Last year, Sylvie and I attended the Capital Pride Parade and Festival for the first time! Between us, we’ve been to a lot of Pride events, including international Pride celebrations, but neither of us had been to DC Pride before. This year, Capital Pride is happening this coming weekend – June 6-8. To kick off our first Pride interview on the East Coast, we talked to Katy Ray, an LGBT community leader and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Katy hosts and emcees events at Phase 1, the longest operating lesbian bar in the entire country.
When we got in touch, she was enthusiastic to participate in our interviews and said that if you’re involved in the local lesbian scene, chances are you have collaborated with her on some sort of project or event! You can follow the links at the bottom of the interview to catch up with Katy during all the Capital Pride events happening this weekend!
Play Out: Hi Katy! For those of us who live outside of D.C., tell us a little more about yourself – how long you’ve lived in the D.C. area, been involved in the community, and what you do.
Katy Ray: I’ve been here for the last 7 years. I moved here from Richmond, VA, after college to attend American University. Education and culture are so important to me. After graduating with my master’s degree and entering the workforce, I’ve traveled a lot, and I would never want to be anywhere else. DC is my home. It’s so warm, and welcoming, and inviting—as long as you know how to maneuver through the lesbian drama.
I just recently hosted the Miss Phase 1 2014 pageant, and this Wednesday, I’ll be hosting Jello: Pride Edition at Phase. I also write for Tagg Magazine, Washington DC’s connection to the lesbian community. I have a pretty well-circulated column, “Femme Problems,” where I like to poke a little fun at myself, while also writing about important things that matter to me and my community. I believe in the importance of community and connecting with it: I have hosted a variety of community events and fundraisers to encourage people to connect with each other and support the organizations that serve us. I also do a lot for LGBT youth. High school was extremely difficult for me, and I remember the struggle of understanding my sexuality all too well. For this reason, I’m a SMYAL ally. I give monthly and am able to volunteer with an incredible organization dedicated to serving LGBT youth in DC. I love it.
PO: That’s really, really cool Katy. Actually, for our wedding, Sylvie and I asked guests to donate to the Ali Forney center here in NYC, an organization that provides support and shelter to homeless LGBTQ youth. We usually save this question for last, but since we’re on the topic – What does Pride mean to you?
KR: For me, Pride has always meant staying true to myself. Over the past year, I have met an incredible woman, and I have fallen in love in a way that, once I realized I was gay, I never thought I would have. I thought I was doomed to a life of stringing along girlfriends, and the best I thought it got for me was moving in with a woman and having long term relationships. Over the last few years, I’ve come to realize that I can get married, I can have a family, and I can have a beautiful, meaningful life with a woman, regardless of the fact that I too am a woman. This year’s motto is “Build our Bright Future,” and that is exactly what my partner and I plan to do.
PO: That’s such a great realization to have had, and so important. What’s your favorite thing about the celebrations during Capital Pride?
KR: I really love to see the massive amount of people that congregate to support our LGBT community. When I go to events like the Women’s Kickoff or Women’s Main event, I look around at all these women, and I can’t help wondering, where were you all year long? Pride brings out the hibernating lesbians from the woodwork, and it shows us just how strong our numbers really are. To see people decked out in their favorite Pride accessories—which often range from leather strappy numbers to rainbow unicorn onesies—really makes me feel at home.
PO: Speaking of Pride accessories – since we’re a fashion company, we want to know what your style is! What do you wear to Pride? Do you have a favorite Pride outfit?
KR: So, some people see my bright red hair and blunt bands, and call me the “Lady Gaga of lesbian D.C.” She’s definitely my fashion inspiration for special occasions like Pride. I plan to rock my rainbow angel wings and unicorn headpiece at the festival. On the parade float, I’ll probably have a cute top and a pair of shorts paired with my Chucks. I want to be comfortable as I pass out candy, sweat in the summer heat, and ride on a flatbed truck going 15mph lol. Day to day, I’m more of a goth-glam kind of style. I rock red lipstick, dark eye makeup, and you’ll probably never catch me in a color other than black. I was so sad to say goodbye to my leather knee-high boots for the summer.
PO: I can definitely say I love leather knee-high boots! (Sylvie, not so much! haha not her style). I’m guessing you’ll be sporting a costume change before the FUSE party. What’s the FUSE party like? Are you excited?!
KR: You have no idea just how excited I am to let loose at Fuse. There will be lots of celebrating happening that night, and I know that it is going to be an awesome time for all. Everyone is going to be there. I’m also really excited for Phase 1’s Pride Jello event. It’s not every day you get to see scantily clad ladies battle it out with a former gf, a lover, or a friend in a kittie size pool of jello!
PO: That should be awesome! haha. Well, to wrap up, tell us – What’s your favorite Pride memory?
KR: Every year I ride on the Phase 1 float, and it is by far the most glorious experience. We are a family at that bar, and being able to share in that experience with the people I’ve worked with for years, is an honor. And this year—for the first time ever—I’m really excited to have my girlfriend join me on the float. I’m sure that Pride 2014 will hold all my favorite memories.
You can find Katy Ray on Facebook, writing for the Tagg Magazine website, at Phase 1 DC and at these awesome Pride events!
Phase 1’s facebook Jello event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1481083028789934/