Nerve asks deeply personal questions to people we just met.
Michael, 27, and Jamie, 33
Are you two from here?
Jamie: I'm from Southern Virginia. But I live in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Michael: I'm from Seattle, but I now also live in Harrisonburg and work as a librarian.
So are you just visiting DC for Pride?
J: Yep. We only live like an hour or two from here. I don't come here nearly often enough, but this is the second time I've been for Pride. I came originally in 2005, and it's just gotten so much bigger, so many more people are showing up than they did back then. It was easier to get closer to the parade back then, but it's really awesome to see so many people out here. Everyone here is so friendly and nice.
M: This is my first Pride, so my experience thusfar has been thirty minutes long. It's awesome, but it's hot. But I really love it.
Me too! Are you two friends or a couple or something undefinable?
M: We're a couple now. We met online. It's been about two months now.
What's the gay community like where you live?
J: We have a very small one. We do a lot of drag shows to raise money for an AIDS network that funds research. And there's a university nearby, JMU, which has a strong gay/straight alliance.
And what have your observations about the gay community in DC been?
J: I've never had any fear of being up here and walking in public, holding hands with a guy. I've never had any fear about that. Even in the "shadier" areas, it still feels like a very open place where people are very accepting.
M: Being from a big city originally, Seattle, this is more what I expected it to be like. I sometimes get nervous in a small town like Harrisonburg. I just don't know how out to be.
What's your advice for LGBT people in small towns? What's the best way to reach out and date or become part of a community?
J: I met most of my friends through jobs and stuff, because I couldn't be in the closet if I wanted to. It's just not me. People have always approached me, and we've bonded over it. So I would just say, be yourself. You really shouldn't be afraid of what people think of you. What anybody else thinks of you is their issue, not yours.
M: I would say the same! Being yourself is so important, and if you're having difficulty finding people who support you, it's not the end of the world.
J: There are people out there. There's always somebody out there who cares. Whether or not they're in the same town as you, you can always contact people by email or phone who can direct you to the proper help. There's always help out there. It's never a reason to give up. Nobody should ever give up. It's so sad. Keep being yourself and if you need help, ask for it. Every time you ask for it, it's there.
Monica Styles, 28
Are you from DC or are you here for Pride?
I live outside of Baltimore but I work here in DC.
What's your experience with the DC dating scene?
To give you the truthful answer, I've pretty much stopped dating. I've found that, especially in the gay culture, there's a lot of narcissism. People are very image-conscious. And honestly, I got tired of getting on Grindr! You know? So, I figure when the right man comes along, he'll come. It will happen naturally. I've decided to restructure where I find people, and find an activity that I like doing that's positive — either volunteering or being outdoors. There's a group called AdventureDC where gay men get together and go hiking/camping, and that's what I'm doing now.
What was your weirdest dating experience?
I was online at two in the morning, met a guy and drove to his hotel. And we start doing our thing on the bed and I notice there's a guy asleep on the next bed. I don't know if it was his boyfriend or what, but homeboy was just fast asleep right there in the bed next to us. But anyway, then I leave and I get a text message from the guy saying "Are you coming over?"
What? But you were just there…
Exactly. "Are you coming over?" I said "I was just there!" But what that told me is that the skank invited somebody else right after me!
And all this while another person was sleeping in the next bed! That's low.
Ugh, yes. After that, I was like, "No Grindr."
So, what are you looking for in a significant other?
Well, I have a lot of diverse interests. I know I'm in drag right now, but I work on cars, I love car racing, I like guns. But on the same token, I like cross-dressing and card-making and fashion and things like that. So it's been hard to find somebody that accepts me one-hundred percent. There are a lot of little niches in the community.
Are you looking for someone who has the same interests — like cars or cross-dressing — or maybe something to contrast or complement what you like?
If they share even half of my interests, that's okay. But I would like some people who are different also. That way they can bring some new things to me.
Do you have any dating dealbreakers?
Well, I'm interracial, so, someone who's not open-minded. I've dated thick people, thin people, rich, poor, whatever. It's what's on the inside that really counts for me.
DC Pride is a giant event. Would you say that DC is an open city for gay/queer people?
At least in the Dupont area. I don't work very far from here, and I get to manhunt and not have to worry if the guys are straight. I do love DC for that. It's very international; we have embassies from all over the world, and I've met people from everywhere.
Do you have any crazy exes?
Oh, yes. I've only had one relationship — I met him when I was seventeen and we were together for nine years. And he was a millionaire. When I was a kid, I just wanted somebody to take care of me. And with him, we lived in one of the most affluent areas in the country, in a million-dollar house. I drove a sports car. I had all kinds of nice stuff. I was very young and naïve. But eventually I realized that he was just ugly on the inside — controlling — and finally I left him. And he wound up getting with an eighteen-year-old. But I truly learned that money isn't everything. It's what's on the inside that counts. I really feel like he dragged my soul down, and nothing is worth that.
Well, it's really good that you got out of that. And now you can explore!
Oh, and I love being single! I'm like, "Fuck being with a man," for real! I can do whatever I want, and there's a lot of joy in that.
Are you from DC originally?
I was born here but I'm from Maryland.
So, you're a pedicab driver. Does that get you any dates?
I actually have a boyfriend right now.
How did you meet?
We met at Burning Man! About two years ago. People from all over the world go to Burning Man. And he actually overheard me talking about being from the East Coast and he approached me. It's funny, because we were both all the way across the country, but both from Maryland, and were able to reconnect back here.
Before you met him, what was dating like for you in this area?
Oh, awesome! I mean, it's always been. There are so many beautiful people, intelligent people, all age groups. It's such a diverse area that even if you've got specific ideas of what the "perfect person" is, it helps you to not be too specific for what you're looking for, because anyone can surprise you.
What attracted you to your boyfriend? What attributes do you look for in another person?
I honestly don't have a type. I never have. Every person I've dated has been completely different than the last. The first time he and I hung out, I was very clear: "I have no interest in having a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend." I had just broken up with a woman. And, of course, that kind of jinxed me. I set myself up. But we have a lot of common goals. It's hard to find people who have let go of the distraction of materialism, and he and I are both like that — we have a truth-seeker mentality.
Was it love at first sight?
Well, the moment I saw him, I just thought, "Ooh, he's so sexy!" and went looking for him for a few hours to be near him again. But I didn't know too much about him. You can't really get inside someone and who they are until you have your first argument or disagreement, or at least a conversation. So, love at first sight, I don't know. Maybe first encounter? That energy exchange. That seems more legit than just seeing someone and falling for them.
What should the world know about dating and finding love in DC?
Above all else, accept responsibility for yourself and your actions, even if you think the other person is as wrong as two left shoes. If you can do that, I think the possibilities are endless.