Local Commentary

Guest Commentary: Rainbow Fundraiser Reminds Virginia That Elections Matter

By Del. Mark Levine

What do you get when you combine lesbian comediennes, gay storytellers, bisexual singers, trans rock and rollers, rainbow politicians, and drag queens, along with a fierce commitment to make Virginia respect its entire LGBT+ community? You get my Third Annual Rainbow Democrats Extravaganza, of course, which brings together Virginia’s state legislators, liberal activists, and the entire Rainbow Community.

On May 30 at 7 p.m., Freddie’s Beach Bar in Arlington will again welcome to the stage the Rainbow Democrats Extravaganza, Northern Virginia’s only LGBTQ+ talent show and fundraiser.

Last year’s Extravaganza packed Freddie’s— the only Virginia gay bar inside the Beltway — to capacity. Delegate Danica Roem and I shared our coming out stories alongside HIV/AIDS activists and a gay conversion therapy survivor.

Sprinkled between these serious and heartfelt discussions were performances from talented musicians, comedians, and vocalists who donated their respective talents for the worthy cause. Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the drag duo representing Donald and Melania Trump.

As a proud openly gay Virginia Democratic legislator, I look forward every year to combining both my political and gay identities into one rewarding evening. And this year, Senator Barbara Favola will join me in co-hosting the event.

So Straight Virginia Democrats: Come experience gay culture!

Many straight progressives, particularly older ones, have never entered a gay bar before. Just because a liberal supports LGBT equality does not mean she has experienced all the hilarious flair of rainbow culture. At the Extravaganza, LGBT allies learn that being part of the Rainbow Community — while it has its poignant side — is also full of laughter, creativity, snarkiness, and the art of being fabulous. The Rainbow Community is not to be pitied. We are fierce! And very, very talented. You don’t have to be bi-curious to check us out.

So if you’re straight and have never entered a gay bar before, you’re not only welcomed, you’re especially encouraged to stop by. The show is fantastic, and the cause is critical. I promise no one will hit on you (unless you want them to).

And Rainbow Virginians: Learn about state politics!

If you’re Rainbow (short-hand for LGBTQIA+) and have never engaged in politics before, you’re also our target audience. Many Rainbow Northern Virginians travel across the river to attend both gay bars and national LGBT political fundraisers. But Rainbow rights in Arlington and Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church are more often decided in Richmond than in Washington.

So come home, gay Virginians. And if you’re bi in D.C., lesbian in Maryland, or trans in West Virginia, we need you, too. And parents of rainbow youth. And straight allies. (That’s right, Grace. That means you. Will is here, and it’s the least you can do for him while Jack is partying across the river.)

The Extravaganza is a clear reminder that state elections matter and that the party controlling the Virginia General Assembly matters most of all. If you’re an LGBT Virginian, you can be legally fired from your job, denied housing, or even refused service just for being yourself. Every single year, I put forward comprehensive legislation to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. And every year, every single Republican in the Virginia House of Delegates casts a vote for bigotry. But just two more seats would turn everything around.

So please join a great show for a great cause. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. You won’t want to miss Don Davenport, who was in the Stonewall Inn on that fateful night in 1969 when the police went in to arrest the drag queens and the drag queens fought back with their high-heeled shoes. I’ll once again share my own coming-out story and invite you to share yours. And the karaoke, comedy, and live music from our talented community can’t be beat.

In fact, if you are part of the Rainbow Community and are good at singing, playing music, stand-up comedy, or storytelling — or have some other creative talent you think we can share — contact me ASAP at Mark@MarkforDelegate.com. There’s room for you on stage!

All funds raised go to Mission 51: directly into the campaigns of vulnerable Democratic incumbents and promising Democratic challengers in the Virginia House of Delegates. If you perform, admission is free. Come for the cause. Stay for the show. And try to get there on time.

Because every year, the acts get bigger and the crowds get bigger.

Mark Levine represents Alexandria, Arlington, and Fairfax in the Virginia House of Delegates.