Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects the Capitol building and the White House, is usually bustling with tourists snapping photos and professionals in suits rushing to their next meeting. During Capital Pride Festival, Pennsylvania Avenue couldn’t have looked more different.
On June 10, the festival flooded the street with rainbows and sparkle. Pride flags of all kinds were flying around as celebratory confetti and body glitter fell to the asphalt.
The annual event, hosted by Capital Pride Alliance, included food vendors, musical performances and hundreds of booths. Organizations gave away free condoms and lube. Corporations such as Lyft and Hilton offered photo opportunities and games while other companies sold their merchandise or asked for donations. Some booths even went as far as offering testing for sexually transmitted infections.
“Seeing all the people who have stands here and seeing just how wide the range of people who like to support this kind of thing is, it’s really interesting and good to see,” Lorena Beltran said.
Beltran, 19, and her friends Rachel Shaw, 19, and Sarah Naeher, 20, were decked out in free stickers and buttons from festival vendors. Although the trio enjoyed collecting free stuff, Shaw said her favorite part of the event was seeing how people were dressed.
“[I’ve] definitely [seen] some crazy outfits, like guys walking around in Speedos, girls walking around topless with stickers on their nipples — but no one cares, everyone is just so chill about it, which is cool,” Shaw said.
Stephan Cotner, 24, waltzed around the festival wearing a rainbow sequin vest and six-inch black platform boots. He said “it’s empowering” to dress that way in a city of suits.
“I try to stay true to myself and wear what I want, when I want,” Cotner said, “so it’s nice to have a day where I can come and people appreciate it.”
Cotner was accompanied by Jared Johnson, 32, who traveled to the festival from Dallas. Johnson said he likes D.C. Pride because it’s “a very supportive community and very open.” He noted with a laugh that Pride in Texas is “a little different.”
Capital Pride Alliance hosted other events during the weekend of June 7-10, including a Heroes Gala honoring LGBT activists and a parade in the Dupont Circle area. According to their website, the first annual Pride celebration in Washington, D.C., took place in 1975 along 20th Street between R and S streets NW.
Brittany Hill, 19, attended pride with her “bi tribe … and ally” — her group of close bisexual friends and one non-bi ally. She said Pride is special to people in the area because it’s an “opportunity to like celebrate who they are, surrounded by other people like-minded, and allies. And just to know it’s not looked down upon by everybody, like there are other people who feel the same as them and who are okay with who we are, and celebrate them.”
Themes of inclusivity and acceptance ran throughout the festival. Religious groups shared messages of acceptance while political groups encouraged participation, not partisanship. The event was free, there was no age limit and no dress code — everyone was welcome.
“If anybody is ever curious about things, they can always come to something like this and just know that they can be whoever they want to be and be who they are, there’s no judgment,” Johnson said.