offers a blast of brainpower. Which will it be? Maybe you'll join the ''Celebrating Queer People of Color: Activism, Leadership and Community'' panel discussion at The Center, the area's LGBT community center as well as a Community Partner, moderated by the Rashad Ullah, vice president of KhushDC. Or maybe you'd like to be the one doing the talking? No problem – the official Women's Spoken Word event at Indulj has got you covered.
Then again, perhaps you'd like to treat your brain and your tummy.. If that's the case, join the Community Partner Capital Area Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (CAGLCC) on Friday, June 3, for a luncheon where the discussion is ''I Can't Believe It's On Twitter: Getting Return on Investment From Social Media.'' Now there's some food for thought. Similarly, the Task Force will excite your neurons and provide nourishment at the Pink & Purple Recognition Awards Brunch on Sunday, June 5.
And because pageants aren't just about looks alone, the Mr. & Miss Capital Pride Pageant will certainly put as much emphasis on brains as on body, as it honors Destiny B. Childs and Windz on Saturday, June 4, at Town Danceboutique and crowns a new Mr. and Miss Capital Pride for 2011.
Then again, maybe that sash does make your brain look fat. So let's look at how Capital Pride does a body good. First, consider all the dances. The Official Men's Kickoff Party will have the guys bumping and grinding Friday, June 3, at Ziegfeld's/Secrets. The ladies do likewise Saturday, June 11, at Apex, at FUSE: Official Capital Pride Main Women's Event. The kids also get down with moves of their own June 11 at the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League's (SMYAL) Capital Pride Youth Dance at the Columbia Heights Community Center. Everybody 18 and over gets to boogie with the Brightest Young Things as BYT and Capital Pride present the massive ''Somewhere…'' fantasyland dance party Friday, June 10, at the Newseum. If all that doesn't leave you exhausted, you can have that last dance at the Festival After-Party Sunday, June 12, at Cobalt.
If you prefer bikes to beats, a great new addition to Capital Pride is the Friday, June 3, Pride Ride from Revolution Cycles, known for its social ''hub rides'' – think ugly sweaters for the winter holidays or a progressive-dinner ride.
''I'm totally excited,'' says Revolution Cycles' Katie Knight of the Pride Ride, setting out from the chain's Crystal City shop and ending at Freddie's Beach Bar & Restaurant. ''It's totally relaxed and social, maybe 10 miles at a pretty easy pace. And the bikes are really comfortable upright hybrids.''
Or join the D.C. Front Runners for their annual Pride Fun Run & Walk Saturday, June 11, to really get a pre-parade workout.
While there are ample opportunities during Capital Pride to be a body in motion, there are just as many for watching others use theirs instead. The first Annual Drag Stonewall Kickball game, Sunday, June 5, is guaranteed to provide a unique spectator experience.
''Some of our players play in heels for normal kickball games, so that's nothing new,'' grants Stonewall Kickball co-founder Martin Espinoza. This June 5 fundraiser for The Center and Capital Pride, played on Stead Park behind JR.'s, is nevertheless shaping up to be an over-the-top spectacle.
''We expect about 300-plus on the field,'' Espinoza says. ''We tried to do less, but it's really blown up. Everybody wants to participate.''
More spectacle awaits at the Rouge Benefit Show Monday, June 6, at Omega; and Wednesday, June 8, at the super-sexy Fashion Show & Auction Party at Cobalt, featuring underwear from Universal Gear.
For some unchoreographed movements, head to Phase 1 on Wednesday, June 8, for the annual ladies Jell-O Wrestling Competition. Watch the battle royale or, if you're feeling peckish, dive in for a handful of flesh and a mouthful of the sweet stuff – no word yet on the flavor.
In keeping with the theme of bodies in motion, nobody moves them faster than Six Flags America, offering the official Pride in the Park event on Saturday, June 5.
On the other hand, maybe you don't want to risk losing your lunch – or cocktail or hors d'oeuvre. If that's the case, Capital Pride slakes your thirst and hunger with a bounty of epicurean events – aside from the Jell-O wrestling.
On Thursday, June 2, consider Ice Breaker, the official Capital Pride happy hour over at Lima Lounge's Vetro space, where you can definitely get your hands on a Latin libation. Continue the cocktails Friday, June 3, at the Task Force's Pink & Purple Sunset women's event atop the Donovan House hotel, soaking in the sunset, sensual sounds, and a springtime cocktail. Or do it up in swanky Swedish style at the House of Sweden, the riverside setting of Capital Pride's Heroes Gala & Silent Auction on Tuesday, June 7. Delicious food and beverage are guaranteed, though a traditional Swedish smorgasbord is less than certain. June 9 offers both the official Women's Happy Hour at the Renaissance Washington, and CAGLCC's Pride Network Thursday high above the city at the Franklin Towers rooftop, home to CAGLCC's Signal Financial partner. As with the Donovan House rooftop pool event, CAGLCC is offering a view that is a feast for the eyes, along with the sumptuous spread.
Speaking of spreads, why not make your own picnic? That's the invitation from One in Ten and the Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens, a Community Partner, presenting Divas Outdoors: Classic Films Under the Stars on Friday, June 10. As Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy fight it out in Desk Set, moviegoers compete for best picnic.
June 10 also sees a full cultural feast over at Town, where the Latino GLBT History Project, a Community Partner, presents the 5th Annual D.C. Latino Pride celebration.
''This year we're going bigger and better than ever before,'' promises the group's new president, David Pérez, explaining that last year's Latino Pride was standing-room only at the Charles Sumner School with about 250 attendees, prompting the move to Town. Expect drag kings and queens, discussions, appetizers from Nellie's, and a ''virtual cultural exhibit'' on Town's big screens.
''There's always something new because there's an infinite variety of things people are interested in doing,'' says Capital Pride Vice President Bernie Delia, explaining that the Community Partners program offers ever-expanding opportunities for more groups to join Capital Pride and bring their own something special to the celebration. ''The depth and breadth of events – both new and returning events – is an attempt to reflect every aspect of our vibrant community.''
And while the colossal schedule of events awaiting those celebrating Capital Pride 2011 can obviously satisfy your mind, body and soul, one last mention must be made for that most cherished of organs: the heart. For that, don't forget the ''Say I Do! LGBT Wedding Expo,'' Sunday, June 5, at Hotel Palomar.
Click here for more details on these and other Capital Pride events.
Parade - Sat, June 11
Festival - Sun June 12