By Dean Edwards
Pride Month comes once a year to celebrate LGBTQ+ lives and the steady, if at times fragile, progress our society has made in elevating and valuing those lives.
This June, Falls Church marks a permanent gain for LGBTQ+ inclusion with the opening of the Inova Pride Clinic (located at 500 N. Washington St, #200, Falls Church, VA). Billed as the first of its kind in Northern Virginia, the primary care clinic will meet the health care needs of thousands who might otherwise feel out of place or afraid to seek the treatment and care they need.
It is a win for our progressive, evolving city and a reminder of the prime importance of fostering LGBTQ+ spaces locally.
In line with statewide progress made in the past decade, Falls Church has moved forward in embracing its increasingly diverse population.
While no survey or census could ever capture the diversity of sexuality and gender in the City and surrounding suburbs of Northern Virginia, no doubt thousands of LGBTQ+ individuals call these communities their home.
And with each year, thousands more will surely join their growing ranks.
So, what of Falls Church’s social life: how does it serve to include and enrich LGBTQ+ lives?
Not exceptionally well, is the stark truth.
In an age of broad national acceptance of LGBTQ+ diversity — in our families and schools, on social media and in the popular media, and per official proclamations from City Hall — little has in fact materialized in the way of LGBTQ+ social life among the bars, restaurants, shops, and public spaces of Falls Church and, more generally, Northern Virginia.
While Freddie’s Beach Bar in Crystal City may proudly boast to be Northern Virginia’s only LGBTQ+ bar, it is striking that in a region of some 3 million, there should be so few LGBT-owned or focused spaces.
This bare reality is no one’s fault in particular. With that broader social acceptance, the rising cost of rent and doing business, and the digitization of our social lives, explicitly LGBTQ+ spaces have been contracting everywhere.
But attracting and encouraging LGBTQ+-owned and focused businesses makes good sense, economically and socially. It provides old and young LGBTQ+ individuals a space to connect.
An opportunity for thousands of locals and visitors, gay or straight, to spend time and money locally.
And to further develop a stronger sense of community overall.
As Falls Church evolves, so does this all-important need to define the character and values of our city and region.
Falls Church, like our nation, has made meaningful progress in LGBTQ+ inclusion. However, these gains are not guaranteed to endure unless, like Inova’s Pride Clinic, they become brick-and-mortar realities in our city’s daily social and economic life.
There will surely be challenging days ahead, with the threat of changing political headwinds and an increasingly vocal anti-LGBTQ+ minority.
After this Pride Month is over and the rainbow flags come down and storefronts return to their usual window treatments, Falls Church’s leading citizens should take the initiative and demonstrate this city’s year-round commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion.
This is a call to action for Falls Church’s political and business leaders to build the momentum and groundwork for a thriving LGBTQ+ community in the City of Falls Church, fulfilling this Little City’s promise as Northern Virginia’s most ambitious, forward-thinking and inclusive community.