Washington has always been a well-known paradox when it comes to its lesbian community. It is one of the largest in the country; home to some of the most influential and visible lesbian leaders, LGBT organizations, droves of young baby dyke interns and students, and swaths of neighborhoods with women couples raising families. Yet, it has long had a reputation of being a city where lesbian nightlife has remained static.
Despite deep nightlife roots (including the deliciously ironically named women’s bar the Hung Jury – long closed, the more recently closed Phase One, and a Dupont Circle lesbian restaurant and bar in the 1970’s that was eventually turned into the Real World: D.C. house), DC never built a nightlife industry that has properly catered to its lesbian community.
Yet, the past several years have seen an explosive growth in lesbian nightlife in DC. The popular She.Rex party in Adams Morgan drew scores of young women at its monthly parties at Chief Ike’s. And, despite closing last year, it inspired additional events throughout the District. One of the newer parties has also become one of our favorites: the glittHER party at Zeba Bar, presented by The V DC.
We stopped by the glittHER party last month with photographer Kate Warren to capture the fun (who really captured it with some amazing photos). This month, we talk with glittHER party thrower, and head of event company The V DC, McKenzie Jones about the direction of the party and lesbian nightlife in DC.
all photos: Kate Warren
BYT: Tell us a little about the history of glittHER? How did the idea come about?
McKenzie Jones: Well, it actually all began with a fundraiser I was helping a friend throw. We decided to do it at Zeba Bar because it was my neighborhood bar, and I knew the family who owns the place. The fundraiser was a charity concert and dance party–my band at the time (Rando Tambo) played, and DJ Deedub (a friend of mine) DJ’d after.
My friend and I are both queer, so most of our friends who we could convince to come were also queer. Anyway, the party was such a hit that the owners of Zeba asked me if I’d like to throw a monthly queer party there. I was apprehensive at first. I had zero party planning or promoter experience. But, I talked it over with some friends who agreed to help. So, we went for it. We decided that if we wanted more queer-centric spaces in this city it was our responsibility to help create them. At the time, a friend of mine liked to glitterfy our friends’ faces every weekend before we went out. She was our inspiration for the glitter theme. The “HER” part of the name is of course to indicate that our party is queer lady-centric (and a nod to the “She” in She.Rex). So there you have it; we had a party, and we had a name: glittHER was born.
BYT: You’ve sometimes had unique themes to various glittHER parties. Any ones that stick out that you’re particularly fond of?
Jones: Wow, so many. Well, just to explain a bit further, glittHER is just one of our parties. Our company is called The V DC, and glittHER is our flagship monthly party. We have thrown other parties and events at other venues as such as Dollhouse (an EDM party) at Flash, YONCÉ (a Beyoncé-themed party) at Brixton, Hump Day Treat (a weekly Wednesday happy hour) at MOVA, and others. Those have all been a blast. But, as you might expect, glittHER is still my favorite. I think my favorite glittHER was when we did the Photobomb-A-Thon. The photos from glittHER are always a gem, but the photos from this night were simply spectacular, all because of the participation of our amazing and hilarious attendees.
BYT: Tell us a little bit about the music DJ DeeDub plays.
Jones: DJ Deedub is our glittHER DJ in residency. Like I previously mentioned, she has been with us since the beginning. She is super versatile, but she prefers to play Top 40, EDM, and hip hop. Deedub has really taken off within the last year and DJs lots of other events in the area, primarily queer ones—she’s a hot commodity! Deedub even won the DJ Battle at Her HRC last year. We were so proud! I’d say Deedub’s main style is a mix of David Guetta, Daft Punk, Zedd, and Ellie Goulding, but she throws in some Michael Jackson-esk throwbacks and Rihanna influence as well. We are so happy to have her as the DJ for glittHER every single month.
BYT: With the closing of Phase 1 (either temporarily or permanently), and the closing of numerous lesbian bars in major cities, many people seem to lament a loss of lesbian nightlife. Yet, in DC there seems to be a growth of women’s nightlife parties. Can you speak a bit about lesbian nightlife in DC and how its developing?
Jones: Well, first off, I actually don’t think queer lady nightlife in DC is growing enough—we need more of you to plan events. You don’t have to be trained as an event planner to do it! But anyway, here’s my philosophy on all of this. Lesbian bars are in fact going out of business, which is really disheartening and disappointing. But I think the main reason why is that, in many large metropolitan areas, queers are now feeling more safe and comfortable to be themselves in lots of different venues; we are less worried now about hiding who we are in non-queer spaces.
This phenomenon is inviting queer events into a greater variety of neighborhoods and venues, not just limiting us to a smaller number of specific spaces as we were before. Queer parties like glittHER are an obvious outgrowth of that. BODYWORK, Girl Code Fridaze, Scandal, and BARE are other examples. Each of these parties has its own culture, vibe, and venue. Straight people have always had the ability to go to bars and events that are convenient for them and fit their style and taste; queer folks want that same flexibility, hence the variety and growth. But, unfortunately, this desire for a specialized experience has made it tough for lesbian bars to survive; our community just isn’t large enough. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do think now is a time for our community to come together and support each other, no matter our party preferences.
BYT: glittHER also attracts its share of gay boys who love the party, and the mix seems to work. What’s the trick in making the party a welcoming place for everyone while keeping it a safe space that primarily caters to women?
Jones: Hmm. This is a tough one. All of the gay bars in DC are gay boy-centric now, so it’s very important to create queer lady- and trans-centric spaces. glittHER has the word “HER” in it, so I think that indicates that it’s not a man-centric space (or at least that’s the hope). There’s usually just a smattering of gay boys and straight folks that attend; the numbers always lean in favor of queer ladies, and, to be honest, I hope the proportions stay that way. But of course supportive allies will always be welcome. I also want to note that we strive to make the party a very trans-friendly space as well. We strive to create an environment in which everyone who attends supports one another and treats each other with respect. Our themes for glittHER will likely always cater most to the queer lady audience though.
BYT: What are your plans for glittHER and The V DC this year?
Jones:.The plan is to make glittHER and the rest of The V DC’s events better than ever – and we want your suggestions. Whether it’s different themes, types of events, or venues, we want to know what you want. The V DC only exists for our fans, so let us know. Send us your Facebook messages; we love to hear from you.
BYT: Any general tips for readers to keep their lives glittery?
Jones: Coming to glittHER every month is a good start! Haha. But really, it’s true – you’ll never be able to eliminate every speck of glitter from your sheets/clothing/house.
The glittHER party is held monthly at Zeba Bar and returns this Friday, March 27.
Get more DC queer nightlight info by connecting on Twitter with the @BYGays.